Furor over artwork: Burqa-clad Virgin Mary, Jesus morphing into Osama bin Laden

„Bearded Orientals, Making the Empire Cross,” a lenticular image with a portrait of Jesus Christ that transforms into a portrait of Osama bin Laden, is one of several pieces that has drawn controversy to the $15,000 Blake Prize for Religious Art in Australia.
The Jesus-Osama piece, along with a statue of the Virgin Mary wearing a burqa, has fueled a fierce debate Down Under. (Here’s a photo of the portraits.)

„If the work is perceived by some people as not having artistic merit, then that is their right to think however they like about the piece,” artist Priscilla Bracks says according to ABC News of Australia. „But I just ask people to think about it a little bit more deeply because it is a very loaded work which means that there are so many different meanings.”
She says some see juxtaposition of good and evil. Others see a commentary on the deification of bin Laden in parts of the Muslim world. It „concerned the relationship between contemporary popular culture and the future we (for better or worse) create,” she tells The Daily Telegraph .
Interesting fact: Neither of these pieces actually won the prize. An aboriginal artist won for her depiction of the Stations of the Cross. Despite that, the runners-up are attracting more attention than the winner. Here’s a sampling of what critics see:
♦ „The choice of such artwork is gratuitously offensive to the religious beliefs of many Australians,” Prime Minister John Howard said in News Ltd newspapers.
♦ „Jesus brought a message of love and forgiveness that has nothing to do with terrorism,” ACL spokeswoman Glynis Quinlan said. „It’s a concerning thing to Christians to have Jesus and Osama bin Laden as part of the one artwork.
♦ Ikebal Patel, head of the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils, says the statue isn’t offensive. „So [Mary wearing a burqa is] no different to how our mothers and sisters are expected to be modest in their dressing,” he tells the Sydney Morning Herald. The Osama-Jesus piece is a different story. „You have a revered prophet of Islam being equated to somebody like Osama bin Laden,” Patel says. „Also in Islam, we don’t have any paintings or drawings depicting any of our prophets, so I find it quite offensive.”
(USA Today)

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