Happy Easter! This year, the holiday completely took me unawares. Where is the time going? It would be different if I had children, then I’d be all on top of what holiday was coming up. I’d also be more aware if I attended church. Anyway… Today is the day the Lord Jesus Christ rose from the dead after being horrifically tortured and killed. His image has been seen in everything from ancient altars to toast…. and of course, chocolate.
In 2007, the artist Cosimo Cavallaro created ‘My Sweet Lord’- a life-size sculpture made entirely out of chocolate depicting the crucified Jesus Christ. Now, if you want to create some controversy, the easiest way to do that is to take some sort of religious icon and do stuff to it that would be seen as unacceptably disrespectful like painting an offensive face on the Prophet Muhammad or depicting the Dali Lama in an orgy. It was not so much that the artist made the sculpture from chocolate that made it so offensive. It was that coupled with that it was also an anatomical depiction of Christ with exposed genitals. In doing so, Cavallaro stirred up the ire of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights. The president of the organization, Bill Donohue claimed Cavallaro’s work was one of the worst assaults on Christian sensibilities and declared that is was an act of war on Christianity. The artist made other religious figures out of chocolate to be shown along with My Sweet Lord, but none of those works created the same outcry. In any case, threats were made against the gallery, The Lab, which intended to exhibit the work and the CLRC campaigned heavily for all Christians to boycott the hotel in which the art space resided. Due to the overwhelming number of phone complaints and protestors, the piece was pulled from the gallery. This really speaks to the power a religious organization has when it can force the cancellation of an exhibit.
I am a Christian and I am not offended by this piece. I like it. Besides, being a black artist, I have seen numerous depictions of black people in art that I’ve found completely offensive. Being a woman, I’ve seen some highly offensive depictions of women. When I was in graduate school, there was a student in one of my studio courses, who created a work of “art” that consisted of G.I. Joe action figures. He made Klan outfits for white figures and had nooses around the black figures. It was bullshit, but it was his art. Making art is about having the freedom to create whatever you are going to create. You don’t have to like everything you see or support it, but the freedom to artistically express oneself needs to be protected no matter how screwed up some artistic visions are. The line gets really thin between art and propaganda. This is why the intent behind ANY work of art is of utmost importance.