Printmaker Charlie Campbell grew up attending a Pentecostal Church in the mountains of Eastern Kentucky, an experience which he explores in his work for the Spring 2014 CSA crop. He discusses the cultural and religious complexities of his up bringing in his own words:
My contribution to the Spring "crop" is a two-color relief print (linocut) on 140# French's Pop-Tone. It depicts a snake-handling worship service at a fictional church in Eastern Kentucky - held by anthropomorphic, cartoon animals. In its style, it's similar to something you might see in a children's book or Highlights magazine.
I grew up Pentecostal (Church of God) in Hazard, Kentucky during the "Satanic panic" of the 1980's. I was raised to fear Dungeons and Dragons, heavy metal music, and all other forms of "devil-worship" and witchcraft.
Though we share many of the same rituals and beliefs, our snake-handling neighbors (most often Pentecostals, themselves) were often associated with these things. They were vilified and forbidden - just like Metallica and Magic: The Gathering. In much the same way as popular culture, their ostracism from my church and community gave them an air of "forbidden" mystery and appeal.
Since growing up, moving on, and thinking more independently, I've been fascinated with these themes in Appalachian and religious culture.
Even (without the snakes) our church services were a strange mix of fear, awe, and comfort. It's intimidating to experience some of these services through the eyes of a child. There's shouting, violent, full-body spasms, stomping, incomprehensible languages, interpretation of these languages by a "medium," the laying-on-of-hands for the sick, talk of judgement, eternal damnation, and hellfire. On the other hand, there's also the spiritually uplifting community, supportive friends and family, reassurance that the poverty so many of us experienced was merely temporary, and that heaven awaited to solve all of our problems.
In this print, I attempt to imagine what it might be like for the children of an Appalachian holiness church like this - projecting my own experiences. We have so much in common: the fear, awe, and reassurance mixed up in confusing and sometimes unsettling imagery. It's very much like the mysticism and ritual you'll find in the fantasy genre of popular culture that these churches (like mine) so often demonized.
I chose to depict this scene in the same sort of visual language as children's media because in my own nostalgic journey, it matches the era in which I was attending these services. It's also a convenient way to illustrate "comfort," child-like aesthetics and innocence as a foil to the threat of danger (real or spiritual).
Want to get your hands on Charlie's work? Become a CSA Shareholder!! Click below to #getyourshare! And don't forget to join us Friday, April 25 from 6-9 to celebrate this season's fresh batch of Community Supported Art work!