Introduction to the Visual Arts

Shocking Art!

Everyone I Have Ever Slept With 1963–1995 (1995), also known as The Tent,[1] was an artwork created by Tracey Emin. It was owned by Charles Saatchi, and was destroyed in the 2004 Momart London warehouse fire. She has refused to re-create it.

When I write I don’t aim to shock people, and I’m surprised when I do. But I don’t think that anything that occurs in life should be omitted from art, though the artist should present it in a fashion that is artistic and not ugly. I set out to tell the truth. And sometimes the truth is shocking.

Tenessee Williams

Black Jesus

In Madonna’s Like a Prayer video, the statue that comes to life was intended to be Martin de Porres, the patron saint of mixed-race people and all those seeking interracial harmony. However some viewers mistakenly thought this figure was "Black Jesus".

Is "Black Jesus" shocking? Scandalous? If you know geography and history, you might conclude that Christ was Black or non-white. Perhaps it is Caucasian Jesus that is the shocking idea? Still, because Western culture has long depicted Christ as causasian, the idea of "Black Jesus" is shocking. Not shocking because it might be incorrect or is somehow outrageous, but shocking because it is not the stereotype we have seen thousands of times.

What is Santa Claus’ ethnicity?

Sometimes the Truth is Shocking

As Tenessee Williams tells us, "sometimes the truth is shocking".

Artists aren’t necessarily trying to shock audiences. But often they do strive for truth, or for alternate perspectives on ideas and events. When someone offers an idea or a narrative that we are not used to, that is often shocking.

Our mission this week is to make some "Shocking Art". A piece of art that questions assumptions or considers different facts.


In most of the previous weeks, I have picked the media for you and it has been up to you to create content with that media. Drawing, painting, photography, and so on.

This week you pick the media and the content. In fact, before settling on media you might want to work through your idea first, and then pick the media that you feel can best express that idea. Maybe it is a painting. Maybe it is a poem. Or a piece of performance art.


Your "shocking art" can be about anything you choose. One area you might like to think about is Identity. We are all creatures of many intersecting identities. We have religion, ethnicity, sexuality, ideology, and many other aspects to our identity. Not to mention your geeky Star Wars obsession!

We live in a world that is constatly struggling to be more inclusive. It is hard to be inclusive about identities we are ignorant of. When you express your identity you help build a bigger more inclusive world. For sure this only works when it’s your choice. Don’t let me force you into anything you aren’t comfortable sharing. Or aren’t interested in sharing in this time or place. Still, if you do make a piece that explores some aspect of your identity, it could be quite powerful.

Small Shocks

Your work doesn’t have to be outrageous. It can be simple observations. Perhaps showing how a small act of litter on the LBSU campus can impact the ocean and marine birds and animals miles from here.


As noted, you can work in any media:

  • Painting
  • Drawing
  • Photography
  • Video
  • Performance Art
  • 3D Media (sculpture, ceramics, fiber, wood, metal, installation, assemblage)
  • Poetry
  • Writing
  • and more!

Your documentation will depend on what you create. Probably words and photographs are the best way to document whatever your work is.

For video, you don’t upload your video directly to WordPress. Instead you upload your video to YouTube (or Vimeo) an "embed" the video in your blog post.


  1. Why did you choose this idea?
  2. What did you hope to communicate?
  3. How successful do you think you were?
  4. What would you do different if you did it again?
  5. What is another idea you might explore through "shocking art"?
Madonna, Like a Prayer, 1989