Book: 100 Artists See Satan
Author: Curated by Mike McGee
Type of Book: Non-fiction, art collection
Why Do I Consider This Book Odd: It’s 100 depictions of Satan. That’s sort of odd.
Availability: Published by Grand Central Press in 2004, you can get a copy here:
Comments: This is going to be one of the shortest book entries I will ever write because really there isn’t that much to discuss. One hundred artists portrayed Satan as they saw fit, Mike McGee wrote a foreword, and here we are. There are many interpretations of how Halloween came to be and it’s debatable whether or not Satan has much to do with Halloween but only a purist or pedant would insist that Satan and Halloween don’t have at least an uneasy connection, at least in the modern, Western look at the holiday. Some Westerners associate Halloween with evil, a sort of sanitized, cinematic evil, and who is more evil than Satan, mythologically speaking?
McGee’s foreword is relatively interesting. He creates the best excuse for me to bring up this book in reference to Halloween:
Among the many possible explanations of evil, I have always liked the one that mythology expert Joseph Campbell gave Bill Moyers in the PBS interview series The Power of Myth: “The monster masks that are put on people in Star Wars represent the real monster force in the modern world. When the mask of Darth Vader is removed you see an unformed man, one who has not developed as a human individual. He’s a bureaucrat, living not in terms of himself, but in terms of an imposed system.”
Perhaps, even those of us who are formed, who feel as if we are forces at least of neutrality, can assume a mask once a year and let that which is unformed or repressed express or reveal itself when we don a disguise.
McGee gives a quick overview regarding depictions of Satan in different schools of art, but part of his intro explains best why one should both seek out and find value in 100 depictions of Satan as seen through different artists:
Mark Twain once said, “All religions issue Bibles against Satan, and say the most injurious things against him, but we never hear his side.” While 100 Artists See Satan may not exactly present Satan’s side of things, it does present a wide, albeit inconclusive, range of perspectives…”
And that can seem sort of shallow and on the nose – yes, there are many perspectives on Satan once one steers away from a traditional Judeo-Christian perspective of evil, and there’s been a rash of books and movies attempting to tell the other side of the story in the battle for the human soul. But even the most jaded religious refugee will find interesting perspectives of what other minds consider to be the most pernicious evil that stalks and taints mankind. Here are some representations of Satan in the collection that spoke most to me, presented without comment.
For me, Satan will always be a very specific concept that I have no business ever discussing now that I stopped drinking and I don’t think any of these pieces of art capture what I have in mind. But these looks at ultimate evil are each absorbing in their way, if only because you find yourself snaking back and trying to climb inside someone’s head to see how they linked up the concept of Satan with the art they produced in his image. Entering into someone else’s head space that houses their opinions on evil is a somewhat creepy experience and seems in keeping with a Halloween theme. If you know of any artistic depictions of Satan that you find interesting, share!
(Also, I had to Google names of some of the artists because the font in this book is a bizarre choice if the goal of writing out names is for people to be able to read them. But some of these artists are obscure and I could not verify their names. If you see I’ve misspelled an artist’s name, let me know!)