Arts & Entertainment

Sculpture of Pope Francis dropping baby sparks controversy in Mexico

By Juan Manuel Ramirez

Mexico City, Aug 24 (EFE).- A triptych sculpture that shows a figure of Pope Francis deliberately letting a baby fall to the ground and laughing about what he has done has sparked controversy in Mexico.

“Chao tradicion” (Bye, Tradition) is the creation of Chilean artist Pablo Maire, who told Efe it is a critique of the Catholic Church and church leaders who perpetuate a “violent and anachronistic” model.

On display starting this week at the Aguafuerte Galeria in the Mexican capital’s Colonia Roma district, it is made up of three sections: one showing the pope holding a sleeping baby, a second in which he drops the child to the ground and a third in which the infant lies shattered while the pontiff laughs heartily.

A visual artist and poet born in Talca, Chile, in 1975, Maire has produced a body of work that includes sculptures, prints, paintings and photographs that have been exhibited in Venezuela, Peru, Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Mexico, Spain and the Czech Republic.

The Chilean artist said “Chao tradicion” was inspired by contemporary Chinese activist and artist Ai Weiwei’s “Dropping a Han Dynasty Urn.”

In that 1995 photographic artwork conceived as a form of protest against the Chinese government, three black-and-white photos document Ai holding, dropping and standing over the shattered remains of a 2,000-year-old ceremonial urn.

“He made that symbolic gesture of destroying Chinese tradition, and I … put this work in the Western context and imagined the Catholic tradition, which is a tradition that affects all of us in some way because we’re part of the Western world, especially when it comes to issues like pedophilia,” Maire said in an interview with Efe.

He cited as an example church corruption in Chile and recalled that a few years ago “pedophilia cases came to light (in his country) like never before and people became disaffected, at least with the Catholic institution, not with their faith.”

Maire also recalled that in stark contrast with Peru, where venues were packed with people, public events were “practically empty” when Pope Francis visited Chile.

But that doesn’t mean there are no pedophile priests in Peru or Mexico, he said, adding that he finds these cases “contemptible.”

Maire proposed his polyresin sculpture, which sits on a wooden base and measures 27 x 11 x 9 centimeters (10.6 x 4.2 x 3.5 inches), to Mexico’s Israel Alvarado, one of the few gallerists willing to present controversial and disruptive works of this kind.

In explaining the sculpture, the Chilean said the first figure shows “the pope holding a boy, who may also be Christ, and presents him as an offering to God; that’s why he’s looking upward. Later, in the second, he lets him fall. And in the third, (the child) is crushed and he laughs.”

“We know that all powerful institutions often fall from within and don’t need external factors to crumble,” the artist said.

He recalled being born during the 1973-1990 dictatorship of Gen. Augusto Pinochet and said that he was “deeply” affected by that reality.

“Especially because I have family members who were persecuted by the dictatorship, and I have works that not only have to do with religion but also with politics … because art and politics are closely linked from my perspective and when it comes to my work,” Maire said.

Alvarado, curator and director of Aguafuerte Galeria, said the sculpture, on display through Sept. 19 as part of an exhibition titled Quimicas Acidas (Acid Chemicals), “represents breaking with tradition” while also “speaking to problems like pedophilia and sexual abuse, problems the Church has faced.” EFE


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