Blog Post by Henry Pettit
Selected Works by Andres Serrano
Select works of the acclaimed photographer, Andres Serrano, are currently on exhibit in a small
art museum aptly called, “The School” in Kinderhook, New York. The former high school has
long, spacious halls and a remodeled gymnasium, providing an ideal location to showcase
Serrano’s photographs as he intended — clustered in a prescribed, thematic series.
One image from his series, “Blood and Body Fluids,” is a provocative photograph from 1984
titled, “Heaven and Hell”. The imposing forty-five by sixty-five inch photograph is an archival
pigment print containing two half-length figures. The sizable image draws the viewer in as if he
were personally bearing witness to the disquieting events of the photo.
The photograph is framed with a plain black border and achieves compositional balance by
filling the frame with the two figures spaced evenly apart. On the right is a white male portrayed
as a Catholic Cardinal, dressed in a traditional blood red robe and biretta cap. The man wears an
ominous smirk; his back is turned to his captive — a bound, bloody, nude woman. The woman’s
hands are tied and raised above her head, restraining her from resisting the exploits of her captor.
Incapacitated, her head has fallen back, concealing her identity.
The ambiguity of her identity suggests that this could be any woman. The dripping blood from
an apparent head wound has now dried onto her neck, exposed breast, and abdomen. It can be
interpreted that she has suffered for her perceived inferiority and required submission. The
parody between a Cardinal and a subdued, beaten woman epitomizes the lack of equality and
respect given to women in the Church. The black spray paint used as the background of the
image provides an unnatural feel that suggests that this was perhaps just a staged scene of what
could happen to a woman challenging the white patriarchy of the church.
In this piece and others, the intertwined themes of violence, eroticism, and religion created by
Andres Serrano are compelling visual stimuli that demand introspective deliberation. Serrano’s
works are well worth visiting to experience emotionally and mentally stimulating art.