Norbert Kox (1945–2018) was a booze- and drug-loving Wisconsin Outlaw biker who was improbably transformed into an apocalyptic hermit-artist, largely self-taught in biblical Hebrew and Greek as well as in oil painting.
Kox shared one of the central concerns of Hosea: the often-hidden depravity of official religious interpretations of Scripture, as well as the ‘fake news’ of so many modern institutions. He saw all conventional religious images as manifestations of idolatry, for things are never what they seem on the surface, especially when the object of worship is so often a selfish clinging to fame, money, and power. The esoteric truth of things has little to do with narcissistic or material self-aggrandizement.
Thus, Kox sees modern-day prophets as charged to challenge all piously conventional understandings of religious truth and to see through the potential hypocrisy of priests, popes, and politicians. Rock of Ages has special reference to Elijah’s contest with Baal’s prophets (1 Kings 18:20–31), but these concerns resonate with the text of Hosea, which recalls Jacob’s wrestling with God (Hosea 12:2–4). Our awareness of the truth hinges on a fateful contest that reveals the covenantal and communitarian truth of God’s fiery power from the sky.
Kox’s artworks were intentionally disturbing and grotesque to shock people out of their complacent acceptance of the ‘counterfeit’ beliefs of mainstream Christianity. However, this large, luminous painting of a Black Elijah with an uplifted shofar is one of Kox’s more hopeful works. The black Elijah is painted as a kind of doppelgänger of the bearded white Kox, and alludes to Kox’s identification with a poor black Pentecostal community from the island of Bimini in the occult waters of the Bermuda Triangle. The spirit of this work, as with the books of Hosea and Kings, emphasizes the blazing presence and spiritual power of God as channelled by these prophets.
The black Elijah and his white twin are precursors of the coming messiah who will unveil—like the ‘Bible codes’ (symbolic numbers encrypted in Hebrew letters), and like Kox’s own paintings—God’s secrets of salvation. The proof of God’s power is shown in the sacrificial fireball crashing down from heaven and blasting the ‘stone heap’ altars of the faithless idolaters of Baal (Hosea 12:11).
Bonesteel, Michael. 2018. ‘The Apocalypse According to Norbert Kox’, Raw Vision, 99
Bottoms, Greg. 2007. The Colorful Apocalypse: Journeys in Outsider Art (Chicago: University of Chicago Press)
Damkoehler, David. 2009. ‘Masquerade: Norbert Kox’, Raw Vision, 65
Girardot, Norman. 2019. ‘Through the Portal: Norbert Kox has Gone Elsewhere’, Folk Art Messenger, 28, pp. 4–7
Kox, Norbert. ‘Apocalypse House’ partially disabled website, available at https://nkox.homestead.com/ [accessed 12 March 2020]
———. 2010. 'Bimini Art Gallery Show', available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qeVGuCOZOjM [accessed 12 March 2020]
Manley, Roger. 1998. The End is Near: Visions of Apocalypse Millennium and Utopia (Los Angeles: Dilettante Press)
Weisenburger, Erik. 1996. ‘Norbert H. Kox’, Raw Vision, 14
12Eʹphraim has encompassed me with lies,
and the house of Israel with deceit;
but Judah is still known by God,
and is faithful to the Holy One.
12Eʹphraim herds the wind,
and pursues the east wind all day long;
they multiply falsehood and violence;
they make a bargain with Assyria,
and oil is carried to Egypt.
2The Lord has an indictment against Judah,
and will punish Jacob according to his ways,
and requite him according to his deeds.
3In the womb he took his brother by the heel,
and in his manhood he strove with God.
4He strove with the angel and prevailed,
he wept and sought his favor.
He met God at Bethel,
and there God spoke with him—
5the Lord the God of hosts,
the Lord is his name:
6“So you, by the help of your God, return,
hold fast to love and justice,
and wait continually for your God.”
7A trader, in whose hands are false balances,
he loves to oppress.
8Eʹphraim has said, “Ah, but I am rich,
I have gained wealth for myself”;
but all his riches can never offset
the guilt he has incurred.
9I am the Lord your God
from the land of Egypt;
I will again make you dwell in tents,
as in the days of the appointed feast.
10I spoke to the prophets;
it was I who multiplied visions,
and through the prophets gave parables.
11If there is iniquity in Gilead
they shall surely come to nought;
if in Gilgal they sacrifice bulls,
their altars also shall be like stone heaps
on the furrows of the field.
12(Jacob fled to the land of Aram,
there Israel did service for a wife,
and for a wife he herded sheep.)
13By a prophet the Lord brought Israel up from Egypt,
and by a prophet he was preserved.
14Eʹphraim has given bitter provocation;
so his Lord will leave his bloodguilt upon him,
and will turn back upon him his reproaches.