And now for some serious commentary…
This event was pretty widely covered, both in news media and significantly in blogging circles. It seems everyone has an opinion about the artistic credit and/or sacrilegiousness (yes, it is a word) of the Chocolate Jesus. You never know, that could be why we call it art… Still, best to withdraw it from the public eye before we get too much intelligent debate going on!
On 8/4/07, the Canberra Times reported Canberra ahead of the trend when it comes to chocolate Jesus. As Canberra is not known for being the most progressive city in the world, this headline must have been cause for quite a celebration! But seriously, it was a pretty funny article about a similar sculpture produced by local Richard Manderson 13 years ago.
A recent life-sized chocolate sculpture of Jesus caused fury in Manhattan, but Canberra had a chocolate Christ 13 years ago. The nude, anatomically correct sculpture in New York came under further fire when the artist joked people should eat it. But a 1994 photo of Civic near the ACTION terminal shows a crowd of 150 about to munch on a life-sized chocolate crucifix. Canberra’s maker of chocolate Christs, Richard Manderson, was then a philosophy student. He said there was less outcry in Canberra, perhaps because he used Easter egg foil for a loincloth on his statue. ”I think religion is slightly different in Australia from America for one thing,” he said.
No s*%t, Sherlock. I think this contributes to the interest of the story – the issue of the influence wielded by the “religious right” in the USA. Although I’m sure there are many Aussies who would have a similar reaction of abhorrence to the artwork, I really don’t think Australians would be as unreserved about their beliefs.
US Newsweek reported a great quote from Cavallaro, the artist/sculptor, in its article: Belief Watch: Sweet Jesus
The artist himself insists there’s nothing X-rated in his conception, although “I can’t stop people from thinking that way.” Having grown up in a house where crucifixes hung above beds, Cavallaro imagines that Christians took offense because his Christ was “perishable and palatable … It made [Jesus] a real man.”
Montreal Gazette meanwhile says in its uber-long titled article: Critics raise hell over chocolate Jesus; in a bittersweet tale of what is art and what is not, a former Montrealer has suffered death threats and workplace exile
“I’m as good as I can be,” Cavallaro said Thursday from SoHo. “It hurts in the stomach. It’s been disgusting to see people’s reactions.”
After receiving death threats, he had to move out of his Brooklyn apartment. He had already been exiled from his workspace and vilified in the tabloids by New York’s Cardinal Edward Egan, who called the work “a sickening display.”
“All I’m saying is, Jesus is alive,” Cavallaro said. “He’s a man. You can smell him, touch him, taste him. I didn’t see it as offensive, and I still don’t.”
For the record, Cavallaro was raised Catholic, although he is non-practising. He believes critics have assailed him not because the statue is obscene or hateful, but because “it’s too real. It’s not metaphysical. My goal was that it would melt – the body decomposes and all that’s left is the spirit
Quite profound really.
By contrast, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette‘s Catholics Outraged by Chocolate Jesus offers a fairly condemning report, not giving the artist a chance to defend himself until toward the end of the 491 word story, giving priority space instead to comments such as these:
“It’s an all-out war on Christianity,” fumed William Donohue, a former sociology professor at La Roche College who is now president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights. “They wouldn’t show a depiction of Martin Luther King Jr. with genitals exposed on Martin Luther King Day, and they wouldn’t show Muhammed depicted this way during Ramadan. It’s always Christians, and the timing is deliberate.”
Dominick Bria, a Connecticut resident visiting St. Patrick Cathedral yesterday, bristled at the concept. “It’s disgusting,” he said. “Whoever is doing it is really sick.”
Maria Localio, 45, agreed. “It doesn’t take into account the religious sensitivities of other people,” she said.
Others said they didn’t mind the sculptor’s choice of material, but were offended by the nudity. “He’s not wearing any clothes at all,” said Debbie Charan, 40. “Why would they want to do something like that?”
Other coverage ranges from the radical to the cynical, but all of the coverage manages to sneak in a fair portion of conflict.
Which brings us to… *drum roll*
* CONFLICT – Big time. Christianity vs Secularism, Church doctrine vs Art, Suppression of Freedom of Expression etcetera etcetera
* Timeliness – Just after the events had occurred, and also during Holy Week
* Currency – Church’s influence in society is always worth a mention. Also around Easter time, so lots of articles about on Christianity and the meaning of Easter etc.
* The Unusual/Novelty – Hello, it’s a sculpture of Jesus made entirely out of chocolate… How much more novelty value could it get?