Academic journal article Journal for the Study of Religions and Ideologies

The Misadventures of Enrique Chagoya: Aesthetic Marginalization in Interpretations of Jesus Christ

Academic journal article Journal for the Study of Religions and Ideologies

The Misadventures of Enrique Chagoya: Aesthetic Marginalization in Interpretations of Jesus Christ

Article excerpt

Abstract: This essay is an investigation of the relationship between homosexual interpretations of Jesus Christ and artistic explorations of the meaning of Christ to the LGBTQ community. I begin with an analysis of the public backlash to Enrique Chagoya's 2010 lithograph The Misadventures of the Romantic Cannibals which features a depiction of Christ in a homoerotic situation. My analysis focuses both on Chagoya's place in the historical canon of artists that create religious art that challenges heteronormative interpretations of Jesus and also the resulting destruction of Chagoya's work. My analysis examines the cultural importance of homosexual interpretations of Christ in the on-going debates about homosexuality as well as the biblical justifications for such interpretations. More, I argue that the public backlash to art that challenges traditionally held beliefs about Christ creates a cultural force for further marginalizing the LGBTQ community. I argue that traditional power structures, especially in contemporary America, rely upon the aesthetic marginalization of those individuals deemed to be engaged in subversive lifestyles in order to maintain their dominance in cultural discourse. Ironically, I argue, the attempts to subdue such artwork generates the necessary conditions for public discourse that will ultimately undermine the traditional cultural beliefs that undergird the protests against artists like Chagoya.

Key Words: Enrique Chagoya, Jesus Christ, homosexual, aesthetics, marginalization, blasphemy

For Cod sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world;

But that the world through him might be saved.

-John 3:17

The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts;

and though all its parts are many, they form one body.

So it is with Christ.

-1 Cor. 12:12

Introduction

In October of 2010 another battle in the long war over the relationship between religion and art was fought in the small community of Loveland, Colorado-once considered to be one of America's best artist communities. Stanford professor and artist Enrique Chagoya's lithograph "The Misadventures of the Romantic Cannibals" was displayed at the community's art gallery as part of the traveling 10-artist exhibit The Legend of Bud Shark and His Indelible Ink. Among the collection of pieces assembled for the exhibit Chagoya's was among the smallest consisting of twelve 7%-inch-high panels 90-inches-wide when placed side-by-side representing an eclectic and chaotic mixture of pop culture, religious, and fictional characters. The images are assembled in what might best be described as a very weird dream sequence, the kind one would expect to follow a night of undergraduate binge drinking after final exams. However, in spite of its small size, Chagoya's artwork caused a large-scale ruckus. The twelfth panel is a picture of two men. One of the men is on his knees performing oral sex on the other man. This "other man" is wearing a dress, eyes upturned in ecstatic delight, with the word 'orgasm' in big red letters as the backdrop of his pleasure. While provocative in its own right, the panel does not quite transgress the boundaries of the pornographic, and it probably would have gone largely overlooked as a part of the exhibit had it not been for the fact that the cross-dressing man enjoying a blowjob bears a striking resemblance to traditional European depictions of Jesus.

Keeping with tradition, many Christians throughout the United States reacted by protesting the exhibit in various forms and mediums. Their complaints and protestations were aimed at defaming Chagoya and his work, crying foul about the intolerance for Christian beliefs in an increasingly secular society, carping about the use of their tax dollars to support the denigration of their lord and savior, and stumping for the importance of protecting children from such suggestive and terrible images. One angry protestor was photographed for the local newspaper holding a sign that read, "Blasphemy is NOT art! …

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