Monday, December 31, 2007

Art Conrad and His God


Years and years ago, there was a thriving Christmas light display in Chino, California, where several streets were closed to traffic so that crowds could wander from house to house and look at the lights on 99% of the houses in the area. The one house that stuck in my mind had a picture on the garage of Santa Claus kneeling down and praying in front of the Christ child.

Braincell Soup links to a New York Daily News article about a different kind of Santa display:

If you've stood in one line too many at the mall as you watched your bank account dwindle and your credit debt rise this holiday season, you might find a kindred spirit in Art Conrad.

The Bremerton, Wash., resident is fed up with the commercial aspects of Christmas, and he's voicing his protest in the form of some unorthodox holiday decorating: Santa on the cross.

Conrad has nailed jolly old St. Nick to a 15-foot crucifix in front of his home.

But rampant consumerism isn't the only thing that concerns Conrad.

While some might be offended by the display, that's part of the plan. Conrad says he's also making a comment on political correctness and people's fears of saying what they really think.

The Writing Life II links to another article (this one from the Seattle Times), indicating that some people have no fear of saying what they really think.

It's not so much the Santa impaled on the cross in front of Art Conrad's Bremerton home, it's the headless Santa that sings carols on his front porch that has neighbors crying humbug.

"It's horrible and gruesome," said Vickie Marquina, who lives near Conrad on Olympic Avenue. "It's offensive, and Santa with no head is just horrid."

Turns out that Conrad took the Santa head from the front porch and put it on the Santa on the cross, but still left the headless Santa on the front porch. And no, Conrad doesn't think of himself as the successor to Washington Irving; he compares himself to a more recent artist:

Will this become an annual tradition for Conrad? Not likely, he said.

"Like [environmental sculptor] Christo, once you do an installation you don't do it again. This is my year for this. I don't see the need to do it again."

However, it's more interesting to notice what people AREN'T protesting. People are all worked up about Santa Claus, but don't really care about how the cross is represented or misrepresented.

Art Conrad's protest shows how much he worships Santa Claus himself. Here's how the Onion satirized Santa worship in 1996:

I'm not God. But I'm better than God. I'm jollier, and I give you real toys, not boring old psalms and empty promises you can only collect on when you die. Worship me, not him! Worship Santa! I am God!

At least the Onion recognized that this wasn't a proper view. And RowenasCoffin went further, thinking that Santa may actually be (do your best Dana Carvey impression here):

I began to muse on the many similarities between Santa Claus and the Devil....

First there are the names. Obvious, I know, but Santa and Satan? Auld Nick and Saint Nick? Light Bringer and Gift Bringer? Okay, maybe those last two are a bit far fetched, but I thought it should be mentioned.

Secondly, they both have a penchant for dressing in red. Oh, sometimes you’ll see Santa in blue or even green, but always he returns to the red like someone told him it was slimming. Co-incidence? I think not.

Lastly, what better way of taking over the baby Jesus’ birthday than to get millions of children to worship you? Ask any small child what Christmas is about and they’ll usually tell you; ‘Presents.’

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