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Painting of Jesus eating body parts causes stir

September 13, 1997

CHICAGO (AP) _ Hulbert Waldroup put his thoughts on canvas _ a painting of Jesus and the devil sitting at a table laden with a bowl of eyeballs, a severed leg roast garnished with pineapple and ear kabobs.

Dozens who saw ``The Devil’s Palace″ at a show at a state government building this week complained and asked for it to be removed. Organizers of the show at the James R. Thompson Center complied.

Waldroup said his stand, easels and several other paintings were taken by show officials and security guards, but he managed to hang onto the controversial painting.

He returned Friday and propped the painting against a wall. He was immediately surrounded by gawkers _ some outraged, some amused and some just curious.

``It really, really is gross ... but I think it should be displayed,″ said Babette Johnson of Chicago. ``This is about freedom of expression.″

One woman took Waldroup’s hands in hers and said: ``Be careful, this is your soul.″ Said Joe Prozanski of Chicago: ``I’d like to buy the picture and destroy it.″

Waldroup, 30, said the inspiration for his painting came from a trip to Israel two years ago.

``I saw hatred, I saw violence and bloodshed, all in the name of religion,″ said Waldroup, who added that he believes in God but not organized religion.

The show was organized by the American Society of Artists, which decided what to exhibit after viewing samples. ``The Devil’s Palace″ was not included in Waldroup’s application; he said he finished it after the deadline.

``Honestly, even if there hadn’t been any complaints, we would have asked him to remove the painting,″ said Nancy Fregin, the society’s president. ``It is inappropriate for a mall. This is not an art gallery.″

Waldroup’s painting seemed out-of-place alongside some of the other items on display _ handmade dolls, wooden flowers and photographs of former Chicago Bears coach Mike Ditka.

``I’m sorry I don’t do needlework,″ Waldroup said. ``I pull pictures out of my mind and put it on canvas. You don’t have to agree with it. That is your opinion.″

Waldroup was originally seeking $1,200 for the painting, but now the price is up to $10,000.

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