Isolated on a canopy inside the Cornaro Chapel in Rome, the body of St. Theresa levitates on a cloud, her head thrown back, her mouth open in ecstasy. An angel prepares to pierce her breast with a golden arrow, while gilded rays fall around the nun in a halo of divine light.
“Famous iconography created by artists has helped fuel religious devotion for centuries,” says Henry Sodt, whose photographic series Fruits of Discomfort shares common ground with Bernini’s unrivaled marble masterpiece, the Ecstasy of Saint Teresa. Considered scandalously sensual on its unveiling in 1652, the sculpture still includes its fair share of classic Catholic iconography: an angel, an arrow, golden rays of light, a dove representing the Holy Spirit.
Though Catholicism is only “lightly practiced” in Henry’s family, the self-taught photographer’s fascination with religion is an offshoot of his research into global politics, economics, culture, and history. With an emphasis on pears, pomegranates, mangos, and strawberries, Fruits of Discomfort draws a direct line from Biblical text (“the fruit of the Spirit is love”) to the annals of art history—for centuries, the Catholic Church was one of the world’s most important collectors and patrons of art. As church and state functions grew apart during the Protestant Reformation, and capitalism siphoned more money from religious institutions, Catholic art and iconography fell by the wayside.
In Fruits of Discomfort, Henry revisits the patron saints of Catholic art—Bosch, Bellini, Caravaggio, and even Warhol—in an effort to modernize the whole cannon. Inspired by religious iconography from the Renaissance to the Pop Art era, Henry tackles “two very different periods of time” as a “commentary on religious iconography’s ability to maintain steadily throughout time, and its ability to be portrayed powerfully through different art periods.”
In FRANKENFRUIT, Henry dramatizes the clash of ideals at the heart of Mary Shelley’s classic Gothic novel. His sloppily sutured banana-lemon-mango hybrid situates the artist squarely in God’s chair as the creator of his own world, however warped. “Whether it's fruit smashed onto a wall or creating an entirely new fruit, I manipulate and destroy nature’s most pure creation,” Henry says before adding with a wink that the whole mess is, “photographed with a sticky camera, of course.”
“Famous iconography created by artists has helped fuel religious devotion for centuries.” — Henry Sodt
All photos published with permission of the artist(s).
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