Home » Featured, Island Life

Island Arts: I’m with stupid

Submitted by on 1, April 21, 2011 – 1:14 pm6 Comments
Scott Siedman, Only Human, 2010. Oil on canvas. Photo by Michael Singman-Aste.


By Michael Singman-Aste

Timed to coincide with the 33rd annual Saint Stupid’s Day Parade in San Francisco on April 1, “an extension of the medieval European tradition of the Feast of Fools, a public social satire on the powers that be,”  Rhythmix Cultural Works’ K Gallery presents St. Stupid’s Art Show, guest-curated by Ed Holmes, aka Bishop Joey of the First Church of the Last Laugh, the parade’s founder.

Paul Mavrides, Untitled (Ernie Bushmiller’s Nancy with a Single Eye), 2011. Ink on archival paper. Photo by Michael Singman-Aste.

Including the likes of Harry S. (“Dr. Hal”) Robins, Philo Drummond, Puzzling Evidence, and Paul Mavrides — all founders of the Church of the SubGenius — St. Stupid’s Art Show boasts serious counterculture star power, and K Gallery continues to expand the credibility of Alameda’s art scene.

The Church of the SubGenius is widely considered a “parody religion,” not “anti-God” but condemning through satire the perceived commercialization of spirituality by organized religion. Defenders of Andres Serrano make similar arguments in support of his controversial photo “Piss Christ,” an image of a plastic crucifix ostensibly submerged in the artist’s urine. This week “Piss Christ” was vandalized beyond repair at a museum in Avignon, France. Its destruction underscores the power of artistic images and makes the exhibit at K Gallery that much more timely.

Much of the work in Saint Stupid’s Art Show mocks how evolved we humans think we are. In his remarkable oil painting “Only Human,” Scott Siedman spoofs the beatific saint as an ape proffering the image of Saint Stupid, its eyes rolled towards heaven with an expression that clearly reads “oy vey!”

Jim Erickson, Mayan Keyboard. Acrylic paint on carved plastic. Photo by Michael Singman-Aste.

Every civilization believes that they have reached the pinnacle of cultural evolution. The brilliant anachronism of Jim Erickson’s “Mayan keyboard artwork invites the viewer to consider how stupid we are to think that our current civilization is so advanced.”

“If you meet St. Stupid in the road, break the mirror.” – From Sayings of Saint Stupid

Whether humans evolved or were created, we are far from perfect. Jos Sances takes a swipe at Creationism in his three-foot high, sculpted ceramic tile diptych of Adam and Eve. Elements include the cover of “The Five Thousand Year Leap” by conservative writer Cleon Skousen which argues, among other things, that “without religion the government of a free people cannot be maintained,” portraits of conservative pundit Glenn Beck and the late Anna Nicole Smith with her octogenarian husband, and a robed figure riding a dinosaur.

Jos Sances, “Adam” and “Eve” diptych. Sculpted ceramic tiles. Photo by Michael Singman-Aste.

Paul Mavrides, a Church of the SubGenius founder and well-known cartoonist, contributes his take on the eponymous Nancy from the comic strip by Ernie Bushmiller. “Zippy the Pinhead” cartoonist Bill Griffith wrote that in Bushmiller’s reality, “The world as we know it has been reduced to its essentials.” Mavrides takes this a step further, presenting Nancy with her face featureless except for one large eye.

Mavrides had also created another image of a three-fisted Nancy with five feet and multiple sets of triple eyes floating off to the horizon in which she laments, “There’s nothing left to be modernized.” Along with this cyclopean Nancy it pokes fun at how thoroughly modern we take ourselves to be, while showing the folly of change for the sake of change, of fixing what isn’t broken.

Sometimes obscuring the message in ambiguity is the ideal method for transmission, a form of artistic steganography. Other times subtlety must be abandoned, the would-be recipients beaten over the head, to make sure they get it.

d’Arci Bruno, Love American Style. Acrylic on canvas. Photo by Michael Singman-Aste.

There’s nothing subtle about “Love American Style,” the acrylic painting by K Gallery Director d’Arci Bruno; It’s all shock and awe. Eyes pop cartoon-style from the sockets of a skull at the allure of oil (ah-OO-gah!), phallic missiles seek their targets, and the bone-littered battlefield is already staked out as a future site for Walmart, Home Depot, and Target. Factor in the skull’s helmet with its crucifix flag insignia and Bruno has neatly captured the military-industrial complex, war for oil, and killing in the name of religion on one canvas.

Nothing is sacred, or at least off-limits in “Saint Stupid’s Art Show,” so come with an open mind.

The exhibit also includes work by Blake Moore, Spy Emerson, Jim Hair, Art Hazelwood, William Binzen, Ann Ominous, John Wehrle, Marc Ribaud, Pons Maar, Al Honig, Freddy Hahne (aka AreWeReally?), Julian Kenji Carreiro, and Janet Koike.

St. Stupid’s Art Show runs through April 30. Rhythmix Cultural Works is located at 2513 Blanding Avenue. The gallery is open 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Wednesdays and second Fridays, or call 865-5060 to schedule an appointment.


  • A. C. Catholic says:

    Leave it to Michele Ellson to thoughtlessly insult the religious sensibilities of readers who reverence the BVM by printing the tastless lampoon of her, above. I’ll say a Rosary for you. Meanwhile, TAKE IT DOWN! I’m sure you can advertise the gallery exhibit w/o being so offensive.

    • Tracy says:

      It is one of many items in the exhibit. Advertising is only successful if it brings in consumers. I enjoyed the exhibit, but if this does not appeal to you, then Michelle’s “advertising” as you call it, was simply not for you. It’s probably best if you do not attend and do not read the article. Leave it for those of us who do enjoy art that questions and challenges various establishments, be they political or religious.

    • X Catholic says:

      I believe the above image is of Veronica (face on the veil) and not the BVM. Odd that a religious historian of A. C. Catholic’s repute can’t tell them apart….

      • a.c.catholic says:

        Well, “X”, it could be Veronica, altho the drawing on the veil doesn’t look much like the Holy Face. But the BVM is usually portrayed exclusively in art wearing red, white, & blue (e.g. G.B.Salvi’s:The Virgin at Prayer). Ever notice that? Other women wear other colors. Since this attempt @ humor is so lame, it’s probably a mixed metaphor. I don’t claim to be a religious historian & I guess you aren’t an art historian.
        This prompted me to open my copies of “The Book of the Sub-Genius” & “Revelation X”, both by “St Paul”– Mavrides & friends. They hilariously mock the extremes of most religions, w/o being pointedly offensive to 1. As y’all have shown, anti-Catholicism is the last acceptable prejudice. But Ellson has the hypocritical nerve to say “Be nice. Keep it clean”! Practice what you preach.

  • John says:

    Er, it took centuries of railing against Catholic censorship after 1517 for Europeans and later Americans to be able to publish art that moved on from Jesus’ naked body, in a free society where all views are expressed. Unlike you, I found this art hilarious and joyous. Hosanna say I…And I can think of few things as insulting as ‘having a Rosary said for me.’ Would you like a fellow Alamedan to pray to Allah for you A C?? I suggest you read some Voltaire…welcome to the 18th century and an open civil society with a pluralism of views. :-)

  • a.c. catholic says:

    My, my..here come the indignant self-righteous yokels..who also flunked European history. Or did you have a bad experience in Catholic school? Why should I mind if someone prays to Allah for me? I need all the prayers I can get–don’t you? If you’re insulted by the Rosary, I gather you hate the Lord’s Prayer & the biblical verses that make up the Ave Maria & Gloria Patri. Way to go, genius. You must think the world revolves around you. That “art” only offends 1.2 billion people (number of Catholics in the world). FYI:I own a copy of “the Church of the SubGenius” (BOB)I am a qualified fan of Paul Mavrides (LIES). Not everything he does is this bad.

Leave a comment!

Add your comment below, or trackback from your own site. You can also subscribe to these comments via RSS.

Be nice. Keep it clean. Stay on topic. No spam.

You can use these tags:
<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

This is a Gravatar-enabled weblog. To get your own globally-recognized-avatar, please register at Gravatar.