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By Carole Baker
That contemporary America is captivated by the phenomenon of celebrity is hardly a contestable observation. Even those of us who try to limit the impact of celebrity on our life find that its tenacity is hard to overcome. Some try to overcome the impact of celebrity by willing its insignificance. But that some energy is required to will its insignificance should be an indication that, despite our best efforts, as contemporary Americans we are beholden to it. Celebrity has become the lingua franca of our society.
As I survey the relationship between celebrity and the two disciplines of theology and visual art, it may be worth stating my modest aims bluntly: by drawing attention to the phenomenon of celebrity, I hope to investigate a nagging suspicion of mine that something fundamental is missing in present enthusiasms surrounding the role of art and artists in the contemporary church. And that something entails a thicker theological account of materiality and Christian identity, an ontology and anthropology that goes beyond the typical imago dei apologetics. What follows are some preliminary sketches of these matters, and as any artist knows, preliminary sketches are just that—preliminary.