Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Art behaving very badly

There are time when you're torn between scratching your head, wondering "What is this artist saying?" and slapping said artist upside his/her head, screaming "What the hell were you thinking?"

Case in point: Soasig Chamaillard, a French sculptor who combines a sense of playfulness with a complete absence of religious sensibility. The write-up on TIME.com's Arts blog has shots of eleven sculptures of the Blessed Virgin, albeit in various transpositions from the merely irreverent to the silly to the downright blasphemous. Four examples for your delectation:

Super Mary
Hello Mary
"Super Mary", the Toronto Globe and Mail says, is "a perfect totem for Tough Times Like These, when many recession-battered consumers harbour rescue fantasies or are turning to religion (or both)." Um, okay; at least they didn't say religion is a rescue fantasy ... then I'd really have to throw a nutty. But what can we say about the Blessed Virgin Kitty? ("Hello Mary" is its given title, but as far as that goes, it reminds me too much of the late McLean Stevenson's short-lived comedy Hello Larry ... especially as I have a couple of friends married to each other who are named Larry and Mary.)

Sioux Marie
Blood Pieta
I do kinda-sorta like "Sioux Marie"; I've often wondered how a competent artist could transpose either our Savior or the BVM into different ethnic and racial categories to emphasize their universality. (Check out this woodblock print of Our Lady of Perpetual Help by Daniel Mitsui!) My only real qualm with it is that it looks too Anglo-Saxon-starlet-playing-an-Indian-in-a-John-Ford-western cheesy; Our Lady looks too much like the Land O' Lakes Butter logo.

On the other hand, there's simply no excuse for "Blood Pieta". Maybe you're going for the Goth crowd, maybe not ... but vampires are evil, no matter how much you're into the Twilight series, or how big a fan you might be of Angel or Spike from Buffy the Vampire Slayer. (Actually, I blame Fred Saberhagen for recasting Bram Stoker's Dracula first as a put-upon, horribly misunderstood good guy, then as a chaotic-good antihero. He's the one most responsible for the transformation of the undead nosferatu into relatively normal people with an alternative lifestyle of biting necks.)

Ms. Chamaillard has some talent, and in a way the statues do send up the cloying, kitschy colors of your standard-issue Catholic statue. (I find nothing in canon law which requires tackiness of Latin-rite icons.) But ... the New Eve as a Barbie doll? or as a My Little Pony?—that, by the way, was just too horrible to show; imagine a pink female centaur wearing the Maiden's hair covering.

What is she saying? What was she thinking?


  1. Have you ever had one of those "brain about to explode" moments because too many sarcastic comments fill the brain at once?

    Sadly, I have to say that I kinda like 'Super Mary' because, well, she IS super! Plus, she looks pregnant - which makes it even better. Super Mary is about to give birth to Super Jesus!

    Oh well. Any chance we can look on the bright side and say it at least gets people thinking about Mary?

  2. You mean like Chandler? "Too many jokes ... must mock artist ...."

    I agree, Mary is super, and I'm not opposed in principle to making a super-hero figure out of her ... except that female comic-book heroes tend to look like crosses between bodybuilders and porn starlets. And in a tight traditional SH costume—not a good idea.

    As for the bright side—meh. The state of education in America is such that I'm not sure any more than 40% of the populace can think about anything that hasn't been reduced to a bumper sticker. Including various MSM editorialists.

  3. "Our Lady looks too much like the Land O' Lakes Butter logo"

    That about describes it. As for the "Blood Pieta", I found myself trying to remember if we've any garlic on hand.

    And Saberhagen seemed to "have a thing" about Catholicism at times. Wasn't one of his Beserker stories basically a takeoff on the legend of St. Francis and his taming of a wolf? Was Saberhagen Catholic?

  4. @ Subvet: I couldn't tell you about the Berserker series. I just looked—when Saberhagen died in 2007, his memorial and Mass were held at John XXIII in Albuquerque, and donations were solicited to Catholic Relief Services. So I would assume that he was Catholic. And I was caught between laughter and fury a few years back when he wrote the novelization of Bram Stoker's Dracula: a novelization of a movie based on a novel yet!

  5. Wow. She may be talented, but her works does not inspire reverence for the Blessed Mother. Art isn't just about expressing one's feelings- there should be meaning and purpose behind it!

  6. @ Julie: The bad thing about modern and post-modern art is that an artist like Ms. Chamaillard may very well have meaning and purpose behind her work—they just make it too obscure to those of us who make up the ignorant masses.