It’s a rainy summer night in Bucktown. Inside the neon-lighted entrance to the David Leonardis Gallery on Paulina a noisy packed house is looking at the latest paintings by Chris Peldo. Among the abstract, often subliminally sexual paintings is a crucifix outlined in oak and filled with an assortment of junk–peanuts, crushed Coca-Cola cans, Reese’s Pieces wrappers, unopened condoms, Sweet’n Low packages, an upside-down Rick Ashley cassette, a Dial Soap wrapper.

The work doesn’t have a display card. Only those lucky enogh to find a brochure will see that this is Garbage Cross, selling for $600. The piece has passersby whispering and giggling.

Christine, a tall woman with processed hair and a colorful blouse: “If my grandmother was standing here she would have an absolute fit. She wouldn’t want to stay here. Anything that depicts Jesus and has garbage in it…. You couldn’t swway her opinion. My grandmother is a very gulity, unhappy Roman Catholic.”

Jillion, who’s wearing a low-cut black blouse that sets off her clear, pale skin: “I like it. I thought of going home and making one my self and putting it up on my wall. It’s very, like, today! Like now. Of course, my version wouldn’t be as nice–I’m not an artist. But it would have my own garbage in it, not Peldo’s.”

Dan, who has sandy blond hair and is one of the few people wearing jeans tonight: “I see a progression from Sweet’n’ Low to real sugar. This is your food area, and these ar eyour artificial products in this area. Probably the healthiest thing is your peanuts in here. We see here is recycling–the crushed cans. There is a cleansing action involved here. Look, soap and Kaopectate. It cleans you right out. But I think I see his point, ya know–that we have to clean up our act. Just look at it, a cross with a lot of garbage!”

Nancy, who stays close to several friends and opens her mouth very wide when she speaks: “It would be more aesthetically pleasing if the wood was painted all different colors. I just hink it looks dull because of all the stuff in it–I don’t want to call it garbage. Maybe it says religion is commercial?”

Danna, who has piercing green eyes and a straight-legged one-piece evening suit: “I’m trying to find somehting that I find faith in at this time in my life. I see things that cure–headache medicine. I see condoms–things that make my life safer. I see candy–things that make me happy. I see many things that make a very rounded life for me. But I think that when a person looks at it they only see something from within themsleves….Am I getting too deep for this or what?”

Glen, a bearded young man in a sports jacket: “You look at it for more than a split second and it has a lot of impact. The way it breaks up the negative space aruond it. Most art is boxed off. But this piece is not enclosed or a part of anything else. It is something in itself. It carries its own wight…. Although the cross has been depicted in so many pieces of art, it almost loses its meaning…. It’s not as strong as it used to be…. Now, it’s almost just another angle to go at. Normally an artist doesn’t really care…. The shock value is to gain people’s attention…let them get what they want to get out of it…. We are product users by religion–religiously. Especially Advil–for me, it’s like every day. Everyone’s going to find something that they do almost religiously inside this piece.”

Kathy, who’s wearing a wedding ring and drinking beer, some of which she spills onto her shoes as she looks at the cross: “I see a lot of disposable packaging that is aimed at the marketability of the American people. It speaks to the shallowness of life and how shallow the American people have become. No, no. Not just the American people–people in general! In reality, it has nothing to do with the American people.”