In a hushed, darkened side gallery in a university exhibition space in Orange County, a series of simple glass display cases hold an array of intricately fashioned reliquaries — ornate housings for sacred objects such as slivers off the Bodhi Tree or a bone from the big toe of Mary Magdalene. The more than four dozen works on view display the gilded ornamental woodwork and oddly architectural forms that are the hallmarks of this rarely considered art-historical side stream, and they have a glow of musty intimacy and antiquarian mystery about them.
Until you look a bit closer. Then you start to see what exactly it is that’s been enshrined here: the broken neck and cap from a bottle of Orange Crush, a Jägermeister shot glass, a Morticia Addams bubblegum card, a red carpenter’s pencil, a pair of well-used black boxer shorts, a depleted can of Paul Mitchell Extra-Body Sculpting Mousse, various bits of dry wall and stucco, and a wide assortment of mass-produced touristy knickknacks and commercial premiums. What kind of religion is this, anyway?
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