The Holy Virgin Mary

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What a sensation was made about the Sensation exhibition in the Brooklyn Museum of Art. The focus of Mayor Giuliani's outcry was the piece "The Holy Virgin Mary" by Chris Ofili. Funny, he didn't give attention to some of the other outrageous works including the pubescent female mannequins studded with erect penises, vaginas, and anuses, fused together in various postures of sexual coupling, or the portrait of a child molester and murder made from what appears like child hand prints or bisected animals in plexiglass tanks full of formaldehyde. Would it ever have made headlines with a different title, like "Afro-lady"? I don't think so. I guess targeting religion gets a little too personal. Giuliani said, "You don't have the right to government subsidy for desecrating somebody else's religion. If you are a government-subsidized enterprise, then you can't do things that desecrate the most personal and deeply held views of people in society." You would think that the government paid these artists, right? It turns out that the show consisted of Charles Saatchi's privately owned collection VIEWED in a public museum. So what does that mean to you? Well, when I found out that tidbit of information, it didn't seem so offensive anymore. Taxpayers didn't pay these young British artists to create controversial pieces. Taxpayers fund the museum itself to stay open. Museums have a variety of exhibitions all year. What is wrong with having one displaying a private collection? This is a common thing with museums. Otherwise, how would the public ever get to view extensive artistic compilations of the wealthy? Some collections are beautiful, others perturbing. But, who draws this line? Who gets to decide? The individual. If you do not want to submit your eyes to horrendous, offensive creations, then don't! It's interesting to note what happened to the art world after Duchamp revolutionized art into meaninglessness. Artists seem to be exempt from the moral laws that are binding to ordinary people. Everything is O.K. under art's magic umbrella: rotting corpses with snails crawling over them, kicking little girls in the head, rape and murder recreations, women defecating. Where does it stop? What is art and what is porn? What is art and what is disgusting? Where is the line? There isn't one anymore. The effect of Duchamp's pranks was to point out that anything could be art. All it took was getting people to agree to call something art. Duchamp threw them a urinal and they critiqued its aesthetic value. Robert Mapplethorpe's notorious photographs of the sado-masochistic homosexual underground also dramatizes this point. Let us pray. I mean, let us explore "The Holy Virgin Mary" in greater detail. From an objective point of view, what does it consist of? It is a colorful canvas incorporating paper collage, colored pushpins, foil, paint, glitter and elephant manure. Geometric shapes suggest a face and torso while the canvas is enhanced with thousands of tiny colored dots formed from drops of paint and glitter, slightly reminiscent of pointillist impressionism. The beads of paint give a Byzantine mosaic effect. Small cutouts of vaginas and buttocks from pornographic magazines, mostly too small to distinguish, swarm her like flies. The Virgin Mary is depicted as a broad featured black woman in a blue dress. The pachyderm is placed on the figure's right side. Hmmm, what does it all mean? Let's take a look at the meaning and use of elephant dung. Dung is used in other art pieces; as a matter of fact there is an African mask in the Brooklyn museum made of wood, honey, metal, and dung. Chris Ofili has another piece called "Afrodizzia" with two balls of dung with the names Miles Davis and Cassius Clay written on them as a tribute. You could say that dung is Chris Ofili's signature piece in many of his works. In Africa, pachyderm is a vital source of fuel for some cultures. Dung suggests fertility. It's also used like plaster in constructing homes where...
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