The Virginia Museum of Contemporary Art (VAMOCA) is unveiling a show this coming weekend called “Turn the Page: The First 10 Years of Hi-Fructose.” Hi-Fructose is a San Francisco based magazine devoted to contemporary art. According to VAMOCA, the exhibition is scheduled to run from 22 May through 31 December.
Of issue is that the exhibition prominently features the image at the head of this article. The painting by Mark Ryden bears the title “Rosie’s Tea Party,” and laced throughout the picture are blasphemous references to the Catholic Church.
The little girl in the painting is wearing a cross around her neck and what appears to be a first Communion dress. She is sawing into a a ham that bears the inscription, “Mystici Corpis Christi,” which is Latin for “Mystical Body of Christ.” To her right is a bottle of red wine bearing an image of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and to the right of the bottle is a demented looking bunny with red eyes pouring out a red liquid into a tea cup with the word “Sanguis Christi” (Latin for “Blood of Christ”) written on the saucer. An Abraham Lincoln doll has a smaller cup of red liquid before it, while assorted other meats are strewn about being eyed by a kitten and what seem to be two weasels or ferrets.
The offensive nature of this painting is clear on several levels. It mocks the Sacrament of Holy Communion, it mocks the Catholic belief in transubstantiation, and in fact, it mocks the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.
But Ryden’s works have been fraught with controversy for over over 16 years. This painting from 1997 is titled, “Dead Characters.” At the bow of a boat filled with business mascots is our Lord Jesus Christ, indicating that Jesus is fictional, and by account of the name of the piece, a “dead character.”
This one also from 1997, bearing the title, “A Dog Named Jesus,” shows a little girl feeding a dog with a crown on it’s head, and a dog house with the cross on the top with INRI across the entry way. The meaning is clear, as is the mockery of Our Blessed Lord.
Many other images by Ryder are far too disturbing to reproduce here, but in 2006, Ryder conducted an interview with Hi-Fructose specifically about the painting featured in the VAMOCA exhibit, “Rosie’s Tea Party.” The article, titled, “Ring Around the Rosie,” includes the following exchange:
You poke fun of religion, replacing the stars of the Bible with Barbie and the KFC Colonel. Do you get harassed by orthodox religious stalwarts who lack a sense of humor?
I am really not poking fun at religion. I am just looking at it in different ways. Someone ought to poke fun at those Christians, though. They are the ones responsible for putting that evil clown in the white house.
What is being displayed by the Virginia Museum of Contemporary Art goes well beyond “poking fun.” It’s outright blasphemy and mockery of the Catholic faith, and it’s not something Catholics should tolerate, and it’s certainly not something Virginia taxpayers should be funding.
Contact the Virginia Museum of Contemporary Art and demand that the “Rosie’s Tea Party” be removed.