TORONTO, Ontario, January 24, 2011 (LifeSiteNews.com) – A Toronto art gallery is scheduled to exhibit an array of inflammatory works that include a picture of a seated Pope Benedict XVI riddled with bullet holes, alongside portraits of other “evildoers” such as President George Bush and Hitler.
The exhibit, entitled “Persona Non Grata – The Veil of History,” by Toronto-based artist Peter Alexander Por, is due to open at the Bezpala Brown Gallery on February 5, 2011. It comes at a time that the United States has been plunged into a debate over civility in public discourse, following the tragic shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Gifford and several others in Tuscon earlier this month. Many commentators had blamed the shooting on violent political rhetoric, pointing to a map on the website of former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin that had included an image of gunsight cross-hairs over Rep. Gifford’s district.
Por’s exhibit, 30 canvases and four sculptures, also includes depictions of Pope Innocent III, Stalin, Mussolini, Kim II Sung, Pol Pot, and others.
In a press release the gallery said that the “bullet-ridden” depiction of the pope is “a less than subtle expression of the hurt and anger directed at a pontiff and an institution that has abandoned its flock, choosing to focus on dogma while its subjects suffer and, in many instances, die from its archaic policies.”
On the other hand, the exhibition also includes a depiction of the “crucifixion of Obama,” casting the current U.S. president as “a victim, crucified in the wake of special and distorted interests,” according to the gallery.
“Mr. Por is deeply opposed to violence in any form,” Darrell Brown, president of the Bezpala Brown Gallery, told LifeSiteNews.com.
“His paintings are an attack on those he perceives as having failed or harmed humankind. His paintings may be shocking but they are meant to provoke an examination of what has transpired, not to promote hate or violence.”
Por’s intent, said Brown, was to depict the individuals, such as Hitler or Pol Pot, but also label them with just how many deaths were the result of their “exercises of power and oppression.”
“There is value in examining past wrongs.”
LifeSiteNews.com asked Brown specifically about Por’s image of Pope Benedict XVI, used in their advertisement for the exhibition. Brown appeared to back away from the gallery’s description of the painting as “bullet-ridden.”
“He painted holes,” said Brown, “he does not regard them as bullet holes - that was my view as to how it would be perceived too … by analogy, [they] suggest that this is a troubled institution. He was not in any way intending to incite hatred against an individual. He was intending to promote debate about the Church and its stance on certain issues.”
“If an art piece provokes debate and that debate includes such issues, then it is a worthwhile exercise to exhibit that art piece. The artist does not have an intense dislike for the Pope. He questions the legitimacy of the institution and its actions.”
When asked the gallery’s motivation for choosing to exhibit Por’s work, Brown said, “We chose to exhibit because, in essence, his intent was a noble one.”
“His exhibition shows we have not traveled very far. Centuries ago horrible things happened. Decades ago horrible things happened. Today, horrible things happen. He is merely showing that we have much more work to do to be an enlightened, non-violent society.”
To contact the gallery:
Mr. Darrell Brown, president
Bezpala Brown Gallery
17 Church Street
Toronto, ON M5E 1M2
Phone (416) 907-6875