Monday, November 10, 2008

The Scatalogical Serrano

Madonna and Child II

Heaven and Hell

Frozen Sperm

Fatal Meningitis

Klansman, Imperial Wizard

The Morgue (Homicide Stabbing)

Heroic Shit

Piss Christ

It's a dirty job, but somebody's gotta do it...

In spring of 2003 my MECA drawing professor, Joe Begnaud, took our class on a field trip down the street to see the Portland Museum of Art Biennial. Upon entering the main gallery we were drawn immediately to Joe and James, Brett Bigbee's larger than life sized painting of his two young sons standing on a beach wearing matching black swim trunks. The photo realistic painting is rendered perfectly and painstakingly - it takes Bigbee months to finish one piece - and Joe and I spent a few awestruck moments quietly examining the canvas surface. Joe, who is also a figurative painter, broke the silence:
"Whew," he whistled. "I'm glad that Bigbee is doing this, so I don't have to."
I was reminded of Joe's remark last week when I picked up the latest issue of Art News to read about Andres Serrano's most recent show titled Shit, a series of 60 some odd large scaled photographs of human and animal feces.

You remember Serrano, the fellow who made the famous Piss Christ in 1989, which featured a crucifix submerged in urine, prompting an apoplectic Jesse Helms to lead the fight to end government funding for such projects and to declare: "Serrano is not an artist. He is a jerk."
Now, the genial renegade is back, fulfilling his desire to do, in his words, "something that would provoke even me"—namely, shooting 66 different piles of doo-doo dumped by as many animals, blown up to eight feet high and ready to hang on the walls of the Yvon Lambert Gallery beginning September 4.

I am fascinated by Serrano's dramatic and often disturbing photographs and his unflinching ability to examine all aspects of the human condition including waste and death. It's amazing to me that his photographs of these unappealing, frightening and even repulsive subjects can become images of great beauty and grace.