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"Censored Christ Mother appears at last"
By Rev. Kittredge Cherry
Artist Janet McKenzie is world-famous for her sacred art, but her most daring
female Christ has rarely been seen until now.
McKenzie's controversial "Christ Mother "is included in my new book "Art That
Dares: Gay Jesus, Woman Christ, and More."
1 The book contains color images by 11 contemporary artists
from the U.S. and Europe.
McKenzie is best known for painting the androgynous black "Jesus of the
People," which appears on the cover of Art That Dares. The famous
painting was chosen by Sister Wendy of PBS to represent Christ in a contest
sponsored by the National Catholic Reporter. The resulting controversy
brought bomb threats and hate mail to McKenzie's secluded Vermont studio.
Undaunted, McKenzie followed up with an even more challenging work -- a nude
female Christ that has largely been censored by the gatekeepers who decide what
gets exhibited. Called "Christ Mother," it is a towering, gritty, and
majestic painting of a naked woman bound in a crucifixion pose.
"Sometimes 'controversial' art simply comes forward, like it or not. It is like
a scream; you are doing it before you realize you are," McKenzie recalls in "Art
In the book, McKenzie describes the opposition to Christ Mother and explains why
she painted a female Christ. McKenzie says:
"She is the feminine aspect of Jesus, mother to us all, and to my mind,
she is undeniable. Christ Mother is in the act of being crucified, yet she
stands with strength, in acceptance, although bound. Her body glows with
life but also reflects the coming hereafter."
I interviewed McKenzie from afar for "Art That Dares," but I didn't
get to meet her in person until we both converged on Taos recently for the
National Festival of Progressive Spiritual Art, where McKenzie was one of
the top-selling artists.
I was touched by McKenzie's sincere joy at seeing me with my mother in Taos. A
highlight of our time together was when she took a photo of me with my mom.
McKenzie is known for paying homage to the female figure, a commitment that she
attributes to the loss of her mother and grandmother at an early point in her
Other female Christ figures in Art That Dares include Edwina Sandys'
famous bronze crucifix "Christa."
I believe that re-envisioning Christ is one of the most important tasks of our
time. The new images are much needed now because Christian rhetoric is used to
justify discrimination against women and
lesbian, gay, bisexual, and
transgender (LGBT) people.
In "Art That Dares," the book's 11 artists all tell the stories behind
their controversial images, including censorship, 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
Rev. Kittredge Cherry, "Art That Dares: Gay Jesus, Woman Christ,
and More," AndroGyne Press, 96 pages.
reviews or order this book safely from Amazon.com online book store
Amazon.com's book description:
"Art that Dares to show Jesus as gay or female has been censored or destroyed.
Now for the first time these beautiful, liberating, sometimes shocking images
are gathered for all to see. Packed with full-page color illustrations, this
eye-opening collection features a diverse group of eleven contemporary artists
who work both inside and outside the church. They present the gay Jesus, the
woman Christ, and other cutting-edge Christian images. Their art respects the
teachings of Jesus and frees the minds of viewers to see in new ways. Here the
artists tell the stories behind their art. A lively introduction puts the images
into political and historical context, exploring issues of blasphemy and
Originally posted: 2007-SEP-20
Latest update: 2007-SEP-20
Author: Rev. Kittredge Cherry