An artist from Milwaukee has sparked a controversy after she created a stunning portrait of former Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI out of 17,000 condoms.
For 25-year-old artist Niki Johnson’s latest piece, “Eggs Benedict,” the medium is most definitely the message.
The inspiration for Johnson’s subject and materials came after hearing the now-retired Pope deliver a speech on AIDS while on a 2009 tour of Africa, the New York Daily News reported.
To Johnson’s ears, the Pope’s message was that promoting the use of condoms actually increased the prevalence of HIV infection.
Appalled, she eventually conceived a way to channel her disagreement, and began amassing thousands of colorful condoms.
Johnson stitched together the multi-colored latex condoms, creating a vibrant final product.
“His words required an intervention of some kind,” Johnson said.
After months of opening, unrolling, and stitching together the condoms in what she calls a kind of “embroidery,” Johnson’s portrait came to life just as Benedict announced he was retiring as the head of the Catholic Church.
Johnson is now putting the finishing touches on Eggs Benedict in preparation for a forthcoming show at Milwaukee’s Portrait Society Gallery, and in retrospect, she thinks the timing of the papal succession may have helped bring more attention to the artwork.
News organizations in countries as far away as Germany and Ghana have written articles about the portrait, and, inevitably, she has heard more than a few angry responses to the piece.
Johnson said she hopes Eggs Benedict will further a dialog about the value of condoms.
“The bottom line is that condoms promote sexual health and prevent disease,” she added.