Art that shows Jesus as gay or female has been censored, but now these stunning images by 11 artists fill a beautifully illustrated new art book.
Art That Dares: Gay Jesus, Woman Christ, and More by Kittredge Cherry will be launched at the National Festival of Progressive Spiritual Art in Taos, NM, on May 11-12. An online gallery of selected images from the book has just been added to the author’s website, JesusInLove.org.
The book is packed with color images by 11 contemporary artists from the United States and Europe. The artists also tell the stories behind their images, including censorship, hate mail, violence, death threats, and vandalism that destroyed their work. A lively introduction puts the art into political and historical context, exploring issues of blasphemy and artistic freedom.
“These new images are much needed now because Christian rhetoric is used to justify discrimination against women and lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people,” says Cherry, an art historian and lesbian Christian author.
The 11 artists in Art That Dares are a diverse group. They work both inside and outside the church, but all of their art respects the teachings of Jesus.
“Christ belongs to everyone,” Cherry explains. “The gay Jesus and the woman Christ are here to free and empower people who feel left out when Jesus is presented as a straight man.”
Explicitly queer Christian imagery in Art That Dares includes photos of Jesus with contemporary LGBT people by Elisabeth Ohlson Wallin of Sweden, a 24-panel gay vision of the Passion by New York painter F. Douglas Blanchard, and the notorious “faggot crucifixion” painting by Atlanta’s Becki Jayne Harrelson. Gary Speziale sculpts a sensuous moment between a nude Adam and the new Adam, while Alex Donis shows Jesus kissing a Hindu god.
Female Christ figures in the book range from Edwina Sandys’ famous bronze crucifix “Christa” to Janet McKenzie’s award-winning “Jesus of the People,” which Sister Wendy of PBS chose to represent Christ in the new millennium. Jill Ansell and Sandra Yagi use the symbolism of the cross to explore the suffering of women.
Cherry operates JesusInLove.org, which offers spiritual resources for LGBT people and their allies. She was at the forefront of the sexuality debate at the National Council of Churches (USA) and the World Council of Churches as National Ecumenical Officer for Metropolitan Community Churches. She holds degrees in journalism, art history, and religion.
Cherry’s other books include Jesus in Love, and its sequel, Jesus in Love: At the Cross, Hide and Speak: A Coming Out Guide, Equal Rites: Lesbian and Gay Worship, Ceremonies and Celebrations and Womansword: What Japanese Words Say About Women. The New York Times Book Review praised her “very graceful, erudite” writing style.
Art That Dares (ISBN 1-933993-29-4) is published by AndroGyne Press, a new queer studies press in Berkeley, Calif. Ingram Book Group distributes it. For more information, visit Rev. Cherry’s website QSpirit.net.
Whosoever founder and Editor Emeritus Rev. Candace Chellew is the author of Bulletproof Faith: A Spiritual Survival Guide for Gay and Lesbian Christians. She earned her masters of theological studies at Emory University’s Candler School of Theology, was ordained in December 2003, and trained as a spiritual director through the Omega Point program of the Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta. She serves as the spiritual director of Jubilee! Circle in Columbia, S.C., and blogs at Motley Mystic.