Thursday, April 12, 2007

Calhoun’s Cannons,The Bay News, Morro Bay CA for April 11, 07

Sweet Irony

As a headline, it was hard to beat. There in the March 31 Tribune, from a New York Daily News story, “’My Sweet Lord’ chocolate Jesus outrages Catholics.”

Artist “Cosimo Cavallaro’s anatomically correct Jesus, titled ‘My Sweet Lord’ was made from almost 200 pounds of dark chocolate. The sculpture was to be displayed in a street-level window at the Roger Smith Hotel’s Lab Gallery starting Monday.”

A life-sized, naked, “anatomically correct” crucified chocolate Christ hanging in a hotel window at the start of Easter Week naturally enough engendered a protest. “It’s an all-out war on Christianity,” fumed Bill Donohue, president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights. “They wouldn’t’ show a depiction of Martin Luther king Jr. with genitals exposed on Martin Luther King Day, and they wouldn’t show Mohammed depicted this way during Ramadan. It’s always Christians, and the timing is deliberate.”

Well, what can you expect from an artist who’s “ . . . best known for slathering both a Hell’s Kitchen hotel room and model Twiggy with melted cheese . . . ?” A check of his website ( shows an artist well versed in creating a variety of startling artworks out of ham, candy and rubber, so Artist-as-Provocateur should be assumed.

And putting aside Mr. Donohue’s wish to play the minority victim card as a persecuted “Christian” in one of the most Christianized nations on earth, what was interesting to me was that he apparently didn’t object to the deeper weirdness of chocolate and crucifixion, but did object to the nudity. Alas, such a complaint is quaintly 500 hundred years too late. Michelangelo beat Mr. Cavallaro to the punch when he painted his Sistine Chapel’s monumental masterpiece, “The Last Judgment,” so loaded with shocking, anatomically correct nudity that Cardinal Carafa later hired a hack with a brush, now forever known as Il Braghettone (The breeches-painter), to come in and paint over the offending parts.

Thus the uneasy artistic battle ever since, with the body of Jesus being portrayed in myriad ways throughout history -- from the stiff iconic figures of Byzantium, to the nearly nude, ripped-muscle writhing of the Baroque period, to the strange marriage of Spanish Counter Reformation and Mesoamerican images, with their eerie focus on blood and gore, to the total disappearance of the figure altogether in the protestant shift away from the “Popish idolatry” of “graven images,” which often led to an empty cross in a bare chapel.

And through the ages every medium has been used in Jesus’ depiction: paint, wood, stone, clay, glass, textiles, straw, you name it. But with chocolate as the medium and crucifixion as the subject, we do end up with a particularly dissonant pairing of sinful edible delight and appalling holy suffering.

On the other hand, the pairing of food and Christian icons is nothing new either. If you go to Chocolate Fantasies at you can order 3 oz. chocolate heads of Jesus or Mary (in profile with halo) for $5.50 each, in a cello bag with ribbon, with the creepiness here being the same as for animal crackers: Where do you bite first?

And Lord knows, for years images of Jesus and Mary have been appearing on a wide variety of comestibles from toasted cheese sandwiches to tortillas, followed by an appearance of a photograph of the latest venerated miraculous food item on The Dave Letterman Show, accompanied by snorting laughter from the incredulous unfaithful.

Yet this pairing of Food & Faith does have a deep connection with the Catholic, Eastern Orthodox and some Protestant sects’ dogma concerning the miracle of transubstantiation, wherein communion “bread” and “wine” become the body and blood of Christ and are ingested by the faithful.

Eat this in remembrance of me, said Jesus at the Last Supper. And for centuries, believers did as instructed, although the idea of transubstantiation was a belief that many European missionaries and priests had a difficult time explaining to various indigenous people they were trying to convert, since many of their erstwhile converts thought that these pale-faced, black-robed strangers were simply terrifying cannibals who daily “ate their God.”

And now we have a new Hershey Heresy, a sadistic gourmand’s delight: A 200 pound Candy Crucifix -- Death by Chocolate. Yum-yum. Eeeuuuuuwwww.

Well, to the God of Small Things, I can only offer thanks that at least the artist didn’t choose to use Cheese Whiz.


Anonymous said...

I'm a tad confused by this whole "controversy." Growing up,after mass each sunday, a group of us kids used to go to the local candy store and buy, well, some chocolate Jesus. (My friend Danny Fanari used to treat, since on many occasions, when the collecton basket came around, he had a rather magical skill of taking some change out while appearing to put some in, but that's another story). Evidently we were not alone, since Tom Waits even wrote a song about it. I humbly post the song here. And thanks for the article Ann.

Tom Waits

Dont go to church on sunday
Dont get on my knees to pray
Dont memorize the books of the bible
I got my own special way
But I know jesus loves me
Maybe just a little bit more
I fall on my knees every sunday
At zerelda lees candy store

Well its got to be a chocolate jesus
Make me feel good inside
Got to be a chocolate jesus
Keep me satisfied

Well I dont want no anna zabba
Dont want no almond joy
There aint nothing better
Suitable for this boy
Well its the only thing
That can pick me up
Better than a cup of gold
See only a chocolate jesus
Can satisfy my soul

When the weather gets rough
And its whiskey in the shade
Its best to wrap your savior
Up in cellophane
He flows like the big muddy
But thats ok
Pour him over ice cream
For a nice parfait

Well its got to be a chocolate jesus
Good enough for me
Got to be a chocolate jesus
Good enough for me

Well its got to be a chocolate jesus
Make me feel good inside
Got to be a chocolate jesus
Keep me satisfied

Anonymous said...

Religion is for people that can't handle drugs.

Lili Thomlin.

Anonymous said...

And nearly TWO WEEKS later, ANN CALHOUN, *Star* reporter of Los Osos, discovers this news item!

WOW, Ann, what SCOOPS will you come up with NEXT???????

Mike Green said...

Well evidently that recent studies and evidence indicates that the people of Los Osos don't know the difference between REPORTER and COMMENTATOR

Sheesh, some folks really are thickies.

A poignant article Ann, especially with the demise of one of the best. RIP K. Vonnegut.

Churadogs said...

Mike Green Sez:"A poignant article Ann, especially with the demise of one of the best. RIP K. Vonnegut."

Amen. Amen. RIP, indeed. Poo-Tweee-Tweet!

Anonymous sez:" I'm a tad confused by this whole "controversy." Growing up,after mass each sunday, a group of us kids used to go to the local candy store and buy, well, some chocolate Jesus. "

Slow news day, perhaps. The pictures of the sculpture itself shows an amazingly lifelike figure. I found creepy the conjunction of chocolate and a crucified human a bit weird, but . . . and as you pointed out as a kid you'd go get chocolate Jesus'. Very strange. But pretty funny.

As for "thickies" confusing "news reporter" from "opinion columnist," alas, that happens a lot, I'm afraid.

Anonymous said...

Kurt Vonnegut was my obsession after my Steinbeck phase. I rarely read anymore and I miss the luxurious days of passing hours and my nose in the books that ultimately helped define me.
Tonight, I'll toast the good reads he gave us and graciously breath.
Maria M. Kelly

Churadogs said...

Maria sez:"Kurt Vonnegut was my obsession after my Steinbeck phase."

Nice write up in the L.A. Times yesterday where the author notes that for him, there was his life BEFORE Vonnegut and then his ife AFTER Vonnegut. I think Vonnegut's one of those authors in our collective canon that are critical for a certain age group. Like "Catcher in the Rye," really needs to be read in the teen years for maximum effect. Ditto for "Cat's Cradle" for the later years when the apalling lunacy of the world begins to soak in and there is Vonnegut with his savage black humor and vivid images -- i.e. the doctor in "Cat's Cradle" who stands gazing fondly over a vast abatoir's worth of dying humanity to heartilly clap his son on the back and wave his hands around and say, "Someday, Son, this will all be yours!" An image both hilarious and horrifyingly true, since, as Becektt puts in in "Waitng for Godot," ". . we are born astride a grave."

And who can beat, "We are what we pretend to be so we must be careful about what we pretend do be." (Mother Night, 1962)

Perception is reality, indeed.

Anonymous said...

Those are all to deep for me. That's why I read "Spenser For Hire"
Sincerely, M