Icons of American Protestantism: The Art of Warner Sallman

Edited by David Morgan

“From earliest childhood I have loved Jesus Christ and wanted to serve him,” said Warner Sallman, and serve him he did—to over 500 million mostly Protestant consumers between 1940 and 1984. The Head of Christ is perhaps the world’s most popular image, bringing wallet-size comfort and protection to millions of U.S. soldiers in World War II courtesy of the Salvation Army and the YMCA, inspiring countless conversions and reportedly weeping tears of blood in Roswell, New Mexico, in 1979. It has been admired as “a true portrait of Christ,” a perception verified by devotees in actual visions of the savior. Most importantly, it has provided solace when the going gets tough and paved the way for millions of worshipers to a greater intimacy and communion with the Lord.
The six essays that make up this book address different questions raised by Sallmania, exploring the whys and hows of his oeuvre’s astounding success. Sallman seems uniquely chosen to have served Christ as an artist: The son of devout Swedish immigrants, young Warner was tutored in painting by his carpenter father. He studied commercial art at the Art Institute of Chicago, then went on to work for some of Chicago’s top advertising agencies. There he mastered that most American of skills: the creation of images which can be all things to all people. Mimicking Hollywood glamor shots of the time and creating a feeling of immediacy by following the conventions of contemporary portrait photography, Sallman conjured a Christ which could express whatever an individual’s needs dictated. Sallman, though seemingly very sincere, knew not to change the formula when classic Coke was what people wanted: Most of his other famous images feature an identical head of Christ atop a differently postured body in a different setting.
While legions flocked to Sallman’s Jesus, various Protestant factions wrung their hands. Liberal Protestants were embarrassed by it, preferring abstraction, the alienated, revelatory “thinking-man’s art.” African-Americans and others were angered by its ethnocentrism. Intellectuals saw it as a debased and dangerous product of the proto-fascist culture industry. Alfred Barr, founder of MOMA and son and grandson of Presbyterian ministers, in a buried chapter of his life issued a report from a commission he founded under the auspices of the National Council of Churches’ Department of Worship and the Arts. The proclamation called popular images of Jesus “art on the level of cosmetic and tonic advertisements,” adding, “They call for iconoclasm.” With 14 color and dozens of black-and-white reproductions, this book is a delight for anyone interested in religious iconography, Caucasian culture or popular art. MH

Publisher: Yale University
Hardback: 247 pages

Return of the Furies: An Investigation Into Recovered-Memory Therapy

Hollida Wakefield and Ralph Underwager

The authors of this book assess the horrific costs recovered-memory therapists have heaped upon the American public in many ways: billions of dollars thrown away by the justice system, families torn apart in the most painful way possible, a loss of trust in the judicial system, an overtaxed child protective system threatened by junk science, distrust and “the most virulent and violent antisexuality the world has known since the days of Tertullian in the second century.”
Co-author Ralph Underwager first found himself intervening on behalf of an abused child when he was a Lutheran pastor in 1952. He and co-author Hollida Wakefield, both psychologists, continued to work with incest victims, but in the late ‘70s, they began to see early examples of false accusations and were often consulted as experts in court cases. In 1992, they helped to form the False Memory Syndrome Foundation.
This comprehensive book answers every imaginable question about false-memory syndrome. It explains how “memories” can be implanted by therapists through hypnotherapy, guided imagery and survivor’s groups, and examines the social, legal and therapeutic milieu that has created a situation in which people accused of bizarre, unspeakable crimes bear the burden of proving themselves innocent. The authors provide accounts from retractors and lay out the devastating consequences of false accusations to the accusers and accused alike. They painstakingly examine different theories of memory and forgetting, dissect research on theories of repression and dissociation, and scrutinize such commonly used concepts as traumatic amnesia, post-traumatic stress disorder, splitting, multiple personality disorder and body memories. MH

Publisher: Open Court
Paperback: 431 pages

The Osiris Complex: Case Studies in Multiple-Personality Disorder

Colin A. Ross, M.D.

The author's agenda, and his passion, speak loud and clear: MPD does exist, can usually be treated, and is often misdiagnosed (as schizophrenia, borderline-personality disorder, etc.), with tragic results. He insists that his profession needs to look beyond its current biomedical bias and start seeing the very strong relationship between trauma, especially sexual abuse, and mental illness.
While Ross concentrates on the societal and clinical implications of this disorder, the reader cannot help but ponder the compelling and disturbing questions raised about the nature of personality itself. In many cases, the division of an MPD patient's conflicting impulses into separate personalities seems like a literalization of the neurotic tendencies shared by most people: for instance, in the case of a young female, one personality gains 80 pounds so that another, a prostitute, will go into hiding and keep out of trouble.
There is a persistent drumbeat throughout the book criticizing mainstream psychology and psychiatry for banishing the paranormal (demons, ESP, spirit possession) from their domain. (Indeed, the author's seeming eagerness to discover that such characters as “the Evil One” are the exterior beings his patients claim they are would severely damage his credibility if Ross weren’t so scientific, reasonable, and sensitive in his approach to these subjects.) The paranormal entities he meets in his office always turn out, however, to be expressions of the patients' dissociated personalities. MH

Publisher: University of Toronto
Paperback: 296 pages

A Social History of the Minor Tranquilizers: The Quest for Small Comfort in the Age of Anxiety

Mickey C. Smith, Ph.D.

This study of cultural issues surrounding the development of tranquilizers since the 1950s is unusual in that it was written by a pharmaceutical “insider,” and with a tone of political cautiousness. While it is interesting to read a book on this subject without an obvious feminist or anti-psychiatry point of view, the downside is that the author seems so careful not to weigh in on the pro or con side of the tranquilizer question that he often presents a litany of conflicting papers written by others (whose credibility and viewpoint is not available to the typical reader) and seemingly presents as little of his own editorial, synthesizing voice as possible. (The style of this book may be due to its presumed academic or professional audience.)
That being said, this wide-ranging book presents a wealth of data. Subjects covered are: the typical cycle of professional and public reactions to new “miracle drugs”; the problem of defining and diagnosing anxiety; a chronology of the development of psychopharmacology through the 1970s; prescribing and utilization patterns; history of mass media coverage of tranquilizers; the information flow to doctors, including the professional press and pharmaceutical advertising; social issues such as the medicalization of human problems and the imbalance of tranquilizer use between men and women; doctors' prescribing dilemmas; and a particularly interesting chapter on the history of regulatory efforts by the FDA and other agencies with transcript extracts from the famous Kefauver hearings and other proceedings. Note: Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors are not discussed in this book, which came out three years before Prozac. MH

Publisher: Haworth
Paperback: 266 pages

Whispers: The Voice of Paranoia

Ronald K. Siegel

As a research pharmacologist, Ronald K. Siegel took the same drugs as his subjects in an effort to truly understand their experiences. In this study of the waking nightmare of paranoia, Siegel seeks to identify with patients who are “hallucinating without the use of artificial intoxicants.” The limbic system is the “neurological hideaway of the paranoia demon” but the psychological and biological triggers that engender paranoia are complex. Siegel pursues these origins like a sometimes terrified and often gleeful private eye; he emerges with mesmerizing stories which suggest a compassionate, scientifically rigorous Clive Barker. In many of the most horrifying accounts, cocaine is the ingredient which turns a bad situation into a tragic one:
• A Christmas shipment of pure Bolivian rock cocaine results in a massive “bug invasion.” Siegel sees numerous subjects covered with large, gummy lesions where they tried to dig the hallucinated creatures out of their bodies. One coke fiend shows up at his home with vials labelled “H” and “P” for “hands” and “penis”—the sites from which he has excavated the “bugs” in a sleepless three-day blitz with the help of his old high school dissecting kit and a stereo microscope.
• A beautiful, socially isolated waitress/ballet dancer interprets the placement of silverware by her love object, a gay waiter, as messages of desire. Her own desire, frustration, and paranoid obsession mount. Finally, she choreographs a dance for him which, in a twisted take on the romantic ballet Giselle, ends in murder.
• A father of five is left unemployed, humiliated and depressed by a debilitating shipyard accident followed by a false arrest. His discovery of cocaine leads to a three-year war against a spectral invasion of bugs, worms, snakes and midgets, which he records via an elaborate system of video cameras and microphones located throughout his house. His arsenal includes several propane torches, one converted into a flamethrower and dubbed “Mr. Discipline,” a term probably used by his sadistic father. MH

Publisher: Touchstone
Paperback: 310 pages

The Dream Encyclopedia

James R. Lewis

Exploring 250 dream-related topics in alphabetical order (the A’s start with Abraham, the B’s with Bed-Wetting, the C’s with Joseph Campbell), this heavily illustrated tome skates across the globe and the centuries. It provides snatches of information about an improbably diverse range of subjects from the spheres of art, ethnography, history, literature, science, philosophy and religion, providing bibliographical notes after each entry for further study. MH

Publisher: Visible Ink
Paperback: 416 pages

The Art of Eric Stanton: For the Man Who Knows His Place

Edited by Eric Kroll

Warning: This book is big. Really big. Big enough for a small-waisted, big-busted, long-legged, overheated bitch in a fur-trimmed black negligee and stiletto heels to use as a weapon; that is, if a scrub brush, vacuum cleaner hose, riding crop, belt, rug beater, gun, two-by-four, whip or golf club isn't handy. (Or if another prevalent form of punishment in Eric Stanton's world—suffocation by crotch—is deemed too good for the miserable cur.) “A woman has to be strong,” says Stanton, “The bigger the better.”
Stanton got his start in the early ’50s when Irving Klaw published his first comic book. These early works had women serving equal time as bondage subjects (“Girls' Figure Training Academy”) and Amazons (“Dawn's Fighting Adventures”). He went on to share a studio with Spiderman's Steve Ditko, and to produce compelling covers for erotic magazines and novels in his masterful pulp style. He continues to run a thriving mail-order business, which consists of picture stories he customises to the client's request. (One such collaboration is reproduced in its multiple stages in this book.) Stanton's lengthy career is a tribute to his and his viewership's polymorphous perversity: Just leafing through this book—even with both hands—can leave the impressionable reader in a state of near-exhaustion. MH

Publisher: Taschen
Hardback: 400 pages

Without Child: Challenging the Stigma of Childlessness

Laurie Lisle

This book is not a manifesto for the childfree. It is not shrill, dogmatic or defensive. A reader hungry for encouragement to eschew breeding may feel encroaching disappointment while devouring the first chapters, but a surprise is in the offing: In the course of this well-researched book the author shares her own story, and by the end has delivered a powerful dose of inspiration and paved the way for a more confident and enlightened decision.
Lisle’s account of her journey from uncertainty to acceptance of and even elation in her choice of childlessness provides ample jumping-off points for an exploration of the decision from every conceivable angle. The antecedents of her decision are complex, including elements both negative (her father’s desertion of the family; her painful awareness of her mother’s struggle and sacrifice) and positive (her devotion to her writing; her deep appreciation of freedom and self-definition). She also surveys the history of non-motherhood, its ebbs and flows with cultural, economic and historical conditions, and draws on a wealth of literary sources, from diaries and letters of 19th-century women and pioneering childless couples, to authors like Adrienne Rich, Anaïs Nin and Georgia O’Keeffe (of whom Lisle wrote a best selling biography) to Greek plays. She also has many sociological studies at her fingertips, which answer such important questions as whether nonmothers are lonelier as elderly women (they aren’t).
Desirous of bridging the gap between mothers and nonmothers, Lisle has breached difficult territory and emerged with wisdom which can do much to dispel the hostility on both sides. She takes all of the players in the family equation into account: extended family, the infertile and others who are not childless by choice, even men! Lisle remains generous and fair-minded throughout, while standing her ground and poking holes in narrow pro-natalist attitudes. MH

Publisher: Ballantine
Hardback: 273 pages

The Complete Physique Pictorial

“At the start of the 1950s Physique Pictorial was the first men’s magazine to publish photos of naked men for their own sake. The uncompromising nature of these photographs of flawless bodies, produced solely for the pleasure of the beholder, had not been witnessed since the fall of Rome. In the 1950s this was something new and extremely radical; although neither prick nor pubic hair were on view directly in the early years, the pictures left nothing to the imagination in terms of homoerotic splendor.” The packaging of this three-volume collection (a complete reprint of the magazine’s entire run from 1951 to 1990) surpasses even the supreme level of mouth-watering, glossy perfection that art lovers have come to expect from Taschen. The volumes are bound in bubblegum-pink covers in a matching slipcase that features wraparound images of those fun-loving Tom of Finland hunks er, hanging out. The whole package is so sublime, just looking at it there in its neat, squat box is the equivalent of sticking four juicy pieces of Bubble Yum in your mouth at once. MH

Publisher: Taschen
Hardback in slipcase: 2600 pages

Fred Tomaselli

Fred Tomaselli

Suspended in immaculate resin fields, Tomaselli’s chosen materials—a pharmacopoeia including everything from Percodan to Sudafed, hemp leaves to blotter acid—become planets, cells, stitches, landscapes, hypnotic patterns. Time and space warp, and patterns of saturated colors swirl, shimmer, vibrate and fly by like squadrons of alien crafts which flash in one’s peripheral vision. The implications of the drugs and their contexts dovetail and jam, multiply and complicate each image’s multilayered meanings and affects. The sublime beauty of these compositions dispenses a blast of psychic pleasure, strangely flavored by a mournful sense of the spirituality we long for in everyday life.
Like drugs, these works demand nothing of the viewer, and generously deliver the unexpected. This is not to say they exist outside of art history, and Alisa Tager’s excellent essay explores influences and inferences involving movements from Constructivism to Conceptualism. Both Tager and David A. Greene met the challenge of soberly discussing this gloriously experiential work (with the possible exception of Greene’s Grateful Dead concert acid trip reverie), and the color reproductions in this small gem of a catalog are very good. MH

Publisher: Smart Art
Paperback: 37 pages