The son of a parish priest, Borys Tarasenko has drawn plenty of inspiration from the Bible.
But he’s far from a typical believer.
Tarasenko is the Edmonton artist behind the Sweet Jesus exhibit at the Bleeding Heart Art Space on 118th Avenue.
His handmade drawings, outlined in rudimentary black paint, depict a series of strangely reimagined Bible stories.
In one, an apron-clad Jesus is shown barbecuing, extending his holy hand to offer his disciples a slice of grilled hot dog. A rotund bear in priestly robes stands with jaws agape waiting for the grilled godly offering.
Tarasenko, 27, grew up surrounded by religion and the images of Ukrainian iconography. But as he got older, his dogma changed, and departed from Catholicism.
Now he doesn’t believe in any higher power. But religion is still a big part of his life, and he faithfully attends St. George Ukrainian Catholic Church in Edmonton at least once a week.
“As this was happening I came to enjoy going to church more because I could appreciate it for what it was,” he said. “And I really loved going, because it was just culturally beautiful. So much a part of me growing up that I loved going back there.”
The exhibit includes an open invitation to colour its walls, even supplying the felt pens.
Much like the pages of a colouring book, what was once stark in black and white has gone technicolour, and the already bizarre images have become even more outlandish.
“It’s crazy. It’s bonkers,” Tarasenko said an interview with CBC Edmonton’s Radio Active. “People have been adding things I couldn’t have imagined. Speech bubbles, fish, what looks like a hot air balloon, wings on characters. Such a different way than I expected. Every time I come in it’s like opening a present.
“I wanted people to be able to add themselves to the work.”