When Paige Haringa erected her senior art thesis exhibition in the Art Library April 12, she wasn?t expecting the barrage of controversy that followed.
?In Body, In Blood,? which explores Haringa?s complex relationship with Christianity, has been attacked by members of the UR religious community as blasphemous and offensive.
?I am overwhelmed by religion?s hypocrisies, falsehoods and absurd spectrum of influence while feeling obligated to welcome it as fact and to accept is as a definition of ?who I am,?? she wrote in her abstract.
One piece, ?Virgin Pregnancy Test,? depicts the Virgin Mary praying against a stained glass window ? with a pregnancy test emerging beneath her. In ?Another Last Supper,? Haringa placed jars of vomit in front of the apostles in Vincent Van Gogh?s tapestry of the Last Supper. ?Christ Screwdriver Set? is just what it sounds like ? Christ figurines are the handles for a set of tools of assorted size.
?I am interested in the abundance of cheap Christian imagery, kitsch, that is available in mass quantities,? Haringa wrote. ?With Christian kitsch, one no longer needs to mirror their life in Christ?s example or fulfill Christian values to be identified as a ?good Christian? ? simply displaying His image in one?s home does the trick.?
But since the exhibit went up, Haringa says she has received numerous negative letters from members of the Christian community, including nuns.
University religious leaders submitted a letter to the Campus Times, signed by Hillel leaders Rabbi Ari Israel and Julie Allmayer, Protestant leaders The Rev. Greg Osterberg and Bishop Gregory Parris, Muslim leader Aasim Padela and religious director Jody Asbury.
Catholic chaplain Father Brian Cool could not be reached for comment.
?We find ourselves offended by the art exhibit called ?In Body, In Blood ? as it disparages a particular religious tradition,? they wrote. ?Many have felt personally insulted and demeaned by both the timing and message of this exhibit.?
The work went up on Good Friday ? a coincidence, Haringa says.
?I just got lucky with my spot,? she said.
Haringa?s display time ended Wednesday.
Senior Jason Espinosa, a member of the Newman Catholic Community, said he found the work heavily offensive.
Although Haringa?s abstract said she was exploring the impact Catholicism has had on her life?s values, Espinosa felt her work conveyed a more negative message.
?My biggest problem is that the message Paige wrote didn?t exactly tie well with the art she portrayed,? he said.
Haringa believes her work has been misunderstood.
?People had such a negative reaction that they didn?t have time to understand the actual work,? she said.
Professor of Studio Art Brian Goldfarb said Haringa was not attacking the religion or individuals.
?The work is a reflection on her own personal relationship to her Catholicism and religious belief, rather than an attack on Christianity per se. I think that works like the screwdrivers are motivated in large part by disillusionment with the commercialization of religious culture,? he said.
He emphasized the community?s freedom of expression.
?As an academic institution in a nation dedicated to freedom of religion and expression, it is important that we uphold artists? rights to present their views on such controversial issues.?
Additional reporting by Todd Hildebrandt.