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Jewish World Review Nov. 21, 2002 / 16 Kislev, 5763

Tony Snow

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Edifying idea? | Fine art over the years has served as a vehicle for shaping moral sentiments -- and for numbing them. Here's a story that illustrates one side of that trend.

The Art Students League of Denver has awarded the Best of Show prize for art students to a young man named Cong Lu. Lu has produced a painting, titled Self-portrait of a Martyr, that pictures an androgynous Asian fellow lifting his shirt to reveal a bomb and a gun.

The award set off controversy almost instantly.

Students protested the painting's poor taste, prompting Arts League executive Director Leona Lazar to tell reporters, "We have a lot of pretty art here, but we want people to think. The beauty of art is this wonderful freedom to express ideas."

The school's faculty unanimously seconded the notion with a letter blathering on about the freedom of speech and virtue of intellectual intercourse.

Fair enough -- but what I'd like Lazar or her faculty to explain is what edifying idea or ideas the picture promotes.

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