Monday, March 26, 2007

Faith Mountain

Cue the Heavenly Chorus.

I opened my package of coupons which come in the mail every week, the ones for new windows, muffler jobs, and driveway concrete colorization services, and found this flyer for a new Thomas Kinkade Collectable, Faith Mountain.

First, what the picture above does not represent is that it Lights Up. Yes, folks, it runs on 3 AA batteries (not included) or an AC adapter. Second, the breathless ad copy is just as horrific as the mountain itself.

For the first time...
Italics AND ellipses. Wow.

now the story of Christ's glorious ascension into the Kingdom of Heaven comes vividly to life in a three-dimensional masterpiece presented by the Painter of Lighttm.
Ummm. There's so many terrible ideas coming together in that one sentence.

For the first time ever the story of Christ is presented? Yeah. Never heard it before, or watched it on TV, or read about it, or saw a movie of it.

Oh. Maybe it's: for the first time the story vividly comes to life. This reminds me of the great Flanders and Swann comment about Hi-Fidelity: "This will recreate the sensation of having a full concert orchestra actually playing IN your living room. Not that I'd want a full concert orchestra actually playing IN my living room, but the concept's the thing." Do I really want the entire story of Christ's ascension brought vividly to life right here in my very own house? Ought to create some commentary from the neighbors.

Maybe the meaning is: For the first time Thomas Kinkade has taken a crack at recreating the Easter story in three dimensions. To which I can only reply, "Can't say that I much care, but I am intrigued by the use of batteries."

The website doesn't show the detail views, but on the flyer we see various closeups. Here is Jesus on his knees before a woman as he labors under the weight of the cross. Here he is riding into Jerusalem on a donkey. (But they have no palm fronds. Wha?) Here is his empty cross. And look, there he is all angeley on the top of the mountain with a light cascading over his shoulders from above. (Neat trick that, to have the mountain glow from the 3 AA batteries but also come from ABOVE the sculpture too. Oh wait, is that a studio trick? Gosh.)

I had to read the entire copy, and then I had to call my Mom to read it to her. My mother, the Ph.D., who once taught at Harvard Divinity School and is the family expert on Bible history and Biblical Archaeology. My mother who used to collect horrible cookbooks found at flea markets. (Each had to include at least one recipe for some abomination which required both Corn Flakes and Avocado to be part of the collection.) Not only can you not SEE the image of him dying on the cross, but you have to wade through this:

The Faith Mountain illuminated Masterpiece Edition is entirely hand-crafted and hand-painted featuring over thirteen meticulously detailed and dramatic scenes including 45 sculpted figurines. (Commas cost extra?) As you turn the fully sculptural Faith Mountain around, you'll see the inspiring story unfold before your eyes. (You already electrified the thing. No turntable?) From His riding into Jerusalem to His betrayal and trial to His dying on the cross and ultimately His triumph over the grave, the Hawthorne exclusive is a true testatment to Jesus' love, faith and strength. (Testatment? Mean you Testament, Khemosabi? If I knew what a "testatment" was, I might very well agree with you that this IS a true testament to all of the above.)
Members of the intelligentsia that we are, we guffawed at the schlock of the whole thing, all the while saying, "Who BUYS this crap? Why does it Light UP?"

Mom came up with the best answer.

According to her, what they are not telling you is that the light bulb is no ordinary twenty watt bulb. No, this one is imbued with Christ's healing power. If you get really close to Faith Mountain and stare right at it for a few days on end, the sculpture is guaranteed to heal Seasonal Affective Disorder. That's why it has a money-back guarantee attached.

When my Dad was a kid, the president of his boarding school told the boys that they were in for a rare treat as a renowned group of evangelists would be visiting the school that very weekend. They dressed for the occasion in their "dress pinks" and Sam Browne belts, expecting the usual morning-long sermon, hymns, and healings. (My father was personally saved by Billy Graham under similar circumstances. I think it didn't quite take hold.) When they got to the auditorium, the preachers had drawn three fluorescent crosses on the blackboard with colored chalk. My Dad remembers the center cross as being bright pink. After the boys filed in and sat down, they participated in a shared prayer. Then the preachers broke out three musical saws and started playing favorite hymns to the politely astonished group of teen aged boys, all of whom had been brought up to regard preachers with the greatest respect and dignity.

My Mom says that Faith Mountain must be the Musical Saw version of the Pieta.

Gotta go with that interpretation. After all, she has the degree.

I think we are both going straight to Hell. Do not pass Go. Do not collect two hundred dollars.


CindyS said...

(You already electrified the thing. No turntable?)

Dang, I peed a little ;) It's amazing the things that happen in the name of art. Ouch. I think 'art' is now offended I used it in this context.


Marianne McA said...

And for that little bit more, why not become one of our valued subscribers, and book your own limited edition biblical mountain range.

On Precipitation Mountain, see Noah stretching as he comes out of the ark, and marvel at the multitude of hand painted beasts wending their way down towards the rapidly receding waters, all under a shining (batteries included) rainbow.

A Dry Ice machine, concealed in the top of Tablet Mountain, almost masks the detailed figure of Moses, as he carries the hand-inscribed commandments down to his people below, gathered round the illluminated (batteries included) golden calf.

On Parental-bonding Mountain, a cunningly concealed switch (batteries included) allows you to create the illusion of real flames consuming the meticulously crafted body of a ram, placed on the altar as a burnt offering. The figure of Abraham holds a miniscule blood stained knife and flint, and is carefully watched by a cautious Isaac, ropes still puddled round his feet.

I'm having rather too much fun now...

jmc said...

The first image that popped into my mind upon seeing that Faith Mountain was the gruesome tree of bodies from 300. I'm pretty sure that kind of image association isn't what they were going for....

Suisan said...

Cindy: Ahem. Yes, art. Yeah.

Marianne: You, my dear, need to immediately apply to the Thomas Kinkades studios as a product developer. I particularly want the Parental Bonding Mountain. I can set it up on my spot at the dias at Board Meetings and peer over it during comments.

Suisan said...

JMC: Yeah, pile of crap came to my mind as an unintended mental image too.

Anonymous said...


Thank you for your Dad's story about the preachers playing the saw. Do you know approximately what year that was, and where?

Saw Lady

Suisan said...

Well, Saw Lady, I'm not sure what year it was, but it was in Chatanooga, Tennessee at Macallie School.

He was there from 1948 to 1956.

Anonymous said...

Thank you very much for your reply! I am interested in the history of the musical saw as used by the church in liturgical music. Your story about your Dad is similar to what someone else told me, only in his case it was in Puerto-Rico.

Thank you and all the best,
Saw Lady