David Wojnarowicz’s A Fire in My Belly sparked controversy earlier this month when the short film, routinely criticized by religious groups as being blasphemous because of a segment that depicts ants crawling over a crucifix, was included in the Hide/Seek exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum. The museum refused to remove the piece from the exhibit following protests. In retaliation, Staten Island-based artist Scott LoBaido painted a fairly unflattering portrait of museum director Arnold Lehman.
The painting, which features a nude Lehman sitting on the edge of an overflowing toilet, now hangs in Staten Island Borough Hall, outside the office of Borough President James P. Molinaro’s office. Molinaro tells the Village Voice that he’s a friend and fan of LoBaido, and feels that the painting is "very fitting for this office."
"I agree with the painting that it’s a beautiful piece of art. I don’t have to go beyond that any more than they have to go beyond what they have done," he said. ("They" meaning the Brooklyn Museum.)
But with a little prodding, Molinaro did go beyond: "I was more than offended," he said. The Brooklyn Museum’s decision to display the video was "an act of blasphemy to the Christian population. The artist has a perfect right to do that. But museums such as the Brooklyn Museum should not have accepted it," he said.
The portrait hangs in Molinaro’s waiting room, so Staten Island locals who have issues to raise with the borough president and amateur art critic will have delightful and charming artwork to avoid looking at as they pretend to read month-old issues of Newsweek.