Artist statement on Santa commercialism

by Yule Heibel on December 7, 2006


Interesting article in today’s paper about Jimmy Wright, an artist who devised a punchy protest against xmas crass. Mr. Wright, aged 69, erected a cross in his front yard, which faces onto a main road in the farming community of Metchosin on Vancouver Island. But instead of nailing Jesus Christ to this cross, he affixed an effigy of Santa Claus. The article is entitled Santa ‘shot Jesus out of saddle’. Its subtitle states, “Crucified effigy makes a statement but some neighbours are protesting.” I bet they are!

Mr. Wright, who wants to make “a statement about the orgy of consumption in the modern world,” inscribed the words “Sumptum Fac Donec Consumptus Sis,” which is supposed to mean “Shop till you drop.” More from the article:

“Santa represents frivolous consumption,” Wright said yesterday, standing at the foot of the cross beneath the outstretched red-suited figure. “That’s all he is. He shot Jesus right out of the saddle. He’s the focus of Christmas.”

The idea for the work started brewing about eight months ago, said the artist. Wright started looking for wood. In early August, he bought a Santa costume. Then he called a friend who works with fabric and traded a painting for her help.

“But the final straw was looking at a report on CNN which said we will have effectively fished out the ocean. And I thought ‘Oh Jesus. We’re suffocating the goose that lays the natural egg. We have to stop the orgy of consumption.”

Natural egg or not — some of Wright’s neighbours are deeply upset.

At the mailbox near his home, Jennifer Blair said she thought the ‘statement’ wasn’t fair to children. Some of them catch a school bus on that corner.

“They think Santa’s at the North Pole getting their toys ready, not on a pole in Metchosin,” said Blair.

I like Ms. Blair’s sense of humour (North Pole, pole in Metchosin). I can see her point about the schoolkids on the bus, but on the other hand, the anger of the neighbours speaks to the work’s effectiveness.

Wright, who was raised a Catholic, said Christmas is very important to him, but he stopped buying presents years ago.

“I used to love Christmas, but when you think about it, I loved it for the wrong reason,” laughed the 69-year-old artist. “But you learn with age.”

Another thing he has learned is honesty.

“It’s a funny feeling when I’m sitting in my hot tub, looking out this way, and I’m trying to make a statement to everybody to slow down on what they can consume, and I’m in a 6,400-square-foot home.”


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