In university I was an art major, fine arts/ studio art. Military universities offer very little in the way of other art degrees. Hey, take what you get after you get kicked out of your first university, right?
In my third year I begrudgingly took photography. I was under the impression this would be a class I would not enjoy in the slightest. I love sketching and pencils and pens and watercolors. I didn’t get the whole taking pictures beyond capturing memories thing. Not to mention I had very few memories at this time I wanted captured, so I was just totally put off.
Oh, photography, forgive me. I was wrong. You are awesome and fun and especially black room photography. It was actually probably one of my favorite classes in university! And by far, my favorite assignment was when our professor assigned us to interpret the seven deadly sins in the medium.
Well my blasphemy meter was at full blast! Here I was, an atheist in northeast Georgia at a heavily conservative military university being asked to interpret the seven deadly sins. Oh, my glee! I could hardly wait.
Queue hours of research into the symbolism and the roots and the verses related to the seven deadlies. At the time I was, oh maybe twenty, which would make my younger brother twelve. He looked like an eight year old until around seventeen. Now he is taller than me and a full on monster of beard and girls like him and it’s just gross. I preferred it when I could get him in a headlock and noogie him (with love).
So, I recruited my brother. Told him my plan as simply as I could–and out of ear shot of our parents. He agreed. And so we began to gather our materials.
First we would need fake blood. Lots of fake blood; a fishtank; shaving cream; ropes; rubber snakes and mice; black tape and cloth; plastic bags; a ruler; shaving cream; and a permanent marker.
Show time: wrath, pride, lust, envy, sloth, gluttony, greed.
We began with envy, invidia. The punishment for which is being eternally drowned or, depending on your versions, trapped drowning beneath unbreakable ice. I went with the ice, ala shaving cream on a fish tank. And brother submerged his head and screamed while I took photos.
My brother, being twelve, was a shy little thing, and so I worked him up to the more gruesome and sets we’d have to do outside. “No fake blood goop in the house!!!” We had a blast making that fake blood, by the way~ So, next was lust, luxuria. The punishment being burned alive for all time. Flames ala ripped plastic bag during the proof burning process. And boom~!
Then gluttony, gula, which my brother admitted was his least favorite as it actively made him gag. Well, it ought to have being that the punishment is force-feeding on live rats and snakes for all time. We stuffed his mouth with cotton first, but it got too mushy, so we used new socks I rolled up and then the rubber mice tails. That’s real suffering there, folks.
And the last indoor shoot I could do was greed, avaritia. Being boiled alive, all eternity, rinse and repeat.
Now it was time to head out of doors. It was blood and burying time. We went to a local school playground during the weekend assuming it was the least likely place to greatly disturb a very quiet, small, conservative time with images of a battered (dirt and ash smudges) and bloody (corn syrup, cherry kool-aid, and cocoa powder) little boy. Mea culpa, eh?
We started with sloth, acedia. Being buried alive, snakes, eternity… you know. The usual. Except it was March and frigid. so really he’s kind of a semi-buried head and a body sticking out off camera at this point. Weird, but not too bad.
Then came pride, superbia. Being tied and flogged for all time… a little eyebrow-raising as some elderly joggers passed by while I draped rope over this half-naked child and drew lines of “blood” across him using a ruler’s edge. Hey, they look like whip gashes. I was chuffed! And the playground backdrop just added to the whole feel I was going for.
I did ask brother every moment if he was comfortable, too cold, or wanted to go home. Nope! The boy was jazzed every time I showed him the digital shot I took as a layup before snapping it on my black and white film camera. He was all, “Oh my god! I look so gross! Awesome!!”
And then came wrath, ira. The punishment for wrath is being hacked to bits and reassembled, and then hacked to bits, and reassembled. Now that is a bit beyond what I am capable of, not to mention I do love my brother. So black electrical tape, fake blood, and blocking.
And this was about when a few concerned adults came to the playground, faces aghast with horror at this little bloodied child being photographed. I can only imagine what they were thinking!
“What are you doing!!!”
“It’s an art project on the seven deadly sins. He’s my brother.”
“Yeah, this is my sister. I’m helping her. We made all this fake blood. It’s sweet…”
“….O….K…. well, you kids go home soon…you’ll catch colds….”
I got horrified reactions from my art class and a 100 percent grade. I think my brother was more pleased than I was.