I've been known to skew to the satanic and the weird. Sue me. Growing up in the Bible Belt necessitates a certain amount of spiritual rebellion that sticks with you no matter how hard you try to shake it. But Rocky Horton — a Nashville-based artist and Lipscomb art professor — makes work that I can absolutely get on board with, regardless of its Judeo-Christian subtext. In fact, sometimes Horton's religious connections make his art even more punk rock and radical than, say, Neckface's "Deal With the Devil" pentagrams or whatever dumb tattoo art people who like Mark Ryden are into.
That said, you might not even get a God vibe from Horton's studio, which he keeps in various locales in and around the East Nashville house he shares with his wife Mandy and their three cherubic kids. Horton shrugs off the subtext when I bring it up, as if to say, "That's just art history, man." Check out the divine inspo in his recent collages of wrestlers, for instance. Horton scours vintage wrestling mags he finds on eBay and creates amorphous creatures that reference classical sculptures. One of his recent videos puts magnanimous wrestler Ric Flair on an endless loop like some sort of enraptured holy man, ensconced in flashing lights and applause. And the video "All the Songs God is Responsible For According to Grammy Awards Acceptance Speeches From 1971-2012" seems like a pretty good joke at first, until you get a few seconds in and discover that the repetition of "Thank the Lord" is completely earnest and really, truly moving.
Also of note: Check out the chalkboard door of ideas for work Horton's considering, specifically "Hairway to Steven," which has such a great title it doesn't even have to be any good. But I'm sure it will be.