Concerns with Anti-Christian Artwork

Been having a ongoing debate with an employee where I work, here is the gist of it...He sees an anti-christian artwork, and wants it taken off the campus, never to be seen again. The work is a woodblock on paper titled, The Shillelagh Tree[pictured above], by artist John Buck. I have had to remove so much art in the last two years from the walls, never to placed again, and I think, well I know, I've hit a wall with it, so exhasted of people projecting some idea outside the artwork, that I have drawn a line in the sand. Here is the ongoing email exchange that I'm embroiled in...


From: [unamed employee/offended by artwork]
Sent: Monday, August 21, 2006 3:48 PM
Harold Hollingsworth
Subject: FW: Concerns with Anti-Christian Artwork in Building [removed]

Sent: Monday, August 21, 2006 3:44 PM

Subject: Concerns with Anti-Christian Artwork in Building [removed]


While going to the [remove]rd floor in Building [removed], I noticed a very offensive painting in the stairwell. It's called "The Shillelagh Tree." It is overtly anti-Christian showing:

1) a Cross stuck in a pot of gold
2) a skeleton-face in an Irish hat, holding a scepter with a Cross at the top
3) Churches burning in the background

4) an "unhappy" human head with a Cross etched or painted on its forehead

5) a large Cross in among much smaller headstones in a cemetery, clearly not indicating a Christian cemetery

This is without question anti-Christian and extremely offensive. I strongly suggest it be removed and not displayed elsewhere.

Would [company name removed] find it more acceptable to have a Star of David in place of the Cross, or possibly any number of Islamic religious symbols, with Synagogues and Mosques burning in the background? I'm sure not. So why would [company we work for name removed] find it somehow acceptable to denigrate Christian religious symbols?

The time I spent writing this email was not charged to [company name removed] - strictly on my own time.


[name removed]

From: Harold Hollingsworth
Sent: Wednesday, August 23, 2006 3:10 PM
To: [employee name removed/employee offended]
Subject: RE: Concerns with Anti-Christian Artwork in Building [removed]

Named after a village in Ireland, the Shillelagh is a short club (approximately 20-24") that was carried as a defense against muggers and thieves in days of olde. Also known as a Cudgel and still very popular today, they are kept in homes and cars throughout Ireland for the same purpose. On rare occasions while searching for Walking Sticks, Staffs, or Canes, and using a very keen eye, Behold! A Shillelagh.

John Buck's work is about all things Irish, not anit-christian. The Shillelagh Tree is a tree by which all walks of faith reach for a branch and create a cane, for walking. What you see as a church burning is actually a chuch illuminated, celebrated, and the pot of gold is as Irish as it gets, and the cross is a tie in to both Irish Catholic faith being tied to Irish folk culture The evil character that you see with the cross on his forehead is often noted as a reference to resitence images used thru the years in the north to the rule of the English in the Territories to the north The other charactor is just wearing a common Irish Stove top hat. This is so far from anti Christian, it is inspired by Irish folklore, so get your facts straight, and don't be afraid of the art collection. There are no anti Christian, muslim, or Jewish works in the collection, and I should know, I've worked with the collection for three years now.

Harold Hollingsworth

-----Original Message-----
From:[offended employee]
Sent: Wed 8/23/2006 3:49 PM
To: Harold Hollingsworth
Subject: RE: Concerns with Anti-Christian Artwork in Building [removed]

Hello Harold,

I still have aunts, uncles and cousins in Ireland. So I'm somewhat familiar with Ireland. [family last name/something Irish] is an Irish name, related to several other families in Southern Ireland. Some of my relatives a couple generations ago ran guns. So I know a bit about it.

The Shillelagh is not what is shown in the "artwork," nor is it a walking stick. The "artwork" depicts a staff, and not just a staff, but a staff with a Cross at its top. I'm sure you've seen the Pope carry his staff which looks "oddly" very similar.

The Cross in the cemetery is clearly being shown as another tomb stone, not representing the cemetery as a Christian cemetery in anyway.

Where you got "The Shillelagh Tree is a tree by which all walks of faith ..." I have absolutely no idea. No other faiths - zero - are depicted, other than Christian.

As for "illuminated" Churches - based on viewing the entire "piece of art" that is completely unlikely.

The "character" as you call it wearing the Irish hat is a skeleton. The "artist" picked a skeleton for a reason. It depicts death - not joy, life, celebration or happiness. It is not some joy filled character as you are alluding to.

Placing a Cross in the pot of gold is not "Irish." It's offensive, extremely offensive, and denigrates all the Cross stands for.

Replace the Churches with Synagogues and with Mosques, and replace the Crosses with the Star of David and with any Islamic symbol you like - then proudly display that and see how it is responded to.


[name removed/offended employee]

-----Original Message-----
From: Harold Hollingsworth
Sent: Wednesday, August 23, 2006 5:40 PM
To: [unamed employee/offended by art by John Buck]
Subject: RE: Concerns with Anti-Christian Artwork in Building [removed]

[named removed/offended employee]

Always enjoyable to have a heated and passionate exchange on the art in the collection. A broadening of ones ability to see things differently makes this campus a wonderful place to work, sometimes challenging. I see it, and probably others as well, a bit differently. The collection is a challenging thing at times, and just because you see it the way you do, doesn't mean it's evil, and should be hidden from view, is that really a solution? Is that the American or [unamed company] way? Do I, or others see the art collection as you, probably not? I have followed John Buck's career for sometime, He lives in Montana with his wife and fellow artist Deborah Butterfield, a very talented scuplture artist in her own right. Here is a few links to other works by him, take a look for just a second, and see if you get a bit of where he is coming from...

I just hope you take a moment to think a bit outside the box, look from a different perspective, it's how we here at [unamed company] have been so successful with what we do and how we do it. I apologise if I was passionate, and defensive in my response, but I react out of love for this collection of art that we here at [unamed company] have spent years putting together. I hope you take all this in, and really think about what you are saying.

Harold Hollingsworth
Art Preparator

-----Original Message-----
From: [offended employee]
Sent: Wed 8/23/2006 6:12 PM
To: Harold Hollingsworth
Subject: RE: Concerns with Anti-Christian Artwork in Building [removed]


Your view of the "art" is yours and yours alone. Majority rule doesn't apply - "I see it, and probably others as well ..." Art is individual. This artist found it necessary to misuse and clearly abuse a key Christian religious symbol - the Holy Cross. I did not call it evil as you suggested. I call it blatantly abusive and derisive. Meaningless but for the ill will and pain it is meant to cause.

Note he does not use a Crucifix which would denote the Catholic faith. He repeatedly uses a Cross denoting all Christians, which includes Catholics.

[name removed/offended employee]

Dear [name removed/offended employee]

I would say the same, it's your view, and yours alone. The artist did nothing that is abusive, and just because you see it as a christian symbol that is being abused, another can say it is a tie in to both catholic/christian and Irish heritage. I say it isn't blatantly abusive and not derisive, and to conote it as meaningless but for ill will, again is your, and your view alone, as you are the only one I'm currently chatting about this with. People, artists, and writers have for years used symbols as a part of their works. Again, stating something as evil is a big jump, you better know your facts, and be prepared to back them up, and part of that is knowing what the artists intent is, and in this case, it ain't anti-christian, and certainly is not created to cause pain. John Buck is a great American, and International artist, sweet, caring, and a very pleasurable person. We have over 4500 artworks from artists of national, and international talent in the collection, if one wants, one can see and place their own meanings and interpretations on every single work in the collection. Causing pain is not this works intention, it's more in line with Mexican Day of the Dead folklore than that of Anti-christian sentiments, so again, Fear No Art! Pain is trying to get caught up with [removed competing company]and taking back market share from [another competing company]. This piece is inspired and rooted in Irish Folklore, and perhaps some semblence of play with those symbols, nothing more, nothing less.



The sketchbooks are rad.
The offended person needs to unclench
more than a little.
fuck 'em.
my opinion anyway, and those
things are like assholes.
everybody has one.
Lisa Lisa said…
Your crusade to enlighten people about art is commendable... but unfortunately most people don't change easily so I wouldn't get my hopes up. I don't think this is a battle worth fighting with this guy.
well, I won, the employee is only working as a vender, and only for 5 more days. The director of the collection met with him, and he was expressing his concerns for the next set of people that would be entering the building after he and some other staffers leave. She decided to keep the work in place. Chalk one up for the defense!
Lisa Lisa said…
Congratulations on the victory!
Score = Art 1: Dimwit 0
Joey Veltkamp said…
Jesus - how tiresome. I'm so tired of people and their manufactured outrage! You were much kinder than I would have been.