It’s been about three years since a major child art-genius story has surfaced so I guess we’re due. Ten-year-old photographer Jackson Potts is the latest pre-teen media sensation. His staged photograph of a police officer beating a child — an allegory of Jesus’ second fall wherein he was beaten by Roman soldiers — was rejected for its graphic brutality by Ecclesia Church. A progressive house of worship, the religious sanctuary shares its space with the Xnihilo Gallery, the venue for Pott’s would-be show. The church not only had problems with the violence the photograph depicted, but worried a family of churchgoers still grieving over their son, who was killed in an officer-involved shooting last year, were not prepared for the image.
But just how child genuis-y is this story? Somewhat surprisingly, not too much. I suspect some of this has to do with the medium. The public still maintains a little “see, any one can press a button” skepticism when it comes to art and its “necessary” relation to skill. Still, somewhat a-typically, the major media has left comparing the child to the likes of stars such as Gregory Crewdson and Dana Hoey out of it. It also has not gone down the “so many people are talking about the work it must be good” path of flawed logic (though the Wall Street Journal notes, “Potts is learning that controversy can be good for an artist”).
The real story here mostly has to do with venue. Some exhibition spaces are going to be less receptive to work that captures brutality regardless of its effectiveness and, let’s face it, a church is one of them. Interestingly, I’ve noticed that neither MSNBC nor the Wall Street Journal ran a full picture of the art work in question, opting instead for a shot of Potts. Sure, it’s a good idea to get the kid in the picture, but the art work isn’t exactly incidental to the story. Unlike much of the conservative voices leading to the work’s rejection however, I suspect this was just sloppy media management.
Related: Jackson Potts’ blog. It’s clearly not authored by the child himself.
Hat tip: Patrick Callery