The controversy surrounding the artist Rob Cancer's depiction of what many conservative Christians have protested as the Virgin Mary fellating Christ took a bizarre turn this week, when CONSTRUCT GalleryArtSpaceBlackBox, where the painting has been on display, noticed a substance that appeared to be blood forming around the area of the Virgin's eyes -- a phenomenon which the Archdiocese of Denver today announced it couldn't rule out as a miracle. The painting, entitled "Benedictrix/Coronation #37," wouldn't be the first artistic depiction of the Virgin Mary claimed to be weeping blood or other like substances, but it is highly unusual for the Church to acknowledge such claims -- a situation made that much more unusual by the nature of the art in question.
"I just noticed there was some kind of moisture on the painting," said Deborah Boxer, gallery owner and curator of the exhibit, Flash: Reflections on the Profane and the Protected, an examination of religious iconography that also features a series of patron saint figurines fashioned from owl pellets and saliva by Timothy Brak. "I went to wipe it off, and I though, 'man, that really looks like blood."
The next day, it happened again -- this time more pronounced -- and after calling the artist and confirming it wasn't an intentional effect, Boxer, who says she grew up Catholic, called up the Archdiocese. "Initially, they refused," she related. So then she started calling the media.
After a number of news organizations picked up the story, the small crowd of Christian protesters of the exhibit gathered outside the gallery quickly swelled into a larger crowd of what seemed to be Christian pilgrims, come to see the miracle for themselves. "I don't understand it," one man who identified himself as a devout Catholic told reporters on Tuesday. "It seems to desecrate our Lord, and I was thinking about trying to smash it like that one lady did in Loveland with the other Jesus fellatio thing. But then I saw the tears of blood, and I thought, would I be smashing the Lord or something? It's all very confusing, but I'm pretty sure I'm maybe supposed to worship it now."
For the artist, though, worship was never part of the intention. "With this piece, I really wanted to provoke a mood of sustained incredulity, conjuring multiple paradigms of abstract dissonance within the framework of ascetic traditions and modes of thought," he said in a press release, adding, "the crying blood thing, yeah, that's weird, right?"
The Archdiocese, meanwhile, has refrained from confirming or denying the miracle, saying it's a matter for the Vatican to decide; however, said Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, the matter is still up in the air. "By all rights, I have to admit it appears to be the real thing," he told reporters. "But, man, this is just... I've got to tell you, I don't really know how to react to this."
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Many members of the diocese, however, have reacted positively, coming out to the gallery en masse to pay respects to what they now see as an earthly representation of the divine. The artistic community, too, has praised the new development, with Boxer intimating that she sees the weeping painting as a boon to the gallery, and Brak, Cancer's fellow exhibitor, commenting that "I wish I could make my stuff weep blood -- that shit's crazy."
It's an unlikely scenario in any case, but perhaps the unlikeliest thing about it is that a blood-weeping painting of the Virgin Mary giving Christ a blow-job has proven to be one thing that everybody, apparently, can agree on.