By Nathania Zevi
Followers of the two-year-old Cult of Michael Jackson finally have a place to gather, pay their respects and cry for their beloved idol. And possibly sell some art. The first chapel dedicated to Michael Jackson opened Friday night at 168 North St. in the Figureworks gallery, in the heart of hipster Williamsburg.
The idea of a House of worship for “Thriller” lovers first came to Rusel Parish, a Brooklyn artist who is the leader and the spokesperson for the cult. Parish said he has always been a “huge fan” of Jackson who was, he added, an inspiring figure for his own work. He started painting huge images of the pop singer well before his death this summer and now has a collection that portrays all the stages of Jackson’s life, all of it for sale.
“This exhibition was meant to be a celebration for the tour Michael was supposed to do this year in North America,” Parish explained, “but after his death I thought my work could become a perfect iconography for the cult”.
The Cult celebrates Jackson because, Parish said, “he left a positive image and pulled out a lot of ideas that just need to be put in other platforms, to be applied in people’s lives”.
Parish claims the cult has around 300 followers. Some of the faithful believe that Jackson was a deeply religious person. Parish said that that cult needs its believers to help turn Jackson’s latest songs into scriptures and religious rules, “because this world really needs to become a better place, as Michael wanted.”
He also created some white and dark chocolate statues of MJ that coast $250 each and on the night of the dedication people lit candles in front of his $18,000 “Saint of Michael Jackson” oil, resin, wax and gold leaf panel standing, for now, in the middle of the gallery.
People dressed in vintage clothes and designer shoes walked around the chapel quickly draining their glasses of French white whine or lime Perrier water while silently crying to their tissues. Some of them wore a single silver glove, Jackson’s signature accessory.
“Michael was not a perfect individual,” said 19 year-old Chelsea O’Shea, who added she couldn’t speak for all of 2005 when the signer was on trial for molestation. ” A lot of people, and especially journalists, mocked him and ruined his life. He went through too many things and just couldn’t handle them. That’s why he had to take drugs”.
Is Michael Jackson really some kind of a god? Nineteen year-old Hunnii White said “for sure he is a prophet, or a saint, and I am here to devote myself to him because he represented heaven for me for what he did to help people in need. Moreover, he was a complicated person and people don’t realize that even the God in which the monotheists believe didn’t create a perfect world”.
Maria Fernandez was drying her nose on her sleeve. “Doesn’t matter if everything in the chapel is on sale,” she said, “I’d buy everything because if I don’t connect with him I break down. I still can’t believe he passed away. Today is 9/11 and beside the collapse of the World Trade Center I can’t recall anything more sad than Michael’s death”.
Yet even in the most solemn occasion there is always a light at the end of the tunnel. “Spike Lee just called me and said he might come by and pay respects to Michael,” Parish said, “we will probably think about a project together.” He tried to hold back a proud though embarrassed smile on his face while handing a tissue to a fellow follower and his business card to a reporter.