FIN1005W RED BOOK NO. 43
THE CENSORED BODY
Ofili’s The Holy Virgin Mary, which became the central focus of the controversy over Brooklyn Museum’s Sensation Show, was condemned as obscene and sacrilegious by Mayor Rudolph Giulani of the New York, who attempted to cut off the Brooklyn Museum’s city funding. This painting caused a bit of row in 1999 when it was first exhibited (Mitchell, 2001:124). Although the painting was inoffensive to others, the controversy arose when the area Catholics objected to Ofili’s use of elephant dung as one of the materials used to create the image. Ofili had used elephant dung in his previous works as an exploration of his culture Nigerian cultural heritage as a sign of fertility and the nurturing of ‘Mother Earth’. (n.a :2013). That was not how the area Catholics saw it, and Ofili’s declaration of intentions, however, was widely disregarded by commentators who were determined to be offended and the holy mother was been defamed. In the College Street Journal, New York Mayor Rudolph Guilani was against the depiction of Madonna as he says that The idea of having so-called works of art in which people are throwing elephant dung at a picture of the Virgin is sick. (Giulani:1999) This shows that the offensiveness of Ofili’s Madonna, seems based largely in its use of materials, the notorious elephant dung. The artist’s respectful use of elephant dung was taken as an insult to the image of the Madonna. In the same journal another MHC art professor Michael Davis differs with Giulani’s perception of Madonna as she says Mayor Giulani’s reaction appears to be based on the narrow definition that art should only be beautiful and equally narrow picture of the Virgin Madonna who looks like Ingrid Bergman. (Davis :1999) This argument bring-in questions on the depiction of the Madonna. As Mitchell W. J.T. ask in his book “Offending images”, is it...
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