Dallas — Some find Jackson Potts II’s photograph of a nightstick-wielding policeman beating a fallen, bleeding child violent and offensive, conjuring images of police brutality and child abuse.
But to Jackson, a talented 10-year-old Houston photographer, and a cadre of art lovers, the disturbing image has religious symbolism.
Jackson shot the photograph for an exhibit depicting the Stations of the Cross, but the show’s organizers rejected it, sparking a controversy some say is overshadowing remembrance of Jesus’ final hours during the season of Lent.
Jackson was the only child among 15 artists invited to participate in the exhibit. Curator Marc Brubaker said he thought the boy would bring a unique perspective.
Jackson was assigned to portray the seventh Station of the Cross, where Jesus fell for a second time while carrying the cross to the site of his crucifixion. The home-schooled fifth-grader, who is taking a class on religious symbols in art at a Catholic church, decided to do a modern depiction of Christ being beaten by a Roman soldier.
His younger brother played the Christ-child role, with stage blood splattered on his head and arms. Neighbors and friends portrayed an angry mob and brutal police officer.
Although Jackson has gone on more than 100 photo shoots in recent years, mainly working as an apprentice for his father, a professional photographer, the show at Xnihilo (NY’-low) Gallery was to be his first public exhibition.
But when Jackson submitted the finished piece, he was told it wouldn’t be shown.
Church elders said they thought the photograph would scare young children who trust and respect police officers, some of whom are also church members. Elders said they also wanted to be sensitive to a congregation member whose mentally impaired son was fatally shot by police around this time last year.