The Baby Jesus in a Hazmat Suit
Baby Jesus in a Hazmat Suit is infused with sci-fi and dystopian imagery, histories of war and the creaturely other. The canvas is overpopulated by creatures, none of which are entirely human. Maternal figures carefully clasp the hands of smaller creatures dressed in baby gas masks that were designed by the British Government, circa 1940. The palimpsest surface is strewn with collateral from previous figures. The pale skeleton that weaves between the characters illustrates soldiers’ anecdotes of being able to see each other’s bones during nuclear bomb tests. The dark opening in the background might suggest a window at night, a view from outer space, a doorway, or an x-ray plate. The pictorial space is crushed tight and without reference to perspective, overlapping figures are pushed up against the surface as if blasted forward. Hands, feet, heads, legs are creaturely and interchangeable.
Beyond the figures, the surface is whitewashed, rough layers of white paint are contaminated by what lies below and cover where the figures or the aperture are not. The largest figure, who could be a nurse in a blue and white uniform, wears a gas mask. The mask and the whitewashing are forms of protection, the mask from toxic air while whitewashing refers to state propaganda telling us how we could protect ourselves from a nuclear blast with a lick of white paint, a nonsense against real threat, but every household might have white paint. My mother was born during the second world war and to this day she cannot bear to have anything put over her face, a fear that seems to have been transferred to me.