You've found Father McKenzie. But are you really looking for Eleanor Rigby?

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Granted, finding "life imitates The Onion" stories in the Fairfax papers is like finding stray thongs on the beach, but still

'NEW YORK - Miguel Nunez, a Brooklyn-based artist, has sparked protest and outrage within the art community with his "Jesus Rising #4," a non-controversial, non-feces-smeared painting that in no way defiles or blasphemes Jesus Christ. "Jesus Rising #4," included in Nunez's new Divinity exhibition at the Whitney Museum, has received harsh criticism from artists and academics since its June 6 debut. The painting has been picketed nearly around the clock by angry protesters, who say they are stunned by its lack of obscene imagery metaphorically conveying a provocative, highly charged theopolitical message. "Why isn't this [painting] splattered with donkey semen?" asked sculptor India Jackson, one of the protesters. "And I defy anyone to find a trace of urine, human or otherwise, on this entire canvas. The piece does not appear to be an enraged howl against Christian patriarchal hegemony at all. Frankly, I'm shocked"...'

- "Non-Controversial Christ Painting Under Fire From Art Community", 37(22) The Onion (13 June 2001)

THE nation's top prize for religious art is again embroiled in controversy after one of its judges resigned in protest over the inclusion of a crucifixion painted by the artist Adam Cullen.

The Sydney academic Dr Christopher Allen has resigned from the judging panel for the Blake Prize for Religious Art over his vehement objections to Cullen's work. The triptych shows Christ on the cross and the inscription "only woman bleed", a line inspired by a song by the shock-rocker Alice Cooper.

Cullen said the organisers contacted him yesterday and told him Dr Allen had resigned in protest over the work's selection for consideration for the $20,000 prize.

"It's just a Jew on the cross," said Cullen, who won the Archibald Prize in 2000. "All the other entries would be of a Jew on two bits of wood. It's a very left-wing, almost pseudo-femme, artwork. How can he be offended?"

Dr Allen could not be contacted yesterday. But at a judging session on Friday he admitted he was not a fan of Cullen's work. "I've never even met him - I just don't like his work," Dr Allen said. "It has a kind of deliberate ugliness which has been exploited as a gimmick. This isn't a personal preference, it's a judgment."

Prize organisers were hoping to avoid controversy this year after entries last year, including a statue of the Virgin Mary shrouded in a burqa and a hologram of Christ morphing with Osama bin Laden, angered the then prime minister, John Howard, and the Catholic Archbishop of Sydney, Cardinal George Pell. Mr Howard called them "gratuitously offensive".

Most of this year's entries are benign, but the more provocative works include the party boy Corey Worthington as Jesus Christ. "Jesus was crucified to pay for the sins of man, and Corey was crucified by the media to pay for the sins of the MySpace generation," said the image's creator, Dean Sewell, a photographer who also works for the Herald.

The Blake Prize's chairman, Rod Pattenden, confirmed that Dr Allen had quit the judging panel. "Christopher Allen resigned due to his objection towards a particular work included in the exhibition. That was related to his training as an academic and it was an aesthetic objection."

Cullen's entry was condemned by another judge, the academic Dr Kathleen McPhillips, who described it as "really offensive". But another member of the judging panel, the Blake Prize-winning artist Lachlan Warner, was more supportive. "We knew that work was Adam's," he said. "It couldn't have been anyone else's. I decided to throw it in there. I put in a vote for it. I wanted to look at it again." Cullen has become used to strong reactions to his work. "Sometimes I think all I have to do is wake up in the morning - I just have to fart and there's flames."

- Erik Jensen, Louise Schwartzkoff and Richard Jinman, "Religious art prize judge quits in disgust," Sydney Morning Herald (Wednesday 6 August 2008)

1 comment:

qraal said...

Profanization of sacred themes is to be expected in an age of reactionary religion. Briz31 during the daytime has some seriously twisted religious programming - the militant Catholic show the other day was still bashing Calvin for being dictatorial...