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Whose Christ is this anyway?
March 9, 2001 6:24 AM   Subscribe

Whose Christ is this anyway? While the Mayor of New York may object to what he perceives as an insult to Catholic belief--forgetting that his own adultery is not as yet deemed acceptable behavior in Catholic belief--many Catholics have no problem with a naked, black, woman Jesus.
posted by Postroad (30 comments total)

 
He is also forgetting that while he thinks it is inappropriate for tax dollars to be spent on something that is offensive to a segment of the population, he is spending tax dollars on guard protection for both his wife and his girlfriend.
posted by Laurable at 6:56 AM on March 9, 2001


I am interested by the fact that she put herself as Christ, because I am under the impression that almost all Christians feel that they can and should not visualize themselves as Christ.
posted by mblandi at 7:09 AM on March 9, 2001


But invariably do whenever they feel put-upon.
posted by dfowler at 7:21 AM on March 9, 2001


dfowler: all nonChristians always generalize unfairly about Christians.

is turnabout fair play?
posted by Sean Meade at 7:30 AM on March 9, 2001


ohh well. What are you going to do?

Happy Purim anyway!
posted by tiaka at 7:36 AM on March 9, 2001


When did Mayor Giuliani become an acclaimed art critic? I'm not an expert either, but here are some thoughts of mine concerning the implications of Renee Cox's work.

Throughout Art History, Jesus has been depicted not just as white, but also black and even chinese. To anyone who realises these depictions of Christ among other ethnic and cultural backgrounds, the ethnicity of Renee Cox's depictions should come to no surprise. As Jeff Sharlet, editor of Killing the Buddha, wrote in the above mentioned article, "As for a black Jesus, well, it doesn't take an archaeologist to figure out that Christ wasn't exactly rosy-cheeked." Along the same lines, Jesus was nailed to the cross without any clothing on.

When Renee Cox depicts herself bare with out-stretched arms at the last supper in her, Yo Mama's Last Supper, it seems like a foreshadowing of Christ's crucifixion after the Last Supper. Once again as put by Jeff Sharlet, "It's Cox and her free speech allies who are the real crusaders in this picture. The faith they insist upon is the belief that art is by virtue of being art the path to salvation." Renee Cox, an artist, is posing as Christ. She has reworked the Gospel and turned it into an allegory of the artist and her friends, "the free speech allies."

Anslem Kiefer has done similar allegorys. He has taken stories from the Greeks, Egyptians, Christians, and Jews to create works referencing to German guilt and German idealism. Works of his, such as Parsifal I, Parsifal II,, and Parsifal III, are in this manner. His works are messages of German idealism and guilt. Renee Cox's works appear as messages reflecting her free speech and virtues as an artist.
posted by crog at 7:38 AM on March 9, 2001


sean, what about ex-Christians?

I think perhaps Giuliani is wagging the dog -- maybe if he can get enough people outraged over this (which I doubt), they'll forget about the adultery (which I also doubt).
posted by lia at 7:41 AM on March 9, 2001


Sigh The real question is: is the Catholic League actually a front for left-wing groups? They do an absolutely marvelous job of publicizing folks to whom they claim to be opposed. This is not a particularly interesting photograph; nobody bothered to pay attention to it before--not even when it was displayed in an Italian church; and I would have thought an orthodox Catholic would find open adultery far more offensive than a bad work of art. This brouhaha is like the David Horowitz uproar, only with the politics reversed.
posted by thomas j wise at 7:42 AM on March 9, 2001


Sean: I don't give a sh!t. The generalization was in the post before mine. I just rolled with it.

So you're asking me if turnabout is fair play? Yes, it is. What does that have to do with anything?

What is striving to walk in the light, if not visualizing oneself as Christ? The mantra, "what would Jesus do?" allows Christians to visualize themseves in His sandals, in moments of crisis. The sanctimonious visualize this all the time. It's what we call holier-than-thou.
posted by dfowler at 7:51 AM on March 9, 2001


Maybe I'm just cynical, but it seems like this kind of "art" is just an attempt to get attention by offending people, which requires very little real artistic talent.

It seems to me that the real accomplishment would be for an artist to get this much publicity because so many people *liked* her art.

posted by straight at 8:03 AM on March 9, 2001


dfowler: Sean: I don't give a sh!t. The generalization was in the post before mine. I just rolled with it.

That's not cool. You can disagree with sanctimoniousness, or the Christian sense of entitlement, specialness, or whatnot, but there is no reason to disregard feelings or statements of people, much less actively insult them, just because they are Christian.


posted by norm at 8:22 AM on March 9, 2001


That's not cool. You can disagree with sanctimoniousness, or the Christian sense of entitlement, specialness, or whatnot, but there is no reason to
disregard feelings or statements of people, much less actively insult them, just because they are Christian.


Religion in any form can be one of the most beautiful things for humanity (sounds cheesy...but true)...I have a deep respect for that aspect. The problem
with a select few Christian/Catholic followers is self denial of guilt which eventually turns into projectionism on unwary "nonbelievers." This doesn't
account for everyone because even with organized religion, you have people with their own mental spin-off of what the "good book" means to them.
That's probably the shortcoming of an organized religion, but the good things come from all the efforts in helping out those that are truly in need (stamp
"Corporate Christianity" out of your mind for the moment). I suppose that those who generalize about religions (ie "holier-than-thou") are just pointing out
those shortcomings and are not really intending to overly generalize what faith means every Christian. Because of the few religious zealots that do tend to
take matters into their own hands (and are a bit preachy), deep-seated feelings on the subject arise from that personal experience. This would be a clear
example. And also helps describe the bulk of reactions I've seen about this painting.
posted by samsara at 8:32 AM on March 9, 2001


I'm with Giulliani on this. It's not bad enough that someone would depict Christ as a woman, the artist chose a BLACK person! I mean, come on, a BLACK person? Women are inferior enough.


posted by Doug at 8:33 AM on March 9, 2001


it seems like this kind of "art" is just an attempt to get attention by offending people...

i disagree entirely. when i first saw this, before the giuliani brou-ha-ha, it didn't even occur to me that people might be offended.

i always have to "laugh" when people who don't get what "art" really "is" put quotes around the word "art". You see, if they don't "get" it, or if it "disturbs" them, it's not real "art".

i don't understand black holes or wormholes very well, but i don't blame stephen hawking for that--or doubt their existence.
posted by jpoulos at 8:36 AM on March 9, 2001


Don't you mean "black holes" and "wormholes"?
posted by zempf at 8:39 AM on March 9, 2001


norm: there is no reason to disregard feelings or statements of people, much less actively insult them, just because they are Christian.

How about just because they are wrong?

I don't see my initial statement and further clarification as an active insult, more of a snide comment followed by a more even-handed explanation. A way of making it clear that I disagree.

You see this as an insult. And you seem to be able to see inside my head, and divine that I made my point just because so-and-so was Christian. Not because I disagree on other principles. That's some special power you've got, some kind of second sight. Maybe I should be going to your church.

Then I could let you tell me more about what I can and cannot disagree with.
posted by dfowler at 9:20 AM on March 9, 2001


Then I could let you tell me more about what I can and cannot disagree with.

Isn't that really the core of this whole "issue"?

Maybe I scrolled down too fast, but be first in the thread to mention that Catholics don't own the Last Supper. Giuliani has trashed the photographer as being "Anti-Catholic", when perhaps it might be said that the photographer was "Anti-Christian" (I disagree).

Texas Monthly had an interesting article regarding "anti-Christian" sentiments, real or imagined, several months ago.
posted by ethmar at 9:33 AM on March 9, 2001


So you're asking me if turnabout is fair play? Yes, it is. What does that have to do with anything?

The essential point was the necessarily false nature of generalizations.

What is striving to walk in the light, if not visualizing oneself as Christ? The mantra, "what would Jesus do?" allows Christians to visualize themseves in His sandals, in moments of crisis. The sanctimonious visualize this all the time. It's what we call holier-than-thou.

mblandi is right, in my experience: most Christians do not visualize themselves as Christ. the orthodox/historical view is that such visualization is sacrilegious. Jesus is the model and example par excellence, one that we will never attain.

there are sancitimonious people and holier-than-thou people, it's true, sadly. however, you have your own sancitmonious nonsancity as sanctity thing going on.
posted by Sean Meade at 9:50 AM on March 9, 2001


My point was that you weren't civil; I perceived it as your
hostility to Sean's Christianness.

You see this as an insult. And you seem to be able to see inside my head, and divine that I made my point just because so-and-so was Christian. Not because I disagree on other principles. That's some special power you've got, some kind of second sight. Maybe I should be going to your church.

You don't need second sight to recognize antipathy; you certainly could have said what you did as less of a jerk. And if you check what I've written about Christianity in the past (and to Sean, no less), you'll find that we probably go to the same church already.
posted by norm at 9:53 AM on March 9, 2001


hmm...To potentially cause debates over religion, race, and sex (oh..and "sexuality" too), politics, and art (am I missing something?) in one "artistic" swoop...well, that is art...maybe the reaction was intended. It was just a matter of time before it was noticed in this light...more potential issues to come...hard to find a place to begin so maybe we should stick with this post until the *all* the semantics are worked out...umm, yeah.Without going into the mind of the artist herself, there's now way to know if a point was to be made, or whether it was just a personal observation. Plato would have a field day with this and probably drop the whole "ideal bed" vs. "artist's interpretation of that ideal bed" argument. Supposedly he was an "expert" on "art."
posted by samsara at 9:56 AM on March 9, 2001


i always have to "laugh" when people who don't get what "art" really "is" put quotes around the word "art". You see, if they don't "get" it, or if it "disturbs" them, it's not real "art".

You're right, scare quotes are stupid. But I still question the artistic value of something that is more famous for making Rudi Giuliani upset than for people recommending it. Any hack can make something that would upset Giuliani.

I've seen Cox's photos and I don't find them disturbing, nor do I feel that I don't "get it". I just find them boring. Sure, you might look at it once and give some passing thought to how Jesus is represented in art (male/female/black/white/whatever), but it's hardly the sort of thing I'd want to look at again and again or care to see a year from now.

That's my definition of art. A work that rewards repeated reading/viewing/listening.
posted by straight at 10:06 AM on March 9, 2001


yeah, hell, I didn't mean to derail the post on the second comment. I just thought it was interesting. I majored in Religious Studies, and I never could tell if it was officially possible to become equal to Christ; the primary front they fought was mostly belief and faith.

Flames, Flames!



posted by mblandi at 10:11 AM on March 9, 2001


Sean, I agree, generalizations are quicksand. But so is "visualize" in this case. When I say that Christians who try to do what Christ would do, "visualize" themselves as Christ, I don't mean they conjure up an image of Him out of a Bible-storybook and insert their own radiant visage. I mean they model themselves in Christ's figurative image when they decide to do What Jesus Would Do. And that sort of "visualization" is not considered blasphemous anywhere.

And I don't mean all, or most, or even some, Christians, when I say this. I mean "this is how I see it." I really don't mean to insult you.

Jumping at the chance to feel pilloried (or even crucified) when beliefs are questioned or just different -- that's what I mean by the sanctimonious visualizing themselves as Christ. There are plenty of Christians (in my experience; relative terms) who bear their faith like stigmata, regardless of the situation. The merest brush sets those wounds aflame.

And norm, I read what you've written about Christianity in the past:

those that get quality education recognize that Christianity is a scam.

I'm sure I could have said what I said "as less of a jerk." You may be right. We both may "go to the same church already." And even live in the same glass house.

Oh yeah, and mblandi, I was really just being a wiseacre when I responded to your post.

I do enjoy the ensuing exchange, though, now that we've all been able to make our intentions clear.
posted by dfowler at 10:42 AM on March 9, 2001


Straight: I never said it was great art. :-) But I also think that art is paid so little attention in the media today (and the moralistic outrage of populist public figures is paid so much), that it's not at all unlikely that even exceptional art will never make the waves that the ignorant, childish rantings of an asshole like Giuliani will.
posted by jpoulos at 10:45 AM on March 9, 2001


The worst thing about situations like this is that free-speech social progressives have to keep going to the barricades to defend derivative, pretentious, uninventive crap like Renee Cox's "Yo Mama's Last Supper". (WOW! Poking fun at Christianity! That's so...so... DARING!) Aren't there any artists out there with genuine, innovative ways to offend people?
posted by Dr. Boom at 11:00 AM on March 9, 2001


Better yet, Doc, aren't there just artists out there with something new to say about anything?! The only thing I find offensive about Cox's work is how banal it is, compared to the amount of attention she is receiving now because of it (who was it that once said, "Speak well of me, speak ill of me - just speak of me"?). The Last Supper, Christ-as-(insert-oppressed-people-here), pilin' on the Pope's peeps... If that's the best she can do, she needs to have this happen or she'd be getting a job more suited to her actual talents.
posted by m.polo at 11:57 AM on March 9, 2001


dfowler et al: glad we came around to a meeting of the minds.

and Dr Boom and m polo have great points.
posted by Sean Meade at 11:59 AM on March 9, 2001


It seems to me that the real accomplishment would be for an artist to get this much publicity because so many people *liked* her art

Art isn't necessarily about being liked. I believe the term you're looking for here is "entertainment."


posted by daveadams at 12:39 PM on March 9, 2001


All that Catholic learning and she didn't know that if you can't pee like Jesus, you can't be like Jesus?Duh.
posted by mimi at 11:36 PM on March 9, 2001


Me: It seems to me that the real accomplishment would be for an artist to get this much publicity because so many
people *liked* her art


Dave: Art isn't necessarily about being liked. I believe the term you're looking for here is "entertainment."

Real art is often entertaining. It's just more than entertaining. Shakespeare, Dostoevsky, Shostakovich, Bach, Picasso, et. al. are entertaining, but also moving, beautiful, thought-provoking, and get more so the more you read/listen/look.

Cox and lots of modern art simply goes for shocking and maybe a little bit thought provoking, which is easy and cheap. It takes real talent to produce something of lasting worth that draws people in, entertains even, but stretches them to move beyond mere entertainment.
posted by straight at 9:16 AM on March 12, 2001


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