Art exhibit sparks controversy in Brooklyn

November 10, 2011 2:33:07 PM PST
The entire exhibit doesn't open until next week here the museum, but one of the pieces, a controversial film, is drawing the sharpest criticism.

"Basically, it's the depiction of a crucifix with ants crawling over it. I think that's rather sacrilegious," Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio said.

It is a 10-second scene, part of a short but controversial film by the late David Wojnarowicz, which has the bishop of Brooklyn calling for its removal.

"I don't think any other religious symbol would be tolerated if it were treated in that way," DiMarzio said.

The short film exploring the subject of aids was made by Wojnarowicz before he was diagnosed with the disease. He died in 1992.

After learning of the film's inclusion in the upcoming Brooklyn Museum's exhibit, "Hide/Seek: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture," Bishop DiMarzio says he quietly sent a letter to the museum calling for the scene's removal.

"We didn't want to call any media attention but somehow, you know better than I how you got the story," he said.

The museum would make no one available for an on camera interview. In printed reports, the museum spoke only of the entire exhibit and its importance.

Word of the controversial film is already sparking interest and debate.

"Their view is that its demeaning their symbol of art and they have that right to that opinion. But, I mean, according to the artist he's trying to send a certain message and that's it. Art is part public expression," Joseph Alexiou said.

The museum, known for displaying bold exhibits, came under fire in 1992 by then Mayor Rudy Giuliani who threatened to pull public funds after it featured "The Holy Virgin Mary" depicting her with a clump of elephant dung.

"Art is supposed to be provocative. If it's a good piece of art, it should provoke a lot of different feelings from a lot of different places," artist Ed Woodham said.

Bishop DiMarzio, meantime, has received a response from the museum.

"It's art for the sake of art, they say, and it's being funded privately, but that doesn't make any difference," DiMarzio said.