April 28, 2009
NYC Artist Cancels Obama-as-Jesus Portrait
Artist Michael D'Antuono was planning to unveil "The Truth" - a portrait of President Obama wearing a crown of thorns and holding his hands in crucifix form - tomorrow in New York's Union Square to commemorate Obama's 100th day in office, but decided to cancel after receiving thousands of angry e-mails about the portrait's religious overtones.
The portrait, which shows Obama lifting a dark veil to reveal (or hide) the presidential seal, was not meant to offend Christians or make light of their beliefs, D'Antuono told Mark Hemingway of National Review Online. He explains:
The idea of the piece, or the reaction that I'd hoped for, was to highlight our nation's deep partisan divide and how our interpretation of the truth is really prejudiced by our political perspective and I think that to a large degree we are being manipulated by the media. I miss the old day when we just have the facts. Now we have pundits and spin and strategists.
I just thought that through that painting people would see different things. The right and the left would have different interpretations of it based on their political lens. But I have to admit I was very surprised that instead of that I got thousands of email[s] complaining on the religious front. And that was not my intent at all. I wanted to create a dialog politically but not religiously. I didn't mean to make fun of anybody's religion; maybe I did so naively but I didn't mean it that way. In the bible Jesus is The Truth and comparing Obama that way isn't something I meant to do at all.
Apparently, I've upset a lot of people. And I've decided that's not what I wanted to do and I'm not going to display it in the park on Wednesday ... art is meant to be somewhat provocative but the religious element went way farther than I had anticipated.
Whether D'Antuono is sincerely aiming for deep conversation or mere provocation is unclear; his own website describes the painting this way: "More than a presidential portrait, 'The Truth' is a politically, religiously and socially-charged statement on our nation's current political climate and deep partisan divide that is sure to create a dialogue."
He told Hemingway that the portrait may still appear in a gallery showing.