Rock of Ages: The Prophet Elijah Confronts Idolatry by Norbert Kox

Norbert Kox

Rock of Ages: The Prophet Elijah Confronts Idolatry, c.2018, Acrylic glaze on canvas, 92.71 x 76.2 cm, Private Collection, © Estate of Norbert Kox; Courtesy of the collection of Jeremy and Megan Kox

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Outlaw Prophet

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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).

 

References

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


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