The highly controversial art exhibit in New York of “My Sweet Lord,” a naked, anatomically correct chocolate Jesus has reached meltdown: the exhibit has been canceled.
Is this a bittersweet moment for those who argue “art” should be broadly defined and protected — or a case of people twisting the concept of art and mocking religion getting their just desserts?
At issue is the life-sized Jesus (AP photo above) that may have thrilled chocoholics everywhere but didn’t thrill Roman Catholics and others who believe there should be some sensitivity displayed when it comes to religions. Reuters reports:
A Manhattan art gallery canceled on Friday its Easter-season exhibit of a life-size chocolate sculpture depicting a naked Jesus, after an outcry by Roman Catholics.
The sculpture “My Sweet Lord” by Cosimo Cavallaro was to have been exhibited for two hours each day next week in a street-level window of the Roger Smith Lab Gallery in Midtown Manhattan.
The display had been scheduled to open on Monday, days ahead of Good Friday when Christians mark the crucifixion of Jesus. But protests including a call to boycott the affiliated Roger Smith Hotel forced the gallery to scrap the showing.
“Your response to the exhibit at the Lab Gallery is crystal clear and has brought to our attention the unintended reaction of you and other conscientious friends of ours to the exhibition of Cosimo Cavallaro,” Roger Smith Hotel President James Knowles said in a statement addressed to “Dear Friends.”
“We have caused the cancellation of the exhibition and wish to affirm the dignity and responsibility of the hotel in all its affairs,” the statement said.
The Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights had called for a boycott of the hotel, writing to 500 religious and secular organizations.
“This is an assault on Christians during Holy Week,” said Kiera McCaffrey, director of communications for the league, which describes itself as the largest U.S. Catholic civil-rights group.
“They would never dare do something similar with a chocolate statue of the prophet Mohammad naked with his genitals exposed during Ramadan,” she said before the cancellation.
The archbishop of New York called the sculpture “scandalous” and a “sickening display.”
“This is something we will not forget,” Cardinal Edward Egan said in a statement.
The controversy has been raging for days now but perhaps the most astute comment came from New York’s Mayor:
“If you want to give the guy some publicity, talk more about it, make a big fuss,” Bloomberg told WABC radio. “If you want to really hurt him, don’t pay attention.
The AP gives these details about the exhibit and its creative artist:
The sculpture was to debut Monday evening, the day after Palm Sunday and just four days before Roman Catholics mark the crucifixion of Jesus Christ on Good Friday. The final day of the exhibit was planned for Easter Sunday.
The artwork was created from more than 200 pounds of milk chocolate, and features Christ with his arms outstretched as if on an invisible cross. Unlike the typical religious portrayal of Christ, the Cavallaro creation does not include a loincloth.
Cavallaro is best known for his quirky work with food as art: past efforts include repainting a Manhattan hotel room in melted mozzarella and spraying five tonnes of pepper jack cheese on a Wyoming home.
A room in melted mozzarella? That sounds like my old college dorm…
The artist, meanwhile, had not sounded entirely sympathetic about the furor surrounding his diet-busting holy depiction:
Cavallaro, an Italian immigrant who was reared Catholic, insisted he wasn’t trying to offend anyone. “This person is talking from a very narrow window,” he said of Donohue. “If it makes them feel better, I’ll ask for their forgiveness and do 10 Hail Marys, but they should just lighten up.”
And thus continues the tug that has gone on for several years now between those who take the definition of art to a meaning a bit beyond what it was 100 or perhaps even 40 years ago and those with a perhaps more constrained definition of art. And, add to that mix, the constant issue of what kind of artistic representation of a religious icon or something related to a religion represents an affront.
The issue here is double fold but the uproar was clearly not that Jesus was in chocolate. You can actually buy religious chocolates. Clearly, the issue was that Jesus was shown in all his naked glory — which is why the AP photo above shows you a back shot.
Remember: for a while the Virgin Mary seemingly appeared in a grilled cheese sandwhich and some considered it a miracle.
But Donohue’s group was outraged a few years back at a painting of the Virgin Mary — which used a splash of cow dung.
SOME ADDITIONAL READING:
Fox News on cancellation
Catholics outraged at `My Sweet Lord’ chocolate crucifix display
Six-Foot Chocolate Jesus Most Anticipated Easter Work At Gallery (pre-controversy story)
Best Week Ever: “While I applaud Donohueâ€™s provocative off-the-cuff artistic brainstorming… I personally find a giant Chocolate Jesus to be an infinitely more appropriate symbol for a religion who currently chooses to celebrate their holiest of holidays by having their kids look for Cadbury eggs hidden by a giant magical bunny. Besides, you could fill the Chocolate Jesus with peanut butter, and effectively disprove all of evolution in the process – thatâ€™s two doves with one stone.”
My thoughts run to the commercialization of Easter â€“ the chocolate bunnies, etc. that have come to dominate the holiday, and the angst among Christians that what they see as the true meaning of the holiday has been forgotten. That meaning, of course, is the Resurrection of Jesus. Only rarely do Christians acknowledge that like Christmas, the holiday is a mixture of pagan and Christian traditions. For those who focus on the Resurrection, yearly plays and processions, early morning worship services, special meals that include lamb, etc. form a traditional religious celebration. As I see it, the chocolate Jesus symbolizes the commercialization of the Christian tradition that occurs when such traditions become capitalist ventures devoid of meaning….
….The chocolate Jesus is not only thought-provoking, it is also well-done. Most definitely, it qualifies as art.
—Jawa Report: “In another sign of just how isolated from society the “art world” has become, promoters of a life size crucified Jesus made of milk chocolate are surprised that unveiling the work during Easter Week has caused controversy….[Noting that the gallery owner called this a Catholic “fatwa]Oh come on. Have your artist come up with a statue of Mohammed having sex with child bride Aisha, made of pork suet, and we’ll talk “fatwa,” you pussy.”
—Michelle Malkin has a lot of news and other links and writes: “How would the MSM cover an artist exhibition of a “Chocolate Mohammed” timed to coincide with Ramadan? They wouldn’t. But find an artist to mock Jesus at Easter with a chocolate sculpture…and you’ll get wall to wall coverage…No pixelation. No withholding the photos in the name of respect for Christianity. No taboos. Where’s the MSM’s concern for avoiding deliberately provocative religious insults now.” She points to how the media held back on cartoons offending Muslims.
The artist could have made his satirical point in any case without showing the genitalia of the crucified Christ. That was needlessly provocative, and certainly intentional. As one person put it, who wouldnâ€™t have expected controversy over that particular artistic choice? The artistâ€™s assertion that Catholics should let him off with ten Hail Marys after he asks their forgoveness also shows a cluelessness about the Catholic faith. Penance only works when the sinner has truly repented and admitted his sins. Itâ€™s not a price list for offenses in that the commission of a particular sin costs 10 Hail Marys each time you commit it. For Cosimo Cavallaro to get any benefit from his 10 Hail Marys, heâ€™d have to destroy the chocolate Jesus first.