the wrong kind of provocative
A 10-year-old artist is the center of a controversy involving the validity of art within the Church. Jackson Potts II was the only child asked to contribute to an exhibit depicting the Stations of the Cross, in anticipation that he “would bring a unique perspective.” Jackson’s representation of the seventh Station of the Cross (Jesus falling for the second time carrying the cross) was a policeman beating a small, bloody child with a nightstick. Consider his motivation: “I thought about how innocent Jesus was, like a kid. I thought a police officer was sort of like a Roman guard.” Yet his “unique perspective” was rejected as too violent and offensive.
“Certainly we don’t want to be censoring art or anything like that,” said Jeremy Wells, a gallery board member, church elder and artist. “Artwork being provocative in nature can be beneficial to the church if it’s provocative in the right way.
“We felt it was provocative in the wrong way,” Wells said. “The image, being as graphic as it is, did not draw people closer to the risen Christ.”
“Provocative in the wrong way” is really still just censorship. In this situation it’s the result of applying utilitarian standards, which Art cannot be measured by. Unfortunately, as Christians we’ve so bought into the idea that all creativity has to have a purpose, and that purpose is to lead people to Christ, that we can’t accept as “christian” that which hasn’t been completely neutered by a fish, dove or Bible verse. We’ve decided “christian art” should never be offensive – unless it’s offensive in the “right” way. (I’m compelled to remind: “christian” is an audience or market, not a genre of art.)
What’s particularly ironic is that the controversy revolves around the cross – arguably one of the most violent, cruel, and offensive events in history. This 10-year-old actually seems to have grasped the scale of violence, and sought to translate it in a modern and surprising way. It appears he succeeded.
Because that is, of course, exactly what Art does – it presents us with ideas and asks us to think differently about them. It challenges us or moves us, but always requires us to consider why – good or bad – or simply to live with the uncomfortableness. It’s possible we’ve simply become too comfortable with the story of the cross.
(The artist’s statement, and other background information is posted by his father on his blog.)