Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Our Lady of the Wal-Mart

The Man With the Black Hat reports on a North Carolina artist who, "... intrigued by the public obsession with celebrity has found herself feeding that obsession with a painting of actress Angelina Jolie as the Virgin Mary hovering over a Wal-Mart check-out line."

"You really," he adds, "have to see it to believe it." He kids us not. Ay, ay ay.

Having acknowledged a special reverence for Our Lady of Guadalupe, Mr. Hat draws a comparison between that image and this one of decidedly non-miraculous origin. While he has a point to make in taking this tack and it is well-taken, I don't think that the apparition of Tepeyac served as inspiration for this particular bit of artistry. It looks to me a bit more like Sistine Chapel wannabee, right down to the intricately draped fabric of Angie's gown and her two adopted toddlers standing in as winged cherubim. My first thought on viewing this work was that the ideal medium for it really would have been black velvet. It's tempting to suspect that had the artist been twenty-five years older she would have specialized in heroic Elvises.

Okay, I'm not that dense. I realize that artist Kate Kretz's purpose probably isn't to glorify Ms. Jolie, but to satirize, if not in the most original fashion, our celeb-crazed society's glorification of her. I can't say for sure whether anti-Catholicism factored into her work. Mr. Hat, who has probably spent more time reading the lady's websites than I have, thinks she was likely "driven more by militant naivete than pure malevolence...It never occurs to [some people] that there may be more to that phenomenon than a mere collection of venerated images, a plaything for their vain attempt at kitsch." I'm inclined to think that he's correct. Certainly there is nothing about this painting remotely comparable with the infamous Virgin in elephant dung: it's kitschy, irreverent, and not in the best taste, but in my opinion it falls far short of blasphemy. A pious Catholic artist seeking to make the same point would have chosen other (hopefully less confrontational) imagery; I have to assume that Ms. Kretz is not one and didn't understand what C. S. Lewis referred to as "the peculiar and chivalrous sensibility" of the devout when they perceive an insult to our Blessed Mother. (Mere Christianity)

I am under the impression that Ms. Kretz's sensitivity faux pas has led to assaults on her blog comboxes, as her latest post indicates that she has closed them. Mild annoyance, I can understand, but orchestrating a campaign of howlers over something this trival seems to me a pointless waste of righteous indignation. Go out and march for Life, write the whole darn Security Council about the Darfur genocide, or just take two rosaries and call me in the morning, but for Pete's sake spare us the kinder, gentler version of the Mohammed Cartoon Outrage. If the lady has exhibited offensive ignorance, be too polite to notice. You don't have to buy her paintings.

Thus I would discourage protests, the sending of nasty emails, or any other expressions of excessive outrage. Such reactions are un-Christian, they make the rest of us who weren't carrying on look bad, and they tend to make the neutral and mildly anti-Catholic into hardened Roundheads. They also tend to be counterproductive in that rather than calling down censure upon the offender, they frequently draw attention to and increase that person's popularity.

When The Last Temptation of Christ first came out in theaters, my hip, charismatic (liturgically speaking) then-pastor felt it his duty to view and then review it for the benefit of the flock. The film itself he panned, not merely on its theology but on its cinematic points (or lack thereof.) But in reference to the cries of outrage that were echoing among some Catholic groups--and being magnified to our collective detriment by the offenders and their apologists --he offered this bit of philosophy: "God has gotten over bigger offenses than this."

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow...sounds like something that should be put up next to the black velvet pictures of Elvis.

4:53 AM  
Blogger MrsDarwin said...

I would say that it's offensively ugly, but other than that I don't see why it should merit any protest. Looking at it twice would be more consideration than the image (can't bring myself to write "artwork" deserves).

I have to say that I'm amused by tabloid culture. Whenever I'm in line at the grocery store, I'm assaulted by magazines that scream "Angelina PREGNANT? Baby Bulge on BRIT? A Baby for JEN? No. THREE for Reese?" What of it? I have three children; no one cares. Why should it be news that stars can grow children internally like everyone else? (Though I do often wonder if Brit's "baby bulge" is simply the unlost weight faced by those of us who've had two children in less than two years.)

6:24 AM  
Blogger CMinor said...

Un--I'm sure the poster version will be very popular among some of my neighbors. They can put Angie on the wall opposite the velvet Elvis.

MrsD--A refreshing look at tabloid culture, indeed. I salute you. You think maybe Brit isn't spending four hours a day in the gym trying to regain the girlish figger?

12:16 PM  

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