Photographer Caleb Griffin Reflects on the ‘Visceral Experience Queer Bodies Have with Religious Objects’
“I want to focus on finding my place as a gay Black man in the religious world that I was birthed into,” declares Los Angeles-based photographer and creative designer Caleb Griffin.
The artist’s recent Holy Gestures series does just that. Replete with plush purples and an extraordinary satin church hat, the photographic series sifts through Griffin’s upbringing in the heart of the Bible Belt: Montgomery, Alabama. “Being the son of a Baptist pastor, religion completely framed my existence,” he writes in his artist statement. “Understanding my own emerging queer sexuality within this paradigm was extremely complicated.”
As a pastor’s son, Baptist doctrine dictated the now 24-year-old Griffin’s youth—even the media he consumed hewed close to the church’s worldview. As such, the young artist struggled to find a comfortable place within the rigid confines of his religious community. Holy Gestures works to define which aspects of Griffin’s identity were built upon these social expectations, allowing the artist to choose which parts of his upbringing he’ll carry into adulthood.
In Holy Gestures, Griffin dons his father’s opulent pastoral robe—a silken purple garment signifying legacy, heritage, and spirituality. His mother’s fabulous Sunday hat, topped with a pink satin bow, also makes an appearance. Not only does Griffin wear these items, testing their fit, he also “want[s] to reflect on the visceral experience queer bodies have with religious objects.”
The colors and patterns in Holy Gestures drown Griffin in elaborate detail, his often face turned away from the camera’s eye. Using careful compositions and thoughtful details, the artist navigates a thorny path between self-discovery and a deep-seated love for his family.
New Book By Katie Love
From Cult To Comedy, A Memoir, by Katie Love
The year is 1970. The horror soap opera “Dark Shadows” is all the rage, the Vietnam War is raging and nine-year-old Katie, an imaginative and independent latch-key kid, comes home from school to discover her mother’s suicide.
Taken in by her older sister who has recently become a Jehovah’s Witness, Katie is shown an illustration from a bible picture book featuring wild animals peacefully lounging by a pool of water, surrounded by happy people picking fruit. An enticing offer is made: “Katie, this is Paradise. Do you want to see Mom again, happy and living forever? All you have to do is follow all of Jehovah’s commandments and you can be with Mom again.”
Mom happy and living forever? Two tickets to Paradise, please!
So begins Katie’s zealous quest to attain perfection and entrance into a utopian world which promises peace, love, and happiness. She discovers a much darker world. “Two Tickets to Paradise, from Cult to Comedy” tells the hilarious and heartbreaking story of an earnest, bible-toting kid intent on saving the world, and follows her metamorphosis into a boisterous comedian intent on saving herself through the healing powers of humor.
“Being the son of a Baptist pastor, religion completely framed my existence.” — Caleb Griffin
Caleb Griffin: Website | Instagram
All photos published with permission of the artist.
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