A painting previously removed from an art exhibition in New York City as a result of the public disapproval it received is now on view at the Bunker Hill Community College Art Gallery, according The Boston Globe on Tuesday. The piece, which depicts U.S. President Barack Obama as Jesus Christ, with his head donning a crown of thorns and his arms spread open to evoke salvation, has sparked both outrage and support for its artist, Michael D’Antuono.
The painting is called “The Truth,” and is part of an exhibit titled “Artists on the Stump: The Road to the White House 2012,” according to The Globe. Artists on display were invited to “weigh in on the issues, candidates and country,” according to the exhibit’s website.
No better place to do so than a college campus, like Bunker Hill’s, which by nature is devoted to education and therefore to weighing in on issues like current politics. Of course, controversial topics like politics and religion will almost always offend some party. “The Truth” offends Christians, who revere Christ for his suffering and salvation, and all the more so if they dislike Obama or American politics.
But is the piece overly offensive? Art, it should be noted, a medium through which an individual expresses a potentially offensive personal opinion, can be notoriously controversial. Modern art especially is often created for the purpose of sparking conversation, and one that involves a variety of viewpoints. D’Antuono’s piece, housed at an open-minded and secular educational facility, should simply provoke thought and discussion.
Granted, Christians have a right to be offended by a secular likening of their God, one that removes Jesus from a holy position to a mythical, metaphorical symbol. Their backlash is similar to the Muslim community’s outcry against a recent documentary that portrayed their prophet in a negative light. But they must also remember that their beliefs are not shared by D’Antuono, and while they may feel disrespected by his work, he has the right to artistically express his views and participate in an intellectual and representative conversation.