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Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Painting with Bug Blood, Week VII: Getting Political

Piss Christ by Andres Serrano
Religious provocation isn't usually my bag; not because I am pious, but because the target is too easy.  If the goal is to create a challenging work of art, there are groups out there it would take far more creativity and audacity to shock than fundamentalists. At least this is my case, because fire and brimstone are not a big part of my daily life at the moment. But censorship -- now that sets my blood boiling, and it has ever since Help! My Teacher Is an Alien was removed from the library in Grade Five. So when I heard that Andres Serrano's infamous Piss Christ was vandalized last week, I decided to begin work on my latest composition in solidarity with Serrano and freedom of expression, and I called it Bug Blood of Christ.

Piss Christ, vandalized
In case you don't know it, Piss Christ is a glossy photo of a crucifix floating in a glass of urine. Serrano, himself from a religious background, claims he intended the piece as a comment on the cheapening of religious icons in contemporary culture. He first exhibited it in 1989, and it has been involved in controversy ever since. US Senators Al D'Amato and Jesse Helms loudly decried the work, and it was vandalized once before at the National Gallery of Victoria in Australia in 1997. Neo-Nazis raided a Swedish exhibition in 2007. Finally, Christian protesters in Avignon, France  returned to finish the job on April 17 of this year, mortally wounding Piss Christ with a hammer and an ice pick or screwdriver.  Far from an isolated incident, the vandalism was part of larger campaign of harassment against freedom of expression by Christian fundamentalists, conspicuously coinciding with the term of President Nicolas Sarkozy (for a more thorough account, read the article here: I applaud the museum for deciding to reopen with the damaged works still hanging, despite receiving death threats to staff. Security has been beefed up accordingly.

Serrano has also worked with blood, semen, milk, and poop. I'm not particularly partial to much of it, though I suppose since I work with bug blood I will have to acknowledge him as a forerunner. And anyway, it's not about a photo of a masturbating nun, it's about his right to photograph a masturbating nun (assuming he has her consent). So - on with the painting.

I found that most images of Christ on the cross were more complex than could be rendered in bug blood, so I did a search for "Christian Colouring Book" and came up with some dandy images. As weird as it is to be rendering this gory image in bug blood, I can't help but feel it is no weirder than a five year old doing it in crayon.  The results will not replace Piss Christ, but hopefully I won't receive any death threats either:

Bug Blood of Christ

Check back next week for more bug blood art!

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