For the love of God…

That phrase is usually uttered in a moment of complete frustration or exasperation: “For the LOVE of God.” I heard someone say it yesterday who was (apparently) tired of standing in line at a coffee shop. Saying that phrase is sort of like swearing, only more polite. If the F-word is blue language, “For the love of God…” is baby blue.

Sometimes the phrase is used in casual conversation to drive home a point, such as in, “For the love of God, I told you that I didn’t want to go out dancing Saturday night till dawn.”

As a recovering Catholic, when I hear those words I have a different association, a different meaning. And, as a lover of contemporary art, I definitely have a different vision in my head when I hear someone voice those five, short words. In my mind, this is what I see:

Image“For the Love of God” – Damien Hirst, 2007

For the Love of God is a sculpture by artist Damien Hirst. It is, at the same time, an obscure piece of contemporary art and a celebrated one as well. You can “Google” the piece and find all kinds of details about it – a life-size, platinum cast of a human skull with real human teeth, covered with more than 8600 flawless diamonds, including the stunning, pear-shaped Skull Star Pink Diamond in the forehead, When created, it was estimated that the cost to produce this piece was over fourteen million British pounds. It is now, as they say, virtually priceless. And it makes me smile…

There are few things more grotesque or terrifying than a human skull yet here is one, all bright, shining and sparkle-y. Instead of turning away when we see, we are drawn towards it. We want to touch it, to lay our eyes upon it and revel in its ostentatious-ness. At a time in history when zombies have never been more present in popular culture, this art is creepy cool. We look at this piece and do not fear Death, or its face, but maybe want to invite it out for coffee, to become its friend. We covet the opulence of this piece. We stand transfixed by its perfection.

I mean, really, for the love of God, I want to own it…

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