The victory of Leanne "Elrod" Rodriguez in last month's Neopopstreetfunk Viewer's Choice competition at M Squared Gallery was not universally applauded. (Her win means her work will be included in the show, which begins November 16.)
In fact, one anonymous soul was outraged enough to write Art Attack a letter about the San Francisco "Mexakitsch" artist's triumph, one the scandalized unknown scribe claimed was tainted by every sin from blasphemy most foul to trading sex for votes.
Yes, all this, because of a viewers' choice tally compiled through likes and shares on Facebook.
"Some alarming issues were brought to our attention," the Hater sniffed, and quickly cut to the chase, citing what he or she or it believed were Elrod's vile misdeeds.
The Hater directed us to one Facebook post wherein Elrod exclaimed that "DRASTIC TIMES CALL FOR DRASTIC VOTE BRIBING," and another where she offered up three of her works -- two paintings from her "Chubby Chola" collection and a luchadora-styled skateboard -- as enticements for those who shared her post.
"You get an entry for every share you made, so kudos to the hustlers that reposted that nastiness all week ;) I'll throw all the names in a bowl and smoke it - er, I mean, pull the winners tonight at 9."
The Hater was not through being mortified. Far from it.
After citing a post in which Elrod thanked her "support mob" for propelling her to the front of the pack, and philosophizing about her work ethic and drive in getting the things she wants out of life ("I've always told myself that if I want something, well then dammit, YOU GO AND GET THAT SHIT"), the Hater directed its gaze toward what it saw as more tawdry affairs.
"Look, I'm not above buying votes people...what, what do you guys want?"
"I'll enter your name into a raffle to win some prints of my art...or maybe I need to sweeten the deal..."
[Emphasis the Hater's.]
Oh, the Hater knew what the coy, coquettish Elrod was talking about there...That's right. A little good ol' fashioned transactional belly-poppin'.
The Hater had seen enough.
"Buying votes is illegal!" It thundered. "Trading sex for votes is illegal and immoral!"
And then there was the work itself, and a photo of Elrod on her Facebook page...
"Paintings of the Madonna of the Guadalupe playing with her breast and doing gang signs are blasphemy!"
The Hater moved toward an inexorable conclusion: M Squared should have disqualified Elrod, and in not doing so, it "ridiculed serious artists that entered the contest." Worse yet, M Squared "embarrassed a city that is making an effort to bolster the arts."
"We are appalled that Gallery M Squared endorses Gang Promotion, the exhibition to the public of sacrilegious material, prostitution, and bribery."
"I cannot thank my anonymous admirer enough for this new found infamy surrounding myself and my art," writes Elrod from San Francisco. "Please believe me when I say that I am DEEPLY saddened to inform you that no, I am not the leader of an underground prostitution bribery ring run by sacrilegious gangsters. But, I can assure you that if I was, the gang members that I would have running such an elaborate operation would be very respectful of the Catholic church."
On the most salacious of the Hater's charges, Elrod had this to say:
"I am baffled as to why they would even suggest that I would trade sex in exchange for votes to win a Facebook contest. Last time I checked, my votes were up to 483... I'm not even sure if it's possible to satisfy the needs of that many people within 5 days but I'm almost flattered they think I have the stamina for such an ambitious and lewd conquest."
Elrod did take the charges of blasphemy and serious-artist-ridiculing more soberly.
"I firmly believe that faith and art are very similar in that they are open to our own personal interpretation and the painting I created is simply that; my interpretation," she wrote. "I portrayed a woman as a religious icon that is a beautiful and feminine force to be reckoned with, and I am proud to stand by it."
As for the artist-mocking, Elrod believes that the Hater is simply ignorant of the cutthroat ways of social networking.
"Well, welcome to the jungle baby, it gets worse here everyday. I have always told myself that if you want something, you go and get it. And that's exactly what I did. I'm sorry if they felt like I stepped on toes in the process, but I wear a size 11 so it's kind of hard to avoid it."
M Squared's Max Harrison told Art Attack that his gallery merely houses the Neopopstreetfunk exhibition and directed us to organizers Kevin Sechelski and Nicky Davis. Sechelski dismissed the gang sign, vote-buying and prostitution angles out of hand.
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As for the blasphemy charge, Sechelski is a little more dismissive than Elrod: "If she has painted something that offends someone then I really don't know what to say... Maybe don't look at it! As a working artist and supporter of the arts I would never say I'm sorry for what another artist has painted. You can always not like an art piece but I believe a truly educated artist or collector can always appreciate a piece."
The Hater did succeed in chapping Sechelski's hide with the claim "ridiculing artists / embarrassing a city" attack.
Neopopstreetfunk was, and is, something new in Houston, he says, one that he and Davis started with their own money in a warehouse four years ago. Back then, it was an effort to showcase what was already going on everywhere else.
"We sat here like a tennis match watching the East and West Coast throw some of the biggest events each year," Sechelski writes. "Houston is one of the biggest cities in the country and there is no reason why we cannot be an art mecca as well."