Monday, July 9, 2012

Bio-Art: The Holy Virgin Mary.

Remember that cow pat paperweight from a previous bio-art review? Yeaaah, after thinking about it, there were several people who would like that. Scat fetishists aside, there are fascinating things about animal feces.  Some artists even use dung as an artistic medium.

Yeah. Y'know what? I'm sure you can see where this is going. After that paragraph and a quick glance at the title, you have to realize that this is leading nowhere good fast. Brace yourself for the black virgin Mary plastered with elephant dung and naughty bits.

This, piece...was made by one Chris Ofili. Ofili is a Nigerian artist born in Manchester, England. He had a Catholic education and went to two art colleges. Along with elephant dung, he has plastered pornographic images upon the sacred virgin. It's properly called The Holy Virgin Mary and was on display in a gallery called Sensation until it entered a private collection. It is now on display again in the Museum of New and Old Art in Hobart, Tasmania.

Elephant dung is a recurring medium in Ofili's works. It's not quite splattered; many times, Ofili uses the dung almost like paint or to create a certain texture. Sometimes the dung is even holding the painting up.  It's not like the guy isn't being creative when he uses it in his work. That is at least creative. Elephant dung itself is a versatile material that has been used to make paper; no shit.

One of Mr. Ellie Poo's notebooks, made using the fiber from elephant dung.

For the record, the Black Mary is definitely a thing when she is not covered in elephant dung, too. She is particularly popular in African cultures and among feminists. African Christians like her for obvious reasons; feminists believe that the Black Madonna has a mystique and power that white Mary does not. Some also trace her to pre-Christian cults like the several revolving around Cybele, a Greek earth goddess who had a chariot of lions at her disposal. Kickass.

Regardless of your stance on Black Mary, the virgin Mary is one of the most sacred images in the Catholic church. Here she is with elephant dung and genitalia scattered about. Surely there must be some profoud meaning behind mixing the sacred and profane like that, right?

Umm...nope. Not unless you consider trolling the First Amendment hard in any way philosophical. 

Unfortunately, this piece was made for all the wrong reasons. I would like to say that this has some deep, far-reaching message - I really would - but the sole purpose of this mess's existence is to push the boundaries of free speech.  This thing was shown at a gallery called Sensation- a title which begs both "WTF for the sake of WTF" and "ASK ME WHAT IT MEANS! ASK ME WHAT IT MEANS!" Is that all it takes to be art? I'm not questioning Ofili's choice of medium, artistic talent, or anything else. The sole purpose of this piece is to push the system to its very limits. I'm wondering if that's really art or not. At least it's making me think.


  1. Elephant dung paper products are available at Mr. Ellie Pooh benefits the elephants of Sri Lanka.

    1. *Nod.* That's what Mr. Ellie Pooh does. Granted, it IS eco-friendly.