Cherry, Kittredge. “Art that Dares: Gay Jesus, Woman Christ, and More”, Androgyne Press, 2007.
A New Look
I must preface this review by saying how much I admire Kittredge Cherry. She is a brave person in that she touches the very center of many people’s being and is not afraid. After having written the beautiful and ahead of its time novel, “Jesus in Love”, she follows with a collection of paintings, photographs and graphics that give “alternative versions of Christian imagery”. Here is quite a collection that includes the work of eleven artists and detailed explanations of the themes of each work presented and a wonderful and insightful introduction by the author. In this introduction Cherry devotes some space to a discussion of blasphemy as opposed to visionary.
I am sure that there are those that will label the work collected here as blasphemous but if that is what it is, it is full of respect and inspirational.
What I found so interesting in this book is the diversity that it shows. One of the fascinating aspects of the book is the way the artists relate what brought them to create what they did and other stories about their creations including reading about the censorship issues and the hate mail received as well as violence and destruction suffered. Cherry, herself, provides the historical and political context of the works.
Another valuable asset that the book provides is that it lets us reflect on holiness and profanity and how, on occasion the two merge. Looking at the artwork presented is an experience and the works reinforce concepts of queerness and femininity. The artwork combined with Cherry’s literate commentary allays all fears of what you see—and it is quite shocking to see some of the representations—but Cherry very carefully and tenderly explains so much. We see Jesus as a woman, as black, being adored by leather men and of Mary in a close female relationship. I found myself staring intently at some of the images and wondering how people would react. It is hard to truly express in words what my initial response was. Viewing these images is an emotional experience which as the ability to amaze and disconcert at the same time. The art does what words cannot explain and I wonder if I was stunned by the images and I am a Jew, how others will react. There is no denying the beauty of the art and certainly no denying the emotional impact that it has. It makes one wonder if everything that has been instilled in us until now is the way it really was.
The book is an eye opener and I highly recommend it. Not only does it stun with its beauty, it also amazes the mind.