Yo Mama’s Last Supper by Renée Cox stood out to me the most, its message sends out something that we all need to see, that we all need to believe- women also have a say at the table. With all of the environmental, socio-political, and economic crises going on in the world right now, this piece of art makes me feel proud, as it should to everyone. Although it was seen as controversial because she is nude and in the place of Jesus and there are men surrounding her, it should be taken as a sign of women empowerment. From my perspective, the main message of this series of photographs is that all people, no matter what race or gender can be seen as figures you can look up to, capable of great things. Take a woman for example, she is at the center of keeping mankind on their toes and making it seem as though she is embracing their presence. The woman, whom births you and gives you life is seemingly one of the most precious entities. By Cox placing herself in place of Jesus she is saying that women make some of the hardest sacrifices in the world. The intersectionalities of this piece allows for the viewers biases to give off different meanings interpretations.
Monday, October 16, 2017
This week I chose to write on Andres Serrano's Immersion aka Piss Christ. I personally thought that this work was rather interesting when I realized the medium used for this work. Though one's first reaction would be curious, when I learned the background of artist Serrano, and his education and years of experience acquiring such perspective achieved through trial and research, it did not come to me as surprise at all. So I found it rather harsh to see the video where a senator was criticizing his work so unjustifiably without any means of trying to understand his art. But most shocking was that he used his work, Immersion, as an excuse to defund all untraditional art such as his due to the religious symbol immersed in piss. Personally, as a Catholic, I would be offended if someone simply put it in that way, Christ immersed in pee. But Andres did so much studying through trials to make this piece perfect to his means. And the urine could also be perceievd as metaphorically used, in itself a symbolic use of art. So then it became clear to me that the Senator's words were not justifiable, especially when he began to attack the arts. Defunding the arts would affect a youth's development in a negative way because eliminating arts would not simply prohibit artists from creating but it would also eliminate many innovative creators and inspirations for our future scientists, doctors, journalists, reportes, etc. This reminded me of my own experience in the LAUSD district. Growing up I noticed the lack of art classes and less performing arts classes every year. It became normal even, to not choose art as an elective because there weren't enough classes offered. But now as I have learned, art is necessary for all types of development, and as we discussed in lecture, I agree with the statement that art goes hand in hand with the other disciplines. STEM should be changed to STEAM in my opinion, because art is what inspires the rest and vice versa.
When I first saw the art of Andres Serrano, I didn’t know what to expect. One doesn’t know that his art is controversial until you know what the embodiment of water Jesus Christ is submerged in. It is kept in a jar of urine, which Serrano then used to dip the figure of Jesus inside for artistically a photograph. Not only is this behavior condoned, but also many people are upset about the photograph and the intentions Andres Serrano is trying to portray. However, we soon learned in class that Serrano had been attempting to recreate this kind of similar with other symbolic people under both milk and blood.The Immersion, has so much symbolic meaning that it is often to quick to be judged, therefore giving itself an impression of “dirty” or “unsanitary”. I believe that Serrano submerged Christ into this tub of piss due to the fact that he wanted to depict how society has submerged Christ within our daily lives. By emphasizing this action with piss, one gets the understanding of Jesus as maybe lost, and no way out. I feel the image is very powerful, because not only does it contain a criticized notion of the meaning, but the fact that bodily fluids are present in the picture makes everything completely “unsafe”. Believing that Jesus is inside and around bodily
When learning that Serrano's urine was involved in the artistic process, I realized this was an important piece to study because it makes the audience think of what frustrates them the most. Some are outraged by the superficial aspects of the work, considering it blasphemous for a person to drown the figure of Christ in "piss," yet fail to recognize Serrano's true intent and why he felt motivated to experiment with what is universally grotesque. This particular rhetoric dismisses the frustrations of those who truly condemn the Church for its involvement in former ill actions, thereby dismissing freedom of expression in an effort to simply uphold the Church's dignified image. This act of purification on behalf of religious supporters (and even politicians who fail to refrain their personal ideologies for the good of the public) is at the expense of the artist's individual right to create a thought-provoking image. As someone who grew up Catholic and fearful of any anti-religious sentiments, I feel more frustrated with those who wish to censor Serrano's work. It bothers me that his work is belittled and believed to be an arbitrary motive, ultimately dismissing his artistic ingenuity.
In my mother’s dining room there’s a frame of The Last Supper above the table; the frame is about 15 years old. Throughout those fifteen years, I have never asked my mom why she has it or any relating questions. All my family members have the same painting hung in their dining rooms, moreover, they look exactly the same. Recently, I asked my mom why she has that painting, and she gave me an unexpected response: “it represents the family.” Given that she’s a catholic, I expected a religious response; nevertheless, I was surprised in how she viewed the painting. Later, I asked if I may change the painting to a different one, I showered her The Last Supper by Renee Cox, and she got bothered, that the picture was the “wrong” last supper.
The Last Supper by Renee Cox, shows a different perspective of the original painting; Cox herself is in the center, standing nude, with twelve other men (majority of whom are black). Cox depicted herself as Jesus, a black woman, and the rest of the men represented the disciples. Many may view this particular art piece as “wrong” and “offensive” because a black person, a women, naked, cannot be the representation of Jesus. However, she argued that since God is within everyone, she herself can represent Jesus. Additionally, Cox is standing, rather than sitting, thus, showing empowerment, or superiority among the twelve other men. I love that she is standing because it shows the power she has as a women, not to say, that she was trying to show more power than the men sitting around her (although, that can be argued). Also, Cox is nude, holding a white rope; showing purity (white color) and no shame in being naked. Again, I love this because shame and guilt of being naked was introduced in the bible, however, Cox portrayed herself with purity as she was naked. Overall, the painting shows a different view of the Last Supper, a view that gives empowerment to the female and black community.
I was raised Catholic, however, I do not consider myself religious. Regardless, I would love to own The Last Supper by Renee Cox to hang it in my future dining room, as means of art and empowerment.
An act of censorship that I found particularly noteworthy was the suppression of Robert Mapplethorpe’s The Perfect Moment exhibition. Mapplethrope is a noteworthy figure in the visual art/photography scene and was an active artist since the 70’s. His work became a embroiled in the culture wars of the 1990s that saw a wave of reactionaries led legislatively by rightwing fundamentalists like Senator Jesse Helms attempt to censor the works of artists. During the “culture wars” these conservative religious right wingers found themselves convulsing at works of artistic expression they deemed objectionable and this in turn affected the artists by defunding federal grants that could have gone to these now blacklisted artists; the public is also affected by having their access and exposure to art limited and censored through a religious conservative lens.
The work of Robert Mapplethrope specifically was deemed offensive because his photography includes depictions of nudity and scenes of S&M fetish sex acts; the latter was featured in one of his most controversial works X Portfolio. After exploring his work I personally don’t find most of it distasteful or objectionable; most of it is rather tame if I’m being perfectly honest. Any nudes and still lifes featured are not pornographic in nature; they are not meant to arouse but to depict “perfection in form” as he put it. He even has really pertinent portraits of Patti smith and Andy Warhol. The photographs depicted in the X Portfolio are definitely of a challenging sexual nature and maybe some traditionalists would consider these acts of sexual expression deviant but really that’s just bigoted and ignorant as well as an overstepping of personal boundaries and individuality; nobody should have the right to tell you what is and isn’t right in the bedroom or on a canvas; consenting adults should be able to make their own choices when it relates to artistic or sexual experiences.
Also, I think a lot of the controversy stemmed from the fact that he was a queer man and so that may have added another perceived dangerous aspect to his already dynamically challenging work.
Renee Cox is an African American American artist who is part of the Feminist Art movement. That being said, common factors that she includes in her photographs are photos of the nude and people of color. She captures what many find offensive, often incorporating religion whilst taking on religious, powerful roles as the dominant female lead, and I can’t help but wonder, What is so wrong about that? and why does society take an offense to that? Her most controversial piece is titled "Yo Mama's Last Supper," in which she becomes Jesus. What many argued about this piece is the fact that she is not god, and that she was a colored female in the nude insultingly recreating "The Last Supper."
In my opinion, those who immediately got angered by this work with their thin reasoning being solely being based on Cox’s nude body, did not take a deeper look at what the artist was trying to convey. At face value, yes, she is nude, and yes, isn’t Jesus, but do we really know what Jesus looks like? Because odds are, we don’t. Cox made a valid point by mentioning that maybe, just maybe Jesus wasn’t white. Maybe he looked like her, and was a female of color only depicted as white because that’s what society envisioned as godly.
Although I entirely understand why “Yo Mama's Last Supper” is not favored, I consider Cox’s rendition of it a work of art that contains a deeper meaning than what is presented at face value which highlights the underlying issues of our society regarding gender and power. In my opinion, in order to understand art, you must learn to view things with an open mind, and I feel that if people take in Cox’s art with an open mind and an attempt to understand the piece, then it wouldn't be found insulting.
The Holy Virgin Mary by Chris Ofili, when it was first introduced, caused much controversy. Much of this controversy derived from the religious aspect of the artwork. By depicting the Virgin Mary as black, with exaggerated facial features, with pornographic images in the background, and with the use of elephant dung as an art material in this painting, it contradicted popular images of the Virgin Mary and the values/beliefs of many religious people. It was essentially seen as an attack on religion.
As someone who was raised Catholic and that still practices the faith to some extent, I can definitely see and understand how this image was able to stir up controversy, even leading to the defacing of this image during an exhibition. We are taught that these images are sacred and holy, and through this perspective, I see why some would be offended that the image of someone which people look up to is completely changed. However, through my perspective as a scholar and of someone whom has studied the history of religion, I can recognize that the popular images of figures such as the Virgin Mary and Jesus Christ have been carefully constructed over time for the benefit of some in establishing control and the spreading of an oppressive behavior. The popular representation of these figures as white, blonde, blue-eyed individuals, in essence is more offensive and controversial to me than the depiction of the Virgin Mary by Chris Ofili because of how these images have been used for control and also, as a still practicing Catholic, my understanding of the regions where these people/figures are said to have come from and thus the highly unlikely possibility that these individuals could have looked anything like what today's images depict.
Renee Cox’s “Yo Mama’s Last Supper” resonated with me in many different ways. It has become instinct to always refer to god as “he,” and when we look at images of god, jesus, and the saints, we are always given an image of white men. Therefore, growing up in a Catholic household, I was also fed this idea of religion and its figures as being mainly white-dominating and patriarchal. As I got older, it became really difficult for me to continue believing in what my mother and grandparents seemed to hold so close to their hearts—the Catholic faith and belief in god. Like Renee, I began to question the reason why all these white looking men had to be the ones I looked up to and prayed to in a church every Sunday. I began to question why the image of the last supper also excluded mujeres of color, because obviously we existed at the time. I began to question the white, heteronormative hegemonic standards put in place in our society based on images such as this one. When I saw this image of an empowered, naked, mujer of color standing in the center of the table with hombres of color surrounding her to represent the saints, I finally felt like this was an image of faith, belief, and guidance I can actually appreciate. Not only does she erase the absence of people of color in the work, but she references the question: why does god have to be a man? Furthermore, her baring her naked body symbolizes the power of the womxn’s body, not only in terms of fertility and reproduction, but as well as the pain and suffering we go through as mujeres of color and our ability to continue to survive and thrive.