"Sometimes it's the subtlety of art that makes it effective," the artist known as Jeff Outlaw writes in the introduction to the new book You'll Find This Offensive. "Sometimes it is the boldness that makes an impact. This book is about the latter."
The 38-page book of images ($35), compiled by Outlaw and his cohorts in local collective Outlaw Artisans, grew out of Naked in Pittsburgh, their group exhibit of nudes, held at the South Side's Red Door Space last year. When several risqué submissions didn't fit the theme ("a celebration of the human form"), the Artisans organized a project that could incorporate them.
Their call for artwork had just one criterion: "[I]t had to be offensive to someone," says Outlaw.
Religious imagery is included, of course. Pittsburgh's Brian Gonnella contributes a cartoon-y image of a Roman soldier poking a crucified Jesus with a spear, loosing a glittery rainbow on a partying crowd, perhaps referencing the supposed beneficent effects of the blood of Christ. David de Lara, of Austin, Texas, offers an equally playful image: a photo of nude female torso and a hand in the foreground pulling a condom off a figure of the Buddy Christ (the smiling, winking Jesus figurine from Kevin Smith's film Dogma).
National character is scrutinized in Michigan artist Brook Powell's watercolor of an Arthurian knight against a mushy, blood-red background, a commentary on the United Kingdom's violent history. And in Gonnella's send-up Washington Crossing the Delaware, Osama bin Laden replaces Washington, with bearded jihadis as his lieutenants.
Other pieces have vaguer intentions. Pittsburgh photographer Nathan Pazsint offers a man wearing the head of a rabbit costume pointing a rifle into his mouth. ("I'm not sure who that is offensive to," admits Outlaw. "People in rabbit suits?") And then there's Ohio photographer Dave Levingston's image of a young model drilling a strap-on dildo into a head of cabbage.
The book also includes written statements from the artists, either about the specific work inside or their general approach. "Apathy is my enemy," Outlaw says. "I'm trying to get a reaction from those who don't want to be bothered."
His own entries in the book (available at www.outlawartisans.com) include a watercolor depicting Barack Obama as homeless. "I find that offensive," says Outlaw. "I find it offensive that we have homeless people in this country, and I use Obama because every president since Kennedy has ignored this problem."