The audience often burst into applause at the Taos Art FestivalRemember the three topics that polite people were never supposed to discuss at dinner? Sex, religion and politics. Well, we threw that rule out the window!
Fifty of us talked at length about the connections between sex, religion and politics at the kick-off banquet of the recent National Festival of Progressive Spiritual Art in Taos, NM.
The lively banquet launched my new book, and honored more than a dozen artists in the book and the related exhibit at JHS Gallery.
We gathered at the La Fonda Hotel’s historic conference room, surrounded by D.H. Lawrence’s Forbidden paintings. They were confiscated by police from a London gallery in 1929 for being obscene.
“Yesterday’s scandal is today’s museum piece. Today’s scandal is tomorrow’s masterpiece,” explained the master of ceremonies, who happened to me my life partner Audrey.
An opening prayer was led by Bill Carpenter of Soulforce, a group that uses nonviolent resistance to win religious freedom for LGBT people.
I tied together the themes of the evening in the following keynote address:
My book Art That Dares is about seeing God in new ways, but I learned another lesson from the process of writing it: Dream big.
It taught me to dream big because it created a community where there was none. It brought all of us together tonight. I hardly knew any of you when I first imagined this book. I thought I was the only one who had visions of a Christ who fully understands the experience of LGBT people, my experience.
Then I started searching the Internet using phrases like “gay Jesus painting.” There you were! I found the needles in the haystack!
Now tonight we’re together for the first time. Most of the artists in this book were creating art independently with no knowledge of the others.
And I’ve met even more artists tonight for my next book.
I believe something special will happen now that we are all together in the same place at the same time. We can touch each other. We can look in each others’ eyes. We can be whole in mind, spirit AND body.
The book Art That Dares also taught me to dream big because writing it helped heal me. I have CFS and I got significantly better in the process of writing this book and the book that led up to it, Jesus in Love. This is my novel about a queer Christ.
When I began writing these books, I was so weak that I could barely press the pen to the paper. I was housebound and using a wheelchair. But God gave me the strength to come to this point tonight where I can celebrate with you.
Finally the book Art That Dares taught me to dream big because it showed me once again how big God’s own heart is. Art That Dares focuses on the gay Jesus and the woman Christ. Those images are much needed now because Christian rhetoric is used to justify discrimination against women and queers.
But the book and tomorrow’s exhibit also have a broader message. They show that everyone can claim their own spiritual power. There’s no copyright on Jesus. Instead of Jesus incorporated, we have Jesus in Love and Jesus of the People. People can take back their own spiritual power —and connect directly with God.
Look around and you can see the image of God in the people who are here tonight. This banquet is also a spiritual feast. Together we are a living example of God’s heavenly banquet where all are welcome.
(The second photo shows author Kittredge Cherry and artist Jill Ansell with her female crucifixion painting Fire and Ice.)