RALEIGH, N.C. – A North Carolina artist intrigued by the public obsession with celebrity has found herself feeding that obsession with a painting of actress Angelina Jolie as the Virgin Mary hovering over a Wal-Mart checkout line.
Kate Kretz has painted for 20 years but none of her previous work has garnered the attention given "Blessed Art Thou," showing this weekend at Art Miami, an annual exposition of modern and contemporary art.
The painting has gotten much attention from celebrity web sites and blogs. Since the buzz started, the number of daily unique visitors to Kretz's own blog has jumped from an average of 30 to 15,000 on Wednesday.
"My intention was to ask a question and get people to think," Kretz said in a telephone interview Friday from Miami. "I had no idea so many people would be asking a question and thinking."
The painting — acrylic and oil on linen — depicts an angelic Jolie in the clouds, holding her newborn daughter, Shiloh, with children Maddox and Zahara at her legs. Below them is a Wal-Mart checkout line. The painting is for sale for $50,000 through Chelsea Galleria in Miami, which represents Kretz.
On her blog, Kretz, 43, said the painting addresses "the celebrity worship cycle." She said she chose Jolie for the subject "because of her unavoidable presence in the media, the worldwide anticipation of her child, her 'unattainable' beauty and the good that she is doing in the world through her example, which adds another layer to the already complicated questions surrounding her status."
Washington Post art critic Blake Gopnik, asked to comment about "Blessed Art Thou" on a Post blog, was unimpressed. "Once you've deciphered it, there's not much chance of giving it a second look," Gopnik wrote.