Art and the Catholic Church: They go way back

Now’s an incredibly frustrating time here in the Philippines for art. A recent controversial exhibit at the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) gained the ire and hostility of the Catholic Church — the largest religious domination in the country — so much so that it has reached the Senate today!

But before that, a very brief recollection of events. The CCP opened an exhibit entitled Kulo, and an artist by the name of Mideo Cruz had a multimedia piece there entitled Poleteismo (note that he is only one of 31 artists showcasing his work in the exhibit).


(Source)

Among many elements within his collage are images of Jesus Christ adorned with rabbit ears, Jesus with a phallus for a nose, a crucifix with a condom, and other religious paraphernalia mixed with other secular objects.


(Source)

Almost a month later, the exhibit exploded in the media for its “blasphemous” depiction. This prompted the work’s vandalism; a CCP board member’s resignation; the WHOLE exhibit’s closure (which I didn’t get to see anymore, thanks); and the aforementioned and, in my opinion, unnecessary Senate hearing.


The fallen phallus (Source)

You may read up on all this brouhaha through other sites and read through the many, many opinion pieces on the whole issue on your own. But this whole ordeal reminded of the many times art and religion clashed throughout the decades and in different countries.

Enemy number 1 was Michelangelo, one of the greatest Renaissance artists in the world. A section of his fresco in the Sistine Chapel entitled The Last Judgment was deemed indecent because of all the anatomically correct paintings of nude figures. They had to commission an artist (a former student of his, no less!) to paint loincloths over all those penises on the ceiling.


A detail from The Last Judgment. The cloth looks like an afterthought. (Source)

It was during this time that a fig leaf became a popular cover-up for statues with exposed genitals. Up to today, the fig leaf remains an infamous symbol for censorship.


A statue of Mercury in the Vatican (sculptor unknown) (Source)

In the 80s, a photographer by the name of Andres Serrano exhibited a photograph of a crucifix submerged in his own urine. Entitled Piss Christ, the work was similarly subjected to vandalism, and the gallery that housed it received death threats too.


(Source)

Chris Ofili won the prestigious Turner Prize in London back in the 90s for his work entitled The Holy Virgin Mary. His win was questioned by many because of his depiction of Mary as an African (a nod to his Nigerian roots) surrounded by female organs and a piece of elephant dung. His work was defaced several times, and galleries that exhibited this work became recipients of dung at their doorsteps.


(Source)

Renee Cox became the subject of controversy for her reinterpretation of Da Vinci’s Last Supper. Entitled Yo Mama’s Last Supper, it is a photo collage of Cox as a naked (and female!) Jesus Christ among her predominantly black disciples. Then New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani chastised the artwork for using taxpayers’ money for its exhibition, and he even formed a committee to monitor the art in NY museums.


(Source)

Priscilla Bracks is an Australian artist who had a photo of Jesus morph into Osama Bin Laden. If you look at her website, her style really is to mix elements of pop culture and news affairs in her pieces, but this didn’t spare her from drawing flak from the Australian Prime Minister himself.


Bearded Orientals Making the Empire Cross (Source)

There are more examples you can find and study on this subject, even those that became controversial with other religions. In the natural cycle of controversies, all the uproar eventually died down. People went on with their sinless/sinful lives; art continues to move and inspire; and we find other things to spend our time on.

But let’s go back to what’s happening here in the Philippines. As a faithful member of the Catholic Church, an art lover, and law-abiding citizen witnessing with frustration this overreaction from both the Church and the State (who should be separate entities, mind you); please, if you can’t handle the art, then just turn your eyes away from it.

Comments and opinions are most welcome, but please keep them constructive and polite. If you take any offense in what I’ve written, I repeat, turn your eyes away from this page and go back to your Facebook profile. 😉
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10 thoughts on “Art and the Catholic Church: They go way back

  1. Eh expected naman na yan dito sa bansa natin. And besides, bat ba kasi nasa mukha yung titi? Kung nasa normal siyang lugar nakalagay kung san dapat talaga natatagpuan ang mga titi, eh di okay lang sana yun. Di ba? Si Carrie Bradshaw nga na-offend nung may nagdrawing ng titi sa harap ng mukha niya sa ad niya sa side ng isang bus sa OBB ng SATC eh bat di naman bigyan ng respeto ang mukha ni Jesus Christ? Di ako sarado-Katolikong Pilipino at di ako nagmamalinis, pero sana naisip nila madaming ma-ooffend sa work of “art” niya. Yun lang. Ktenksbye :))

    • Hi Hi Y2! 😉
      I remember that episode from SATC! Hehehe.
      Ang sakin naman, I feel that Cruz’s work is really meant to shock more than anything else. And lo and behold! He got the whole country — and even news outlets from abroad — talking about it! Hindi rin ako nagmamalinis ah, pero sana iba na lang ang pinag-usapan kanina sa Senado. Mas maraming malaking problema ngayon eh.

  2. “(which I didn’t get to see anymore, thanks); and the aforementioned and, in my opinion, unnecessary Senate hearing.”

    LOLOLOL at the sarcasm and i totally agree with the unnecessary senate hearing. i think everyone there, resource speakers and senators alike, forgot that senate hearings are IN AID OF LEGISLATION. not a press con or debate.

    my brother’s commentary sums up what i feel: “just because you’re offended, it doesn’t mean you’re right.” and as my friend added, “and just because you’re offended, it doesn’t mean you have a right to be cruel.” PAK PAK PAK!

    • HAHA! Your brother’s right!
      It’s just like watching a horror movie: Kung di mo kaya, wag mo panoorin! So in the same way, kung di mo trip, wag mo tignan! Simple as that — no religious, social, political, cultural biases whatsoever. =)

  3. I must say I am proud of your blog Y2 🙂 Keep it coming!
    I agree with all that’s been said, standing on the middleground of just turning your head away if you don’t agree, is still a stand. If most of us just stopped supportng this kind of art, it’ll be more powerful than any legislative law. Huwag na nating palakihin pa. Do not support offensive ART and Down with Disrespectful ART! Tapos.

    • Thanks for reading Tita Melanie! =) And you’re right, this controversy has blown up to its fullest proportion already. I feel it’s on its way to dying out, just like the examples I wrote about above.

  4. Ok got your point Y2 Mouse. Now, can I ask a copy of your picture and your parents’ too?

    I’ll make my imitation of Mideo Cruz’s art on those. And hopefully “art continues to move and inspire; and we find other things to spend our time on.”

    Thanks!

    • Hi Pinoy Catholic!
      Thank you for reading my entry.

      I’d like to answer your question with another question: Would making an imitation of Mideo Cruz’s art using a photo of me and my parents reflect our God’s teaching on justice, compassion, and charity? If your answer is yes, I would readily supply you with a photo and even post your finished masterpiece in here, crediting you as the artist.

      I can see from your blog’s title (and from your entries as well; I read some) that your blog is about your love for the Roman Catholic faith. And if you read MY blog’s title, you would know that I write about art. This entry of mine is a walk through the many times art and the Catholic faith clashed in history; and if you read carefully, the only piece of advice I offered here is that if someone takes offense, that someone can simply revert to another page on the Internet.

  5. Hello! 😀 First, I wanted to say that I really enjoyed reading this entry (and your previous ones, as well.)

    I’m sorry to bother you all of a sudden (because we don’t even know each other, haha.) Please let me introduce myself; I am a senior high school student and I am currently writing my term paper on this topic (art and the catholic church.) I came across your blog today and I was wondering if you could help me out. I’m having difficulties finding additional print sources and I wanted to know if you used any (like books, newspaper/magazine articles, etc.) in order to write this or if you know of any that I might find helpful. (I would look up other websites, but we’re not allowed to use them as sources so…) I’d really appreciate it if you’d let me know. 🙂

    Thanks in advance and I hope you have a great day \:D/

    • Hi! Thanks for reading my entry!
      I’d be glad to help out the best way I can! You may email me at ph.artmouse@gmail.com so I can respond more personally. Maybe you can tell me more about your paper (your thesis statement, scope, and general topics to be discussed) so I can lead you to sources that’d best help you out. =)

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