The College of Cardinals elected an ultraconservative pope earlier this week under a ceiling replete with genitals, breasts and buttocks that apparently gave no offense.
Good thing Michelangelo painted his Sistine Chapel masterpieces in Rome and not Venice -- California, that is.
As Times staff writer Diane Haithman reported Saturday, a handful of Venice residents are up in arms over a statue that doesn't have any, a proposed nude female torso being donated to the city by artist Robert Graham and donor Roy Doumani. Though the statue, slated for installation in a popular traffic circle, has been approved by the Los Angeles City Council, residents have filed an appeal that could hold up the project for months or cancel it.
This is not the old Venice. Soaring property values have gentrified what used to be a funky, let-it-all-hang-out artists' enclave. Opponents of the statue, however, go beyond religious and social conservatives. There are also feminists in opposition, objecting to Graham's alleged objectification of the female form. The reaction probably has more to do with the artist than the artwork.
Graham is a controversial figure who has been accused of having a streak of misogyny. Some of his works show nude women -- svelte, young, unsmiling, in poses both unglamorous and gymnastic, some looking like they'd be equally at home in a men's magazine or a gynecological journal. Yet the same man created the graceful figure of the Virgin Mary on the entryway to the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in downtown Los Angeles. A depiction of the proposed metal torso shows it to be no more pornographic than the Venus de Milo.