Artwork: Rosie’s Tea Party
Artist: Mark Ryden.
About the Work:
Since the 90s, Mark Ryden has been hailed as the King of Pop-Surrealism for his work, a fascinating hybrid of high and lowbrow art that blends the traditional with the strange.
Key to Ryden’s definitive style is his inclusion of elements designed to evoke mystery; emblems of nostalgia the likes of which can be found haunting boxes in your grandparents’ attic.
“There are many symbolic meanings in my art that I myself am not necessarily conscious of. The most powerful meanings in art come from another source outside an artist’s own literal consciousness. To me, tapping into this world is the key to the making the most interesting art. Some people find my refusal to explain everything in my work deeply dissatisfying. They can’t stand mystery. They need to literalise it all and tie it up in a neat little package,” he says.
Though originally put to canvas in 2005, Rosie’s Tea Party has recently been evoking something beyond mystery: controversy.
When the piece appeared at a show presented by the Virginia Museum of Contemporary Art, it was denounced as “anti-Christian bigotry”, due to its depiction of a young girl (Ryden’s daughter) cutting ham which is marked Corpus Christi – the body of Christ. Opposite her, a toy animal pours wine – the blood of Christ – from a teapot.
Benito Loyola, a member of the Virginia Beach Arts and Humanities Commission, has threatened to withdraw funding from the museum as a result.
Great art forces its audience to react, and Rosie’s Tea Party does just that. To call it bigoted is to be reductive, and selfish.