Back in May, to celebrate New York Design Week, Gallery R’Pure hosted an exhibition called “Love It or Leave It.” Featuring the work of ten U.S.-based designers, the exhibition invited its audience to “revisit objects and symbols that have forged the American landscape. . . . Each piece is a personal interpretation of some aspect of American life, be it celebratory, critical or simply observational. The exhibition intends to question what the American life is, whether real or perceived.”
For such a theme, of course at least one piece deriding Christianity is to be expected. Probably a crucifix put in some kind of irreverent setting or supplemented with props.
. . . Sebastian Errazuriz delivered—with 100 limited edition “Christian Popsicles,” as he calls them. Made of frozen red wine that Errazuriz says was inadvertently blessed by a Catholic priest (he had smuggled a cooler into Mass), the ice pops were handed out at a gallery party on May 19 as cocktail refreshments. An image of the crucified Jesus was laser-engraved onto the wooden sticks, which Errazuriz custom-designed to include a crossbar.
Errazuriz, who was raised Catholic but now identifies as an atheist, said he created the ice pops to spark dialogue about fanaticism and violence. American Christians, he said, are becoming more and more extremist in their views and actions and are exercising “a dangerous and growing influence over American politics.” He says the Christian faith is oppressive, squashing individual liberties. And then he cites the Ku Klux Klan as an example of what Christianity leads to. (Really?)
I’m usually very open about and even appreciative of provocative works of art; a lot of times the criticisms they communicate are spot-on. It’s important for Christians (and for people of any belief system) to confront the dominant perceptions people have of us so that we can examine our failings as a church and seek ways to redress the wrongs that we’ve been perpetuating. But Errazuriz’s work is just gimmicky; it’s neither thoughtful nor constructive. It seems like he did it just for kicks and controversy and was not very intentional about his message. He is quoted on the CNN Belief Blog as saying that he hopes the ice pops “will prove that Christians can take a little humor.” But extremism isn’t funny, so . . . I smell an inconsistency. What exactly was his goal?
While Christian extremism does exist, it has hardly reached a dangerous high, as Errazuriz says (unless he is using the term as a synonym for “political conservative”; his definition is unclear). And how does Jesus on a Popsicle stick evoke “extremism” anyway?The link is not obvious without the artist’s statement. A more relevant and impactful topic, I feel, would have been religious bigotry, which is certainly rampant and has harmful effects. Why not create an image of the pain experienced by a victim of bigotry? Or for another angle, expose its ridiculousness?
What do you think of “Christian Popsicles”—clever or passé? If you were one of the gallery attendees, what would have been your reaction to being handed such a snack?
To see the other nine works in the American icons exhibition (which include a briefcase, a white picket fence, and a six-pack), visit http://loveitorleaveitnyc.com/.
To see more works by Sebastian Errazuriz (which include other controversial likenesses of Jesus), visit http://meetsebastian.com/.