Painting: Osama bin Laden as Jesus

And the Virgin Mary in a burqa?

Two entries into an Australian competition, the Blake Prize for Religious Art, have caused a bit of a stir. One portrays Osama bin Laden as Jesus:

Bearded Orientals, Making the Empire Cross by Priscilla Joyce Bracks

The painting is a lenticular image in which the viewer can flip between portraits of Jesus and Osama by shifting from side to side.

At the Adelaide Now website, Bracks says “I am not interested in being offensive. I am interested in having a discussion and asking questions about how we think about our world and what we accept and what we don’t accept.” She was, however, very naive if she thought her painting didn’t have the potential to stir up a riot. Unless she agreed with Reverend Rod Pattenden, who said “he didn’t expect the exhibition to be controversial, “because the Christian community doesn’t look at art a great deal”.

Ouch. That last bit hits home. I can’t deny it; Christians in “Western” cultures are largely ignorant of the visual arts (which is why this blog, and others like it, is necessary). Australian Christian Lobby spokeswoman Glynis Quinlan goes on in the aforementioned Nine MSN article to question why such liberties are taken with Christianity and not Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism and so on. (Of course we know what can happen when snarky images of Mohammed hit the streets.)

I’m not about to render an interpretation of these paintings of my own, although I will say this image smacks of sensationalism on levels far above Cavallaro’s chocolate Jesus. I don’t know if this was Bracks’ intent (Read more of an interview with her in the Adalaide Now article.). I seem to possess a higher tolerance for potentially offensive imagery than many of my Christian peers. Bearded Orientals does not offend me. We don’t know exactly what Jesus looked like. There are no photographs of Him, nor any portraits — and I’m glad there aren’t either of these things, which would have been quickly turned into idols by us ignorant humans: Grilled cheese sandwich, anyone?


About pcNielsen
Paul Nielsen founded The Aesthetic Elevator late in 2005. He owns a piece of paper, located somewhere in his house (not on the wall), stating that he earned a B.F.A. from the University of Nebraska around about 2001. While there, he studied studied architecture, graphic design and ceramics, graduating with a degree in studio art. Paul presently serves as communications manager for a small non-profit doing their print design and marketing. He spends as much time sculpting in his studio as possible — which is not nearly enough. Visit his website at

3 Responses to Painting: Osama bin Laden as Jesus

  1. Marissa says:

    I too am ouched by the “Christians don’t look at art comment”.

    I agree with your opinion that it is sensationalistic and think moving past it and not giving it attention is best.

  2. TAE says:

    I almost didn’t write this post in order to avoid giving the work additional attention, but I reconsidered (obviously). It’s a conversation I think Christians should have, a conversation that helps drag them out of their ghetto by being a part of culture. We need to be able to look at and think critically about all parts of culture, cultivated responses that are intelligent and engaging.

    And do so hopefully without sensationalizing works that beg for it.

    Thanks for the comment!

  3. Pingback: LinkLuv: Hitler, R.C. Sproul and Obama in art news « The Aesthetic Elevator

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