Jan Leeroy New wins in Ateneo Art Awards 2009: mockery of Catholic iconography as modern art

Outside the Ateneo Art Gallery, perched on the second floor is a statue of an alien: a nude female Gollum with bald head, large eyes, and four breasts.  It is colored gray but the paint drips to the white rock where it stands–if rock it was–more like four rounded breasts lumped together.  It is grinning with malice. (picture here)

The artist is Jan Leeroy New who recently won the Ateneo Art Awards:

Three young artists were declared winners of the 2009 Ateneo Art Awards: The Next Wave during a well-attended ceremony at the Grand Atrium of the Shangri-la Plaza on Shaw Boulevard on August 13, 2009.

Now on its seventh year the Ateneo Art Awards has positioned itself as one of the most prestigious art prizes in the Philippine contemporary art scene. The three winners, who bested nine other finalists, are:

• Kiri Dalena for her exhibit Keeping the Faith at the Lopez Memorial Museum,
• Jan Leeroy New for Terratoma II (War of the Worlds) exhibited at Singapore Biennale 2008, Singapore City Hall, and
• Patricia Eustaquio for Death to the Major Viva Minor exhibited at Slab.

(Ateneo de Manila University website)

According to Philippine Star, “Jan Leeroy New’s sculptures are intergalactic aliens taking over the world, transforming sci-fi mythology into the here and now, welcoming us Earthlings into our own land, with our buildings, icons and landscapes made eerie and hyperreal.”

I found Leeroy New’s multiply site.  I saw the pictures of the sculptures.  Under the veneer of science fiction, it is the Catholic Faith they mock.

Take for example, the album “Santo-santohan” .  In Filipino, a doubling of the word sometimes mean an imitation or a play of the real thing.  Example, bahay-bahayan is to make a little house and pretend you are a mother cooking.  So Santo-santohan is a play on holy things.

  • Santo Nino is undressed.  The globe he is holding is gone.  (Copy of santo nino.jpg)
  • Christ is a nude female in cruciform position.  His legs are pink. (christ figure front.jpg)
  • The Sacred Heart of Jesus is a black man with red heart.  (black heart1.jpg)
  • A martyr is a smiling chopped-off head (Martyr1.jpg)

The album “Relief Works” has more parodies of the Sacred Heart.

There is also another album named “Santo-Santohan“:

  • The Blessed Sacrament in the Adoration chapel melts like candy.  The adorers are rolling heads (boston exhibit1.jpg)
  • Three figures of Mary stepping on the snake on a globe.  Mary is nude with breasts down to her legs.  (tresmarias.jpg)

In the album “Tampo+Lapuk” has some pictures of saints:

  • A bishop saint has no arms and head.  In place of its head is his gnarled mitre. (santos.jpg)
  • An antique statue of a bishop.  The wood is rotting.   (santos2.jpg)

These sculptures are not Catholic and they mock the Catholic Faith.  These art works should not be shown in a Catholic university such as the Ateneo de Manila University and even honored as work of art.  True art creates and edifies.  False art mocks.  Sam once asked Frodo: “Don’t orcs eat, and don’t they drink?  Or do they just live on foul air and poison?”  And Frodo replied:

No, they eat and drink, Sam.  The Shadow that bred them can only mock, it cannot make: not real new things of its own. Idon’t think it gave life to the orcs, it only ruined them and twisted them; and if they are to life at all, they have to live like other living creatures.  Foul waters and foul meats they’ll take, if they can get no better, but not poison.  They’ve fed me, and so I’m better off than you.  (Return of the King p. 201)


About Quirino M. Sugon Jr
Theoretical Physicist in Manila Observatory

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