“The Passion of Christ: A Gay Vision,” a set of 24 paintings by Douglas Blanchard, was displayed in 2007 at JHS Gallery in Taos, NM (Photo by Dorie Hagler)
Update: Click here for the 2012 version of the Gay Passion of Christ series, with new and expanded commentary.
A gay vision of Christ’s Passion starts tomorrow here at the Jesus in Love Blog. New posts will run daily for three weeks from April 8-29.
Each daily post features art by gay New York painter Douglas Blanchard, text by lesbian author Kittredge Cherry of Los Angeles, and a short Bible passage. The three-week blog series includes all 24 paintings in Blanchard’s epic masterpiece “The Passion of Christ: A Gay Vision.”
The images show Jesus as a contemporary gay man jeered by fundamentalists, tortured by Marine look-alikes and rising again to enjoy homoerotic moments with God and friends. He faces forms of rejection that feel familiar to contemporary lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people. He stands up to priests, businessmen, lawyers, and soldiers—all of whom look eerily similar to the people holding those jobs today.
“We are posting the gay Passion series to make Christ more accessible to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people and our allies,” said Cherry, founder of JesusInLove.org. The website promotes artistic and religious freedom by supporting LGBT spirituality and the arts. “Christ’s story is for everyone, but queer people often feel left out because conservatives use Christian rhetoric to justify hate and discrimination,” she said.
Cherry wrote the reflections and prayers specifically to accompany Blanchard’s paintings. Blanchard’s gay Passion series has built a reputation since its completion in 2005, but Cherry’s text will make its first public appearance with this series.
The posts are timed so that Christ dies on Good Friday (April 22) and rises again on Easter itself (April 24). The series covers the dramatic events of Palm Sunday, the Last Supper, and Jesus’ arrest, trial, crucifixion and resurrection. It will run through Lent, Holy Week, Easter and beyond.
Blanchard, an active Episcopalian who teaches college art history, spent four years painting the gay Passion. He started in summer 2001, but it took on new meaning on Sept. 11 when hijacked planes crashed into the World Trade Center near his studio on New York’s Lower East Side. “I understand that a lot of people rediscovered religious faith after September 11th. I had the opposite reaction,” he said. “I was horrified by the religious motivation of those attacks.” He used the paintings to address this conflict, concluding that Christ’s resurrection reverses the “grim arithmetic of power.”
The gay Jesus himself appears surprisingly accessible in Blanchard’s art. “I didn’t want him to seem in any way remote and unapproachably sacred,” he explained. Each of the Passion pictures is oil on wood panel, 18 inches by 14 inches.
Cherry is the author of six books, including “Art That Dares: Gay Jesus, Woman Christ, and More,” a finalist for the Lambda Literary Award. “Art That Dares” is filled with color images by 11 contemporary artists from the U.S. and Europe, including selections from Blanchard’s gay Passion series.
The New York Times Book Review praised Cherry’s “very graceful, erudite” writing style. Her other books include “Equal Rites: Lesbian and Gay Worship, Ceremonies, and Celebrations” and “Jesus in Love: A Novel.” Her books have been translated into German, Polish, Chinese and Japanese. Cherry was ordained by Metropolitan Community Churches and served as its national ecumenical officer.
Cherry founded JesusInLove.org in 2005 to support LGBT spirituality and the arts and show God’s love for all people, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. With a focus on gay Jesus and queer saints, Jesus in Love grew quickly into an online community with a popular blog, videos, e-newsletter and image archive.
Click here for the whole Gay Passion series or click the titles below to view individual posts in the series.
1. The Human One (Son of Man) with Job and Isaiah
2. Jesus Enters the City
3. Jesus Drives Out the Money Changers
4. Jesus Preaches in the Temple
5. The Last Supper
6. Jesus Prays Alone
7. Jesus Is Arrested
8. Jesus Before the Priests
9. Jesus Before the Magistrate
10. Jesus Before the People
11. Jesus Before the Soldiers
12. Jesus Is Beaten
13. Jesus Goes to His Execution
14. Jesus Is Nailed to the Cross
15. Jesus Dies
16. Jesus Is Buried
17. Jesus Among the Dead
18. Jesus Rises
19. Jesus Appears to Mary
20. Jesus Appears at Emmaus
21. Jesus Appears to His Friends
22. Jesus Returns to God
23. The Holy Spirit Arrives
24. The Trinity
Made In God's Image: Stations of the Cross for Inclusive and Affirming Communities by Rev. Janine C. Stock
This post is part of the Queer Christ series series by Kittredge Cherry at the Jesus in Love Blog. The series gathers together visions of the queer Christ as presented by artists, writers, theologians and others. It is also part of the LGBT Holidays series.