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What's up, Jesus? Looney Tunes 'Last Supper' parody stirs controversy

April 11, 2009 |  9:01 am

The Gathering.hi res  

It's not exactly a religious-art brouhaha of "Piss Christ" proportions, but a painting that uses popular cartoon characters to parody Leonardo da Vinci's "The Last Supper" is causing a bit of a stir in Old Town San Diego.

And just in time for Easter weekend.

"The Gathering," a new painting by artist Glen Tarnowski, uses Looney Tunes characters such as Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Marvin the Martian and Road Runner to stand in for Jesus and his disciples in da Vinci's famous 15th century fresco.

The painting is currently hanging in the Chuck Jones Gallery in San Diego. Jones, of course, was an animator at Warner Bros. where he rose to fame working on the Looney Tunes series among many projects before opening his own studio. The gallery is owned by Linda Jones Enterprises. (Linda was Chuck's only child.)

Tarnowski's painting has received a nonstop barrage of feedback since it went on display in the gallery's front window three weeks ago. Galley employees say they've received as many as 10 to 12 calls and messages a day including profane voicemails and notes taped to the gallery windows alleging the desecration of Christian values.

Art. Religion. Controversy. If only Sister Wendy were here to tell us what to think.

-- David Ng

Photo: "The Gathering," a painting by Glen Tarnowski on display at Chuck Jones Gallery.

Comments () | Archives (50)

Controversy is, as always, in the eye of the beholder. The Jones Gallery blog includes a detailed statement from the artist, himself a devout and outspoken Christian, explaining the intent of his painting as anything but "disrespectful" of his fellow believers:


This is great! Where can I get a poster of it? It's just an updated painting of the original from the imagination of Leonardo Da Vinci. He wasn't there. These people who think somehow this is a holy relic are nuts.

What's really funny is I counted THIRTEEN "disciples" in the painting. Methinks there were only twelve??

I await this artist's, and this museum's, next piece that will mock Islam. Something tells me I should not hold my breath.

The problem with various works of art that have stirred religious controversy is not so much the content. The Constitution guarantees that you have the God-given right to say/draw/photograph/film/animate just about anything you want. You have the right to be as sacred or profane as you want to be.

The problem arises when you want other people -- folks who might be offended by what you are trying to portray -- to pay for your work.

No one doubts that Andre Serrano had the right to publish his photo, Piss Christ. What rankled critics was the fact that he was funded by tax dollars -- tax dollars taken from folks who were appalled at the image.

Hence, we have many people opposed, as I am, to public funding of the arts. This is not censorship -- you still have the right to your own speech and vision.

It's just that I have the right not to pay for it if I disagree or am offended.

randombaldguy--There are 12 "disciples" plus Bugs.

For the record, Andres Serrano's photograph "Piss Christ" was not "funded by tax dollars," as commenter Greg Indelicatgo incorrectly states above. That widely held though mistaken belief demonstrates the success of the disinformation campaign waged 20 years ago.

Senators Jesse Helms and Alfonse D'Amato, columnist Patrick Buchanan and various other conservative Republican politicians and commentators waged a culture war to further their own political agenda. Virtually every American artist who was attacked at the time was either a woman, a homosexual or an ethnic minority--Latino, African American or, in Serrano's case, both. Playing off the powerful (and equally false) Reagan-era minority stereotype of the Cadillac-driving welfare queen, the right wing wanted the public to think that Serrano had wasted federal money making "offensive" art. In fact, "Piss Christ" was made on the artist's dime, not the taxpayers'.

Serrano's 1987 picture was included in a 1988 exhibition that toured nationally -- including a stop at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Throughout the tour it was shown entirely without incident. The political firestorm was fabricated after the fact, beginning with a D'Amato speech on the Senate floor on May 19, 1989, in which he purported to be responding to constituents' complaints. "The art work in question is a photograph of the crucifix submerged in the artist's urine," D'Amato said."This artist received $15,000 for his work from the National Endowment for the Arts, through the Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art."

The Southeast Center for Contemporary Art, the organization that put together the touring show, received federal grant funds. Serrano was among the artists who received one of its 7th annual Awards in the Visual Arts, which included a fellowship and participation in a group exhibition. SECCA is located in Winston-Salem, North Carolina--Helms' home state.

Incidentally, the Constitution also does not say a U.S. citizen has "a God-given right" of self-expression. It says "Congress shall make no law ... abridging the freedom of speech."

How despicable! These people would never do this to the Muslim community or the Hindu, Budest or any other religion. but its open season on Christianity.
Only in a PC American can you nationally discriminate against a religion, as art, and get away with it, and one wonders why I dislike the left so much.

Why am I not surprised? America is fast becoming, if she isn't already, the garbage tip of the world. No one expects to find anything pure or clean in a garbage dump.

Sorry, but a devout Christian would never do something like this. Tired of hearing excuses made for disrespecting Christianity. Raymond Chavez - it is not about the original painting being a relic, but about the event that is being made fun of and disrepected.


What's deththpicable is your refusal to acknowledge us atheists. We are at least as committed to destroying your American way of life as the Islamists and the Hindus. I'll accept that we aren't quite up there with the Budests. That Dalai Lama is one scary gangsta.

Why? If this is not some type of statement, why bother? The story behind the Last Supper is hardly cartoonish nor is it a matter of comical relief for those that believe. For those that don't believe, a modicum of respect would be civilized.

Carol, I counted the Kitten the dog was holding. That gave me 13.

There's absolutely no way that a believer in Jesus Christ would paint such a thing, or offer excuses for it. It doesn't matter that the original painter wasn't at the Last Supper - it matters that the subject itself is to be treated with respect. Or at least it used to be, even by those who didn't necessarily believe or walk with God.

I agree with the poster who said why bother if it wasn't to make a statement. And I agree with the poster who wondered why the painter didn't spoof Mohammed or Buddha. Why? Because the Name of Jesus is what upsets people. Not a big surprise to those who read the Word, huh?

I think Jesus would enjoy the painting!

If the "Christians" are as devout as they claim (and based on 2000+ years of history they are not), one of the primary teachings of Jesus was "turn the other cheek"..

Is Bugs the creator of the Universe?

Christianity is the only religion that is politically correct to bash, make fun of and humiliate its followers. If this had been done with Mohammed or Buddha, there would have been an international uproar. I grew up watching Looney Tunes and I own all 6 DVD sets. I love Bugs, Daffy, Porky, etc. But this is way out of line. As a Christian, I am offended by this. Linda Jones has made her disrespect for Christianity very clear. Shame on her.

imagine the outcry if we were to make a Piss matthew shepherd.

2 Peter 2:1-19: But there were false prophets also among the people even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction. And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of. And through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you; whose judgement now of a long time lingereth not, and their damnation slumbereth not. For if God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell, and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgement; And spared not the old world, but saved Noah the eighth person, a preacher of righteousness, bringing in the flood upon the world of the ungodly; And turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrha into ashes condemned them with an overthrow, making them an ensample unto those that after should live ungodly; And delivered just Lot, vexed with the filthy conversation of the wicked: (For that righteous man dwelling among them, in seeing and hearing, vexed his righteous soul from day to day with their unlawful deeds;) The Lord knoweth how to deliver the Godly out of temptations, and to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgement to be punished; But chiefly them that walk after the flesh in the lust of uncleanness, and despise government. Presumptious are they, selfwilled, they are not afraid to speak evil of dignities. Whereas angels, which are greater in power and might, bring not accusation against them before the Lord. But these, as natural brute beasts, made to be taken and destroyed, speak evil of the things they understand not; and shall utterly perish in their own corruption; And shall receive the reward of unrighteousness, as they count it pleasure to riot in the day time. Spots they are and blemishes, sporting themselves with their own deceivings while they feast with you; Having eyes full of adultery, and cannot cease from sin; beguiling unstable souls: an heart they have exercised with covetous practices; cursed children: Which have forsaken the right way, and are gone astray, following the way of Balaam the son of Bosor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness; But was rebuked for his iniquity: the dumb ass speaking with a man's voice forbad the madness of the prophet. These are wells without water, clouds that are carried with a tempest; to whom the mist of darkness is reserved forever. For when they speak great swelling words of vanity, they allure through the lusts of the flesh, through much wantoness, those that were clean escaped from them who live in error. WHILE THEY PROMISE THEM LIBERTY, THEY THEMSELVES ARE THE SERVANTS OF CORRUPTION: FOR OF WHOM A MAN IS OVERCOME, OF THE SAME IS HE BROUGHT IN BONDAGE. (personal emphasis added.)

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