(Acrylic on masonite; painted in 1976 by James Beoddy)
“Beoddy’s Inferno” is a vision of the Christian Apocalypse presented in modern symbols: the self-destructive bent of Humanity expressed as Armageddon; the two-faced Antichrist possessed by Satan; the horror of instant or gradual death and decay; the Whore and the Beast of Babylon, portraying, here, the sins of Sodom and Gomorrah and representing aspects of the essential nature of sado-masochism, as well as indicating the deplorable relationship between sex and violence, (a problem which Humanity has largely learned to sublimate but must someday learn to transcend.) These last two obscenely detailed images also serve to illustrate the dehumanizing quality of sexual stereotypes. Their presence is meant to convey the vile and loathsome ambiance of Hell on both a moral and a visceral level. Their start quasi-realistic depiction is set in deliberate contrast to the rest of their environment, the infernal decor of which is rendered in a vicious but almost childishly playful style.
Yet the painting is primarily a deeply religious statement of faith in the infinite mercy or God. It is supposed that many people will wind up in Hell after Judgment Day whose only crime or sin was a disbelief in God. For them, the very fact of being in Hell, and of missing the chance to know God, should be punishment enough. “Beoddy’s Inferno” postulates the existence of a Creator so merciful as to provide those relatively-innocent sinners with a way out of Hell, a stairway, in not Heaven, then at least to blessed oblivion. For those guilty of deliberate evil, however, or even for those too pig-headed to recognize and repent of their own evil, there still remains the fire and all the rest of the carnage.
The flag of Hell, a perverse caricature of the American flag, represents a republic dedicated not to Freedom, but to a love of evil.
The composition features two of Beoddy’s favorite painting characters of the time: “Basketcase” and “St. Valentine Apocalypso”. The former, gold-skinned, with horns, halo, and third eye, represents the Spirit, capable of either good or evil, with a capacity for self-knowledge. The latter being represents the emotional side of the Spirit; his face appears upon a human heart.
Typically of Beoddy’s introspective work, most of the major roles here have been portrayed by the artist from contemporary photographs. Though a self-portrait, this painting is not necessarily or literally auto-biographical. The characters are presented as archetypes, or as qualities potentially present within us all to some extent.
As an interesting sidelight, the “Private Hell” and “General Idea” jackets were created by Beoddy in 1975 and worn around Columbus Ohio for years as a sort of one-person “expanded arts” project; these two jackets still exist. Sadly, the green jacket, which featured a portrait of “St. Valentine Apocalypso” on the back, has been lost or destroyed.
Heresy, maybe; Blasphemy? No.