Pietà by Daniel MacKenzie

Pieta

Price: Not For Sale

Medium: MS Paint

Artist’s Commentary: About six years ago when I lived in Vancouver’s downtown eastside, I was passing by the bottle depot on Hastings when I noticed one homeless man holding another homeless man in a pose that was almost exactly identical to that of the Madonna and Jesus in Michelangelo’s Pietà.  The fellow being held was naked except for a pair of cut-off jean shorts.  It was a striking image that has remained with me since then.

In this piece, I am alluding to my memory of that scene but I am also playing with it and modifying it in light of reflections upon drug use.  Hence, the Madonna is now Death and the person being held has a needle in his arm.  In particular, while creating this piece, I was thinking about the comfort, warmth, and feelings of peace and security that intravenous drug use can offer to some people who have never experienced those feelings in other places.  Hence, the graffitti on the wall is taken from The Eels adaptation of Daniel Johnston’s song, “Living Life.”  They read: “Hold me like a mother would / Like I’ve always known somebody should.”  For some drug users, the embrace of the drug is that which “holds them like a mother would” and that which holds them in a way that they’ve “always known somebody should” (because all of us should be loved, right?).  The tragedy for many, however, is that drug use can lead to death (by overdose, by disease) and so the mother in the image is represented by Death.

I suppose by portraying things in this way, I am hoping people will move beyond thinking about illicit drugs as “good” or “bad” and will begin to think about why people choose to use these drugs and what these drugs are offering to those who use them.