Culture Vulture is for the most part unequivocally in favor of freedom of artistic expression. Decisions that limit the ability of others to pursue their own patterns of expression seem to us to be contradictory to the human endeavor here in the “land of the free.” But humans, especially “free” humans are nothing if not contradictory, so it comes as no surprise that in just about any pursuit of artistic freedom there will be one group attempting to achieve an honest expression of their interpretation of human interaction and another group that finds said interpretation abhorrent.
Take for instance the recent art show by local artists Bob Howard and Jonathan Troxler at Has Beans in downtown Chico. The show was, in our opinion, the most brilliant and hilarious exploration of religious iconography to ever grace the walls of any publicly accessible space in our town. Every piece in the show, from the sausage clad in the glowing raiments of the Virgin of Guadalupe, to the three stooges attending the nativity of Santa Claus, to the Satan watching television in tube socks was a lovingly rendered depiction of the ways in which religiously based imagery can be skewed, or skewered, by modern society. By giving common icons a decidedly, and darkly, comic twist the artists challenged us to seriously confront, and perhaps even laugh at, our own perceptions of whatever it is that we consider holy. And by including cut-outs that allowed viewers to literally become one with scenes of the crucifixion or the Madonna and child or the presentation of the Ten Commandments, the artists moved into the realm of genuinely funny spiritual interaction.
Anything that can invoke spiritual contemplation and laughter simultaneously is a very good thing in Culture Vulture’s book, so we were greatly saddened by the fact that this wonderful exhibition had to be taken down on the same evening as its artists’ reception due to pressure brought to bear on the owners of Has Beans by a group who felt the show was in some way offensive to their personal beliefs about how the Christian message should be conveyed.
Regarding censorious bullies we can only paraphrase the guy they claim to follow: Please forgive them, they don’t know what they’ve done.
1. “Spirit in the Sky,” Norman Greenbaum
2. “Redemption Songs,” Bob Marley
3. “Voices in the Sky,” Motorhead
4. “Love or Confusion,” Jimi Hendrix