The Arts

March 23
New York, NY
 — The Whitney Museum hosted a display that included a work by German artist Hans Haacke called “Sanitation.” The title was a play on words on the title of the controversial exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum of Art called “Sensation” which featured elephant dung and pornographic pictures on the picture of a female entitled, “Holy Virgin Mary.” “Sanitation” associated New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani with Nazism for protesting the “Sensation” exhibit.

April
Naples, FL
 — An art exhibit called “Confrontational Clay” was displayed at the Philharmonic Center for the Arts. The exhibit, by curator Judith Schwartz, is heavily supported by the National Endowment for the Arts. It included a piece that featured a toilet, topped by a statue of the Sacred Heart wearing a Mickey Mouse hat. When a museum visitor complained, the CEO of the center apologized and said “it would not happen again.”

April
Oklahoma City, OK
 — A painting of a pope sporting an eye patch was displayed at the Oklahoma State Capitol. The painting, from a series called “Popepourri” by O. Gail Poole, was eventually removed after state Sen. Tim Pope called it “unchristian.”

April 26
New York, NY
 — The Irondale Ensemble Project performed Dario Fo’s “The Pope and the Witch” at the Theatre for the New City in New York’s East Village. Newsday described the play as involving “a heroin-addicted, paranoid Pope called John Paul II, along with scheming priests, bumbling nuns and monks, corrupt cops and other assorted worthies from Fo’s stable of demons.” The pope is depicted as advocating birth control and the legalization of drugs. Both the Irondale Ensemble Project and the Theatre for the New City received public money through the National Endowment for the Arts.

When the NEA’s yearly funding was up for debate on the floor of the House of Representatives in Washington, several members of Congress moved to reduce the budget citing the case of “The Pope and the Witch.” When the NEA explained that the “Pope and the Witch” was not specifically funded, the Catholic League noted that the monies received by both organizations supported all their actions. Though the NEA’s budget was not trimmed, an increase requested by its supporters was denied.

April 29 – June 29
Former “Monty Python” comedian Eric Idle toured across the country with his show, “Eric Idle Exploits Monty Python.” Among the acts was one titled “Every Sperm is Sacred” and was sung by three women dressed as nuns and a man in a red cardinal’s cassock. Pictures of sperm interspersed with photos of Pope John Paul II were displayed on a large video screen.

May
Little Rock, AK
 — The “Confrontational Clay” exhibit moved on to the Decorative Arts Museum at the Arkansas Arts Center. The exhibit still included the piece with the toilet, topped by a statue of the Sacred Heart wearing the Mickey Mouse hat.

June 5 – September 5
San Francisco, CA
 — The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art hosted an art exhibit featuring the work of Robert Gober. Among his creations was a pile of newspapers ready to be recycled. The top paper was a copy of the New York Times from July 19, 1992. The headline was altered from the original to read, “Vatican Condones Discrimination Against Homosexuals.” The real headline read, “Vatican Condones Gay Rights Limit.” Under the altered headline was an altered advertisement showing Gober in a wedding gown.

July 13 – October 22
New York, NY
 — New York’s Whitney Museum hosted an exhibition by Barbara Kruger. Among the works by the feminist artist is a picture of John Cardinal O’Connor. The caption under it read, “Pope Fetus I.” A book in the museum’s gift shop titled, “Thinking of You—Barbara Kruger,” contained the same picture with the caption, “Pope Fetus I, poster project, New York, 1990.”

July 30
New York, NY
 — A new play opened off-Broadway called “Avow.” The play is the work of Bill C. Davis and it centers around a radical priest who refuses to bless a homosexual union. The priest eventually has his celibacy tested when he falls in love with the sister of one of the gay men (she is pregnant out of wedlock). The New York Times described the play as “ridiculing the attitudes of the Catholic Church toward gays, unwed mothers and priestly celibacy.” Another reviewer noted that, “The anti-Catholic humor…drew big laughs.” Davis is the person who authored the anti-Catholic play “Mass Appeal” but had a string of flops until returning to the theme of the priesthood.

August
Norfolk, VA
 — The city of Norfolk secured from the Chrysler Museum of Art a statue to be placed in a downtown intersection until a permanent display could be funded. But the United Jewish Federation of Tidewater protested and town officials removed the art. The artwork was a statue of St. Francis of Assisi.

October
Providence, RI 
— “Misgivings,” Dave Kane’s one-man-playing-a-priest-show played in Providence. The Providence Journal-Bulletin said, “…there is no doubt Kane has a lot of issues to take up with the church [sic], and sometimes he is pretty angry.”

October 25
Hollywood, CA
 — The play “Bare” debuted at the Hudson Main Stage Theatre in Hollywood. The play is about the love affair of Jason and Peter, two Catholic high school students at upscale St. Celia’s Boarding School. Daily Variety describes the plot as “focusing on the senior year dilemmas of the casually confident golden boy Jason, the school’s star athlete and top scholar, who is also nonchalantly enjoying the secretive sexual favors of the deeply introspective friend Peter.”

November
Houston, TX
 — An exhibit titled “Sextablos: Works on Metal” ran from November through mid-January, 2001 at The Redbud Gallery. The title is a play on “retablos,” which are Mexican paintings of the saints on sheets of tin. Amid many pornographic images, one by Michael Thompson portrays a naked woman performing fellatio on Christ nailed to the cross.


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Written by Bill