Sunday, December 06, 2009
Lesbian Madonna, lover and son affirm Christmas
“Madonna, Lover, and Son” by Becki Jayne Harrelson, 1996. Oil on canvas, 80 x 68 inches. www.beckijayne.comLesbian moms with the baby Jesus affirm the basic message of Christmas: Love is what makes a family. Two lesbian mothers cuddle the Christ child in “Madonna, Lover and Son” by Becki Jayne Harrelson. Love made this Holy Family. After all, the story of the virgin birth means that Jesus was conceived without the involvement of any man. Most galleries are afraid to exhibit this lesbian Christmas image. Probably the most common religious Christmas image is that icon of the nuclear family: the baby Jesus with mother Mary and father Joseph. Safe, saccharine Nativity scenes enshrine heterosexuality and obscure the shocking point of Christmas: God became human, and in a most disreputable context—born in poverty to an unwed teenage mother. He represents all people, including the outcasts and the sexually marginalized. Harrelson, a lesbian artist based in Atlanta, puts her Holy Family into the same landscape as Da Vinci’s Madonna of the Rocks. In Harrelson’s version, the Madonna has a classic stylized halo while the landscape forms a natural sunlit halo around her blonde lover (based on the woman who has been Harrelson’s partner since 1995). The contrasting halos are Harrelson’s way of saying that lesbians are a natural part of creation, as opposed to the roles of wife and mother imposed by patriarchal religion. A turkey baster is concealed in the bushes, a play on artificial insemination and virgin birth. “I think God has a sense of humor—where I get mine I like to think,” Harrelson laughed. Harrelson is rightly called “the lesbian Leonardo Da Vinci” because her prodigious talent, style and subject matter are reminiscent of the great Renaissance artist. A recurring theme for lesbian artists is Mary with her female lover, sometimes with references to the virgin birth and its and its similarity to artificial insemination. Lesbians can relate to the myth of Mary’s virgin birth because they use artificial insemination to have babies without heterosexual sex. Pro-woman views of the virgin birth go back at least as far as the famous 1851 speech by abolitionist Sojourner Truth who had been born into slavery. “Where did your Christ come from?” Truth asked. “From God and a woman! Man had nothing to do with Him.” _______ For an in-depth look at this and other queer Christian art, see my article “Take Back Jesus,” published in Tikkun magazine. _______ This painting appears in “Art That Dares: Gay Jesus, Woman Christ, and More” by Kittredge Cherry. The book is filled with color images by 11 contemporary artists. The artists tell the stories behind their images and a lively introduction puts them into political and historical context, exploring issues of blasphemy and artistic freedom.