I am not a person to be easily offended, especially by artistic creations. Some might say I am not sensitive enough. But a recent situation made me wonder what people think about potentially offensive miniatures.
So how did I come to think about this subject?
Virgin Vengine Mary
It was like several weeks ago that I was working on updating and moving our website, transferring all the content, etc., when my attention was caught by a discussion on one miniature created by our friend and former team-member, Demi_morgana. I paused for a moment, saw this thing:
The model depicts some kind of a semi-cybernetic monster, called “Vengine Mary”. The reference seems to be pretty obvious, and can make the model feel uncomfortable for some…
Regardless of the reason, some people felt the model crossed the line of good/bad taste.
Some may mind the religious reference, some may dislike the deformed naked body of an apparently pregnant female, especially when you add all the mechanical parts to it. Or maybe what seems to be a dead foetus on the base… Regardless of the reason, be it for offense of religious feelings or for one’s respect for pregnant females, some people felt the model crossed the line of good/bad taste.
But wait, isn’t the line something that artistic creations tend to cross or at least push a bit? Shouldn’t be already be used to provocative aspect of some art forms?
Not only miniatures cross the line!
Sure, we already accepted (or at least acknowledged) the fact that artists sometimes shock, provoke or attempt to push us from our comfort zone with their creations. If it broadens our minds or makes us think about new concepts or assume new points of view, we may say it serves some purpose.
Believe it or not, but this painting was so shocking at its time, that the Spanish Inquisition wanted to punish the author of works “so indecent and prejudicial to the public good”.Sometimes it’s done only to shock people though, just to attract attention, which would otherwise be beyond the artist’s reach. Now what do we think about it? Isn’t it a bit low, despicable?
It depicts a small plastic crucifix submerged in a glass of the artist’s urine. Artistic value or just a shocker?And while we already acknowledge that shocking is a part of artistic licence, or maybe even has been an inherent part of art as such from its very beginning (even ancient artists sometimes used the shock factor to achieve the catharsis for their audience), we also experience it in creative activities which haven’t yet earned the honor of being considered art.
Isn’t shocking just to attract attention a bit low, despicable?
To bring one well-known reference, which many of you may be familiar with, let me use an example from Spec Ops: The Line, a video game loosely inspired by J. Conrad’s “Heart of Darkness” and F. Coppola’s “Apocalypse Now”. I am referring to it because of this particular image:
And then this one:
Just like painted miniatures, video games are not widely considered art. Does it lower our tolerance for crossing the line of good and bad taste?
You surely see that it touches a nearly identical subject as Demi’s “Vengine Mary”. No, it’s not the best example maybe, as I think the reference here is a bit forced and cheap. Of course, there are thousands of more shocking creations in other artistic media, like film, literature or visual arts. I picked a video game for the very reason that – just like painted miniatures, they’re still not widely considered art.
Does it make our tolerance for shock and crossing the line between good and bad taste lower than in case of acknowledged art forms?
If it wasn’t for artists pushing the limits and opening our minds to new styles and perspectives, where would we be?
While many people would say that painting (and creating) miniatures is just a hobby, a craft, and has nothing to do with art, after seeing some creations of miniature artists from the last few years I disagree. Miniatures used to be toys, but now they often carry as much creative and thought-provoking load, that I feel they crossed the boundary and now they can hardly be considered merely toys any more. Of course, I am not trying to generalize, some miniatures are only fun, but so are some books, paintings or films. Yet some are something more. They’re more than a display of technical mastery, they move us on the emotional and aesthetic levels.
But does it give them the right to shock? And is every kind of shock good, or can it be only offensive without the positive value?
Just move a few paragraphs up, to the Maja painting by Goya. If it wasn’t for artists pushing the limits and opening our minds to new styles and perspectives, where would we be?
Examples of offensive miniatures
Now that we discussed the subject in general, let’s move to some more miniatures-oriented part of the post.
I am sure most of you still remember the Wet Nurse from Kingdom Death, right.
It’s obviously a shocker, no way to deny it. Of course it remains faithful to the overall imagery and style of Kingdom Death, and these a love-it-or-hate-it thing, difficult to remain indifferent to.
I remember this one often coming up in discussions about the best and worse miniatures ever. Some may like it, some may say it’s a bad sculpt or a bad concept maybe… But is it offensive?
Well, then somebody brought up this photo:
Wait, isn’t this “thing” raping the woman? Even if it’s not what the artist intended, the overall form and context suggesting it? Well, it seems at least to some people it did…
Using a depiction of rape, or even suggesting it, just for its shock value, is not in good taste.
And one thing we can be sure of – using a depiction of rape, even if it’s only suggesting it, just for its shock value, is not in good taste.
Of course, many may disagree about what is done to the woman next to the monster. I am not sure what is going on there, but I suspect that the idea was to create something shocking, as it would surely attract attention to the new range of miniatures. Was it a good marketing decision?
There are more miniatures in the Kingdom Death range, which could make some people feel uncomfortable, uneasy or offended. I am not going to show all of them, as you can explore the subject, too. Let me show just two more:
Some people are easily offended by mutated babies. Are you?
Weren’t these Kingdom Death models just a perfect depiction of what some may consider offensive miniatures? And if you like them, well, consider it free advertisement for the Kingdom Death range. 🙂
But generally, why are these models so controversial?
Offensive or just controversial?
I guess it comes down to everybody’s individual sensitivity and tolerance. Some people can take more, some less. Some need stronger stimuli to be emotionally moved, while others react even to slighter pushes.
Then there’s everybody’s individual experience and values. People with traumatic experiences will be more susceptible to being shocked with related imagery.
Then there’s everybody’s individual experience and values. Religious people will be easier offended by religious symbols or figures being used. (Doesn’t the Charlie Hebdo case come to mind?) Patriots will object to humiliating presentation of national symbols or their compatriots. People with traumatic experiences, like being victims of violence or sexual abuse will be more susceptible to being shocked with related imagery.
Now imagine a model touching a sensitive subject – your religion, your nationality, race, cultural background, history, family or something you personally relate to. Would you mind it? Would you feel offended?
Is every subject suitable for a miniature? Or are some better left untouched? And is safer always better?
Is every subject suitable for a miniature? Or are some better left untouched?
How far can a miniature sculptor or painter go?
Is fantasy and sci-fi safer? And is safer always better?
I am really curious what you think about it. Would you mind seeing miniatures of, let’s say, crucifixion of the Christ or the Last Supper. And if somebody added a twist to the scene? That’s what many modern writers and film-makers do, so would you mind seeing it done by a miniature artist?
And you? Are YOU easily offended?
Now, what is your take on the subject? What do you think – can miniatures be offensive? Should they be allowed to be? What can make a miniature offensive? And what are your examples of offensive miniatures – if there is anything like that at all?
While browsing the website of our friends from the Massive Voodoo jungle crew, I stumbled upon this example of incredibly well painted human skin. It was done by Luis Méndez Juanola, and it looks more or less like this:
Isn’t it impressive with all the decolorations, changes in hue, and very realistic lighting? It looks even more impressive on the photos which show it next to a real hand!
If you want to read the whole interview with Juan and see more photos, visit Massive Voodoo.
We were unable to attend to the great, decennial edition of Monte San Savino show, but some of our friends were there, and it’s thanks to them and their photos we can enjoy the beauty of miniatures presented there.