Is It Wrong For Me to Hang This (Signed!) Painting by Muhammad Ali in My House?
John ShoreBesides here on Crosswalk, John blogs on JohnShore.com.
- 2008 Jul 24
One time, in the desert town of Antelope Valley, California, I was at this silent auction fundraiser thing for a charity, and was so struck by the (28 x 24 inch) painting above that I took the leap and bid $80.00 for it. I thought it was a picture of some nuns and one man heading towards some sort of church or holy building. No one else leapt behind me; the picture was mine. When I went to pay for it afterwards, the auction people said, "How cool that you got this painting done by Muhammad Ali!"
That's when I learned my new painting had been done (and signed!) by none other than The Champ himself. Who knew The Greatest could paint? And judging from this picture, I know, not many would think it still. But I like it. It's driven by a fresh, elemental, playful power that I find moving.
Not unlike its painter! (Oh: the white spot on the picture is just glare from my flash. Who am I, Cartier-Bresson?)
Some 15 years after acquring this picture I became a Christian. Then I wondered if it was right for me to leave hanging in my house art that I had come to understand was distinctly Muslimish. I sort of fundamentally reject incorporating into my evaluation of a work of art its subject matter or explicit "message"; I'm interested in the aesthetics of a piece, and not much else. Still, I didn't want God to ever say to me, "Great having you on board, Johnny! Too bad we have to send you to hell now because you're too stupid to know you shouldn't hang Enemy Art on your walls."
But then I thought, "Enemy art. That's so stupid. Islam isn't the enemy of Christianity. Evil is the enemy of Christianity."
But then I thought, "Yeah, but a lot of Christians do think Islam is the enemy of Christianity. And you're a new Christian---what do you know? And historically, Islam and Christianity haven't exactly gotten along like the blood brothers I think they actually are. A lot of Christians think Islam is evil, ya' know."
Then I thought, "Remember that fight between Muhammad Ali and George Foreman? I love George Foreman. The Rumble in the Jungle! Man, Don King was a pain."
And then I heard a bell ding. "Wow!" I thought. "Just like in a fight!" Except instead of the next round, this bell meant the chocolate-chip cookies I had in the oven were ready. So then I started thinking less about world theology and history, and more about eating freshly baked chocolate-chip cookies.
Anyway, up there's my painting done and signed by Muhammad Ali. Blasphemous Imagry, Excellent Painting Done by One of the World's All-Time Greatest Athletes, or Not A Bad Way To Promote World Peace? You be the judge! I'd do it, but I'm late picking my wife up from work.
Pretend you're an art critic here.