Rex Diabolos Church does not look like the boy next door. Unless the boy next door to you shaves his head and grooms his inky black beard into two neat little points, angled from his face like a womans welcoming legs. And even then, even if your boy-next-door does these things, he doesnt look like Rex Diabolos Church.
Its easy, and common, for the average person to fixate on Rexs appearance; the layers of black clothing, the striking Baphomet necklace, the dome of pale skin, the impressive black cones of chin hair absentmindedly twisted and re-twisted during deep thought. To casual observers, feeling safe within their private snickers, Rex is a piece of weirdly walking performance art that they dont understand. But the casual observer, Rex would point out, doesnt understand much and isnt of much interest to him, anyway. Rex is an elitist. Rex is a Satanist. And Rex is an artist. Some might ask, whats the difference? In this case, there is none.
A private viewing of Rexs work, displayed in a converted section of a Portland, Oregon, warehouse, reveals an array of eerie, threatening mechanodemons airbrushed lushly onto sheets of chemically treated metal. One piece uses an industrial sized saw blade as a canvas. The subject matter is universally dark and foreboding; creatures that humans categorize as devils, monsters, demons. Do not come here in hopes of finding the lighthearted or good-naturedly comical. Rex does not paint sunsets, he paints what lives behind them, lurking in the lengthening shadows. He blends flesh and bone and steel and mechanical order and produces visions of bone-chilling beauty. Visions that cause the viewer to stop a moment and wonder what the hell Rex was thinking about when he was painting.
And hell is precisely what Rex was thinking about when he was painting, oddly enough. The paintings reflect some of the mystical insights, albeit of a dark side, the Qlippotu, as its known in certain magical traditions, the spaces in-between the Tree of Life. Spaces where the demons have residence, he explains.
Many of these insights have been gained during times of meditation and dark ritual. The beings that fill his canvases are entities and vibrations that Rex says he has encountered in his non-physical travels. These same beings have caused frequent comparisons to be drawn between Rexs work and that of Swiss artist, H. R. Giger, who most Americans remember for his work on the motion picture, Aliens. In both cases we encounter grotesque forms that combine the natural beauty of living creatures with an often sexually disturbing (and arousing) mechanical element. This biomechanical concept in art has served both artists well. But, according to Rex, their similarities really are merely on the surface. The motivating factors for each man are entirely different. Hes a man who paints to cleanse his psyche. Hes really beset by neurosis and bad dreams and a real disturbed psyche, Rex concludes about Giger. He paints what he paints to exorcise his demons. I exercise them. I dont cast them out, lest I cast out that best part of myself. That which Giger wishes to purge, Rex wishes to embrace.
The comparison between the two men is not without some point of origin. Rex encountered the works of Giger early in his life. His father, a tool and dye worker who travelled internationally, brought his young son with him to Switzerland on one of his trips during 1966. The duo came across a small poster shop in Zurich which had many psychedelic posters from America. There were also copies of Gigers work, including a pen and ink on paper entitled, Playmate. Rex returned to the states with two of Gigers posters, neither of which were strongly biomechanical. This was the same year that Anton Szandor La Vey founded the Church of Satan.
The young man who would one day become Rex Diabolos Church, a high priest of the Church of Satan, was immediately impressed by Gigers work, which influenced his early pen and ink drawings. It fit in perfectly with his other interests: horror movies, monsters, strange art such as that produced by Hieronymous Bosch and Salvador Dali, insects, industrial machinery and bones. He found the symmetry of natural objects intriguing, especially that of bones and insect parts. They are particularly Satanic because, Rex explains, they follow along the lines of the Law of the Forbidden; they both repel and attract simultaneously. This Law is certainly evident in Rexs art, for to gaze at it compels the viewer to look deeper and longer while simultaneously fighting an urge to look at something a little more...reassuring. Rex specializes in trips to Hell, hes not about nurturing and affirming imagery.
Even his earliest works speak clearly of a youth with a dark vision to communicate. Never one to join in school functions, Rex was nonetheless invited to display some of his work at his Astoria, Oregon, high school, in one of the trophy cases during the Halloween season. The young man, who wore Gothic clothing and black long before it was stylish, provided the school with more than they had bargained for. He cast a human skull in steel. The cranium was filled with tendrils of metal and placed on a wolf vertebrae. The cranium was then covered by a glass dome filled with pieces of rotten meat and chum from local fisheries. Once this produced maggots, Rex added meal worms. The entire operation was then placed inside of a metal box with walls that had been scored to give the impression of living tissue. A strobe light placed inside the box was the finishing touch. The viewer was privy to Rexs vision of wriggling, crawling, snapping machinations of death with some fairly hideous smells. Not for the last time exhibiting for an unappreciative audience, he was invited to never show his art at the high school again.
This sentiment was echoed when the young man was kicked out of history class for drawing obscene pictures during class. The school considered his early work, depicting women engaging in sexual commerce with monsters and machines, to be pornographic. This personal fetish, immediately labeled as bad, is a fairly common feature in modern fantasy erotica. Again, just a little ahead of the times.
But how did Rex move from being simply a child who liked movie monsters and bugs to being a proudly Satanic artist? After his mother returned from a presentation by La Vey on the correlation between sound and color, Rex read the copy of The Satanic Bible, which she had brought home. He immediately recognized himself as a Satanist and concluded that he had an infernal calling. Satan seemed to be the patron saint of everything he enjoyed and of all that was cast out and despised. This recognition was a tremendous comfort to the adolescent, who immediately made a pact with the devil. He promised to allow his life to follow Satans will, regardless of how strange or convoluted things might become. Its a decision Rex, now 39, has never regretted.
Ive never shirked from my responsibilities as a Satanic artist, he states. He gains inspiration for his art from a Satanic perspective of the world and from his involvement in black magic. These involvements have not always been a boon to his art shows, however. While exhibiting a group of paintings entitled The Red Death at a small gallery in Omaha, Nebraska, called The Garden of the Zodiac, a fire broke out in a restaurant section of the building. Rats, it appears, had raided the kitchen and then, back in their holes, gorged themselves on not only the tasty treats but also the tasty wiring system. This resulted in the old wooden structure sustaining severe damage. The paintings, however, were not harmed. Had this been the only time such a thing had occurred, Rex might have seen it as simply a coincidence that his artwork, featuring blood red fire entities, was on display during the disaster. But Rex believes there was more to it than simple coincidence, If you set yourself up as a beacon to the forces of darkness, theyre going to find you.
The Omaha fire, and other seemingly rogue gallery accidents, are an affirmation to Rex that his art, and his work, is on the mark. When youre in the right place at the right time then you just know it because things just happen automatically. If theres a particular piece of information you might want, someone you need to know; you just cast some bread upon the water and sooner or later, and its usually sooner, it comes back to you, Rex illustrates. Its all part of the life hes lived since making his childhood pact. According to the artist, there is a stream of time in our lives and we either figure out where it is and our lives fall into place; or we dont find out where it is, and we spend our lives making mistakes and going nowhere. For Rex, having found his stream of time, this means continuing to proudly share his personal demons with fellow Satanists, such as collector La Vey, as well as with enlightened admirers of his work and his message.
As the Millennium approaches, Rex promises us higher visibility from Satanic artists, scientists and, possibly politicians, as they increasingly promote their vision of a world depleted of the parasite Man and replaced by creatures of darkness and evil, including the children of Satan. Satanists have always been here and theyll always be here and theyll always be the ones who shape the forces of history.
As you determine which side of the Millennium you want to find yourself on, now might be a good time to gaze into the faces of airbrushed demons and ask Rex Diabolos Church for a tour through the hallways of Hell.
Rex Diabolos Church can be reached on the world wide web at http://www.asylumofsatan.com, or through the U.S. mail at Asylum of Satan, PO Box 40361, Central Station, Portland, OR 97240.