Are you an atheist artist? Do you include religious imagery in your work - either intentionally or unintentionally? I was thinking about this because the theme of a juried show I am thinking of entering is broadly "Carnivale" - clearly work based on this theme could reasonably include religious imagery.
So, in turn I remembered a painting I created in the days after 9/11. First, some background - I was raised Catholic, converted to Judaism when I married and my children were raised in the Jewish faith. Okay, so, this painting was abstract-ish and started like all my paintings with just vague ideas about colors, materials, etc. Anyway, it definitely started taking on a stained-glass-y look (I was using lots of gesso, paint, and markers and lots of texture). So, at one point when I stood back and looked at it it was very clearly a picture of the "Holy Family." (Granted a very abstract one.) Weird?! Obviously, in the scariness and uncertainty I was digging up what must have been at some time a comforting image for me.
I used to be a lot more artistic than I am now, mainly due to restraints on my time. Damn being a grown up and having to feed and shelter yourself. I've been thinking about trying my hand at my own series of religious works. Not necessarily blasphemous, (although certainly sometimes blasphemous, I can't really avoid expressing what I am) but more like comedic and hopefully the kind of thing that would make people think a little bit. The idea started when I was designing protest signs for a visit to my city from the Westboro Baptist Church for Elizabeth Edwards funeral. I thought it would be funny to show some Roman centurions standing around scratching their heads trying to figure out how to nail the flying spaghetti monster to a cross. Then I thought it would be cool to have a whole series of images depicting fictional characters in famous religious situations. Say the virgin Mary birthing a red suited Santa infant, or a zombie easter bunny rolling the boulder from in front of his grave-cave.
I don't see any reason why an atheist wouldn't work religious ideas into their art, since atheist are usually fairly knowledgeable about at least one religion, and passionate about their lack of belief. If art is a self expression, then what more appropriate subject than the worldview that shapes us, even if that worldview is expressed using symbolism or icons from an opposing worldview. Take Stephen Colbert for example. His whole show is based on using ideas from an opposing view to support his own views, and it works very effectively. In any case, nothing should ever be off limits in art.
Love the zombie easter bunny!!!
I do think no matter how hardcore you are in your atheism - religious images do pop up in your art whether "straight up" or blasphemous. Because everything in our lives pops up in art whether religion played a large or small role - after all, just being part of our culture it is there.
Anyway, I have been thinking of doing some work based on various paintings of Saint Cecilia - after all, it is my name. She's the patron saint of music - can't remember why. The best part of her story is that they tried to chop of her head and for some reason they couldn't so she is kind of like "Nearly Headless Nick" in Harry Potter!