Based on the e-mail I’ve been getting today, Michael D’Antuono will not be compared favorably to Michaelangelo any time soon. Kevin McCullough and the Anchoress have taken note of D’Antuono’s latest painting, as has WorldNet Daily, for obvious reasons:
Artist Michael D’Antuono’s painting “The Truth” – featuring Obama with his arms outstretched and wearing a crown of thorns upon his head – will be unveiled on April 29 at the Square’s South Plaza.
According to a statement released about the portrait, “The 30″ x 54″ acrylic painting on canvas depicts President Obama appearing much like Jesus Christ on the Cross: atop his head, a crown of thorns; behind him, the dark veil being lifted (or lowered) on the Presidential Seal. But is he revealing or concealing, and is he being crucified or glorified?” …
“More than a presidential portrait,” writes D’Antuono on a website touting the painting, “‘The Truth’ is a politically, religiously and socially-charged statement on our nation’s current political climate and deep partisan divide that is sure to create a dialogue.”
Color me unmoved. Unless Obama himself commissioned this portrait, or the National Endowment for the Arts subsidized it, there’s nothing much outrageous about artists with no sense of taste or perspective. It’s not even very well painted; the body is out of proportion to the head and the arms (it looks like an Obama version of South Park’s Mr. Mackey), and the face is not a terribly convincing portrayal of Obama. I’d note that D’Antuono managed to position Obama so that he would not have to paint the more intricate parts of the Presidential Seal, either.
Is it tasteless? Yes. Sacreligious? Definitely. But on a scale of 1-100, with 100 being “Piss Christ” and 75 being the Madonna made out of elephant dung and the pictures of genitalia, I’d have to rate this pretty low on the Outrage-O-Meter. It says so much more about D’Antuono than Obama or the public at large, and I suspect that’s exactly what this artist intended all along.
Update: D’Antuono won’t display this after all, saying that the anger over the religious elements of the painting surprised him:
The idea of the piece, or the reaction that I’d hoped for, was to highlight our nation’s deep partisan divide and how our interpretation of the truth is really prejudiced by our political perspective and I think that to a large degree we are being manipulated by the media. I miss the old day when we just have the facts. Now we have pundits and spin and strategists.
I just thought that through that painting people would see different things. The right and the left would have different interpretations of it based on their political lens. But I have to admit I was very surprised that instead of that I got thousands of email complaining on the religious front. And that was not my intent at all. I wanted to create a dialog politically but not religiously. I didn’t mean to make fun of anybody’s religion; maybe I did so naively but I didn’t mean it that way. In the bible Jesus is The Truth and comparing Obama that way isn’t something I meant to do at all.
Apparently, I’ve upset a lot of people. And I’ve decided that’s not what I wanted to do and I’m not going to display it in the park on Wednesday … art is meant to be somewhat provocative but the religious element went way farther than I had anticipated.
Mark Hemingway takes him at his word, but I’m a little skeptical. After all, D’Antuono titled his piece “The Truth” and put a thorn of crowns on Obama while holding a crucifix pose. Either D’Antuono was monumentally naive or he’s trying to deflect criticism after the fact. Either is possible; I’ll give him credit for at least acknowledging that he offended people. Some good art can offend people, but not all art that offends is good, something artists these days seem to forget.