Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The deep sadness of the swastika octopus

I have an art dilemma and I need input. Back in October, I went to the Look Alive project at Granby Theater - awesome time had by all, btw. One of the artists with work on display there had all these pictures that featured swastikas really, really heavily. Now, I took a world religions class; I know that in several eastern religions (most notably Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism), the swastika is a symbol of everything from good luck to eternity to the balance of opposites, but it's always a good thing. Obviously, that's not what most people on this side of the globe think of when they see one.
So I said to the artist, "Those are symbol-of-life swastikas, not Nazi swastikas, right?" He was totally thrilled - "You're like the first person who's actually gotten that!" he said. So long story short, he wound up giving me a little 5x7 painting:

That part on the bottom is what's painted around the edges of the canvas. So, you know, it's not exactly subtle.
So here's my dilemma: should I hang this in my house? Since October, I've had it sitting around, but haven't actually hung it. See, I know it's not a hate symbol in this context, but I'm worried that other people (all 3 or 4 people who come into my house in a year's time) will think I'm some kind of Neo-Nazi, plus it has become a symbol of so much pain and sorrow for so many people. Then again, I feel like I should display it because (1) it was a gift from the artist and he seemed genuinely happy that someone understood what he was going for, (2) apart from the swastika, I think the painting is cute, and (3) I don't think a group of hateful, murderous bigots should be able to own a millennia-old symbol of good. Which makes me wonder: can we take back the swastika? Or is it too marred by decades of evil from the third reich to the Aryan brotherhood? Oh art, you're so controversial.
By the way - if anyone knows the name of the artist, would you please post it in the comments? I can't remember, and the piece isn't signed, but I'd like to give the guy credit for his work.
- v -

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