This is a story I haven’t really got around to blogging about until now, but I’ve been fascinated by it ever since I first heard about it years ago. It’s the story of how one day the Throne of God was found in a garage in Washington DC.
James Hampton, the son of a Baptist preacher, had served in the US Air Force throughout World War II before returning to his home in Washington in 1945. Once back he found a job as a janitor and lived a fairly quiet life until his death in November 1964. Quiet, that is, apart from a secret project he worked on from 1950. Because he wasn’t just James Hampton, he was St. James, Director for Special Projects for the State of Eternity.
Well, that’s what he believed – debate his religious experiences amongst yourselves, as they included visions of Moses and the Virgin Mary – and in his rented garage he worked for fourteen years to create a throne on which Christ could sit in the event of the Second Coming. Made out of old furniture, tin foil, coffee cans, vases and lightbulbs, the Throne of the Third Heaven of the Nations’ Millennium General Assembly was covered in quotations from the Bible, particularly the Book of Revelation. Whether or not he was a modern-day Bezalel isn’t for me to decide, but there’s something weirdly epic about all this, and I’m still not sure if it’s tragic or uplifting. Either way, Hampton is an example of folk art, art that exists in contrast to Fine Art, and encompasses and links to indigenous crafts, outsider art and naive art. You can put Hampton and the Throne into artistic traditions all you want though, there’s still something mythic and moving about trying to create something for God, unknown in a garage somewhere.
And, just for completeness, there’s also an indie album named after the Throne….