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Misconceptions and media spin made the "virgin Mary" painting by the Artist seem to be something that it was not. I saw a photo of it in the recent Time Magazine. If it is made with elephant feces, the feces must be part of the pigments used because the painting looks like artwork, no desecration there. The point someone made that Africans use elephant droppings as sacred items makes sense here.

There are analogies in this work to "The Virgin of Guadalupe" which started out as a "stain" on the cloak of a Mexican man. Its appearance occurred during the time of Christian evangelism by the Spanish conquistadors and it is still controversial today because of its resemblance to an "earth mother" goddess worshipped by pre-Christian Mexicans. Like the virgin of Guadalupe, the African artist's virgin is dark-skinned.

I saw a wooden version of the virgin of Guadalupe in Guadalupe Spain. This idol was apparently found by warriors during the Crusades. It looks like an ebony fertility goddess from North Africa with elongated head and slit eyes. In the perception of those who "connected" with this object she had supernatural powers and was carried aboard warrior ships in some of Spain's most significant battles, ah the wonders of Christianity!

The other anatomical images (animal sections) in the exhibit are important parts of the artist's message and by themselves have aesthetic value. However, not many will be open to that.

What seems to be driving a lot of the protest against these works is an erroneous belief that art should be driven by "market" forces. i.e. "Because I don't want to buy it, it should not be shown."

Under the circumstances, if "market" forces decided what art would be seen and what art would not be seen, nothing representing the extremely good or the extremely bad in art would ever be seen. As a result, we would all be the poorer for it.

The dialogue that the StatNisland Gathering has generated on this reassures me that the humanities will survive above the bottom line.


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