Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Martha and Mary of Bethany: Sisters or lesbian couple?

Mary and Martha by Bernardino Luini (Wikimedia Commons)

Mary and Martha of Bethany were two of Jesus’ closest friends. The Bible calls them “sisters” who lived together, but reading the Bible with queer eyes raises another possibility. Maybe Mary and Martha were a lesbian couple. Their feast day is today (July 29).

Mary and Martha formed a nontraditional family at a time when there was huge pressure for heterosexual marriage.

As Nancy Wilson, moderator of Metropolitan Community Churches, wrote in the brochure “Our Story Too: Reading the Bible with ‘New’ Eyes”:

“Jesus loved Lazarus, Mary and Martha. What drew Jesus to this very non-traditional family group of a bachelor brother living with two spinster sisters? Two barren women and a eunuch are Jesus’ adult family of choice. Are we to assume they were all celibate heterosexuals? What if Mary and Martha were not sisters but called each other ‘sister’ as did most lesbian couples throughout recorded history?”

Wilson expands on this theory in her book Outing the Bible: Queer Folks, God, Jesus, and the Christian Scriptures.

Biblical patriarchs have also hidden their marriages by claiming their wives were their sisters. In the book of Genesis, Abraham claimed his wife Sarah was his sister on two different occasions (Genesis 12:10-20; 20:1-18) and once Isaac passed off his wife Rebekah as his sister (Genesis 26:1-16).

Mary and Martha are best known for the conflict they had when they hosted Jesus and his disciples. Mary sat at Jesus’ feet to listen, but Martha wanted her to help her serve. Jesus’ famous answer: “Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:41-42).

In another major Bible story, Jesus talks with Mary and Martha in turn before raising their brother Lazarus from the dead. During the conversation, Martha speaks what is considered the first profession of faith in Jesus: “I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who was to come into the world” (John 11:27).

Like with most Biblical figures, the truth about Mary and Martha is a mystery. The gospels references are brief and sometimes contradictory. As a result, Mary of Bethany is identified as Mary Magdalene in the Roman Catholic church, while in Protestant and Eastern Orthodox traditions they are considered separate persons.

The Orthodox Church also includes Mary and Martha among the “myrrh bearing women” who were faithfully present at his crucifixion and brought myrrh to his tomb, where they became the first to witness his resurrection. Christian feminists also honor the couple and say that they probably were leaders of a “house church.”

Artists provide some beautiful paintings of the “sisters,” including the one above by Italian Renaissance artist Bernardino Luini (1480 -1532). Magic realist painter Eileen Kennedy has done a new painting of them as contemporary women. Kennedy’s “In the House of Martha and Mary” is on view at the Episcopal Cafe Art Blog. Martha stands angrily with vacuum cleaner in hand as her sister listens to Jesus.
_________
This post is part of the GLBT Saints series at the Jesus in Love Blog. Saints and holy people of special interest to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) people and our allies are covered on appropriate dates throughout the year.

__________

Icons of Martha and Mary of Bethany and many others are available on cards, plaques, T-shirts, mugs, candles, mugs, and more at TrinityStores.com



Outing the Bible: Queer Folks, God, Jesus, and the Christian Scriptures by Nancy Wilson





Friday, July 24, 2015

Boris and George: Russian saints united in love and death

Saints Boris and George the Hungarian
By Brother Robert Lentz, OFM. www.trinitystores.com

Boris, a popular medieval saint in Russia and Ukraine, loved his servant George the Hungarian so much that he gave him a magnificent gold necklace. The feast day of Saint Boris is July 24 -- the same day that same-sex marriage became legal in New York in 2011.

The love between Boris, one of the oldest and most popular saints in Russia, and George the Hungarian ended in tragedy in medieval Russia in 1015, when both saints were murdered.

Boris and his younger brother Gleb are well known saints in Russia. They are often pictured together and many churches are named after them. Meanwhile the beloved George the Hungarian was never canonized and has mostly been ignored -- until recently.

Boris was a prince and gifted military commander who was popular with the Russian people. He was married, but he had enormous love for his servant George the Hungarian.

Slavic professor Simon Karlinsky has highlighted their gay love story in his analysis of the medieval classic, “The Legend of Boris and Gleb” compiled from 1040 to 1118. Karlinsky writes:
Boris had a magnificent gold necklace made for George because he “was loved by Boris beyond reckoning.” When the four assailants stabbed Boris with their swords, George flung himself on the body of his prince, exclaiming: “I will not be left behind, my precious lord! Ere the beauty of thy body begins to wilt, let it be granted that my life may end.” The assailants tore Boris out of George’s embrace, stabbed George and flung him out of the tent, bleeding and dying. After Boris died, first having forgiven his assassins, his retinue was massacred… Not only was the author of this story clearly sympathetic to the mutual love of Boris and George but he also seemed to realize that “the gratuitous murder of George resulted from his open admission of the nature of this love.”

Karlinsky’s text above is quoted from “Passionate Holiness: Marginalized Christian Devotions for Distinctive People” and “Gay Roots: Twenty Years of Gay Sunshine.”

The man behind the murders was Boris’ half-brother Sviatopolk, who wanted to consolidate his power. He also had their brother Gleb killed at the same time.

In 1071 Boris and his brother Gleb became the first saints canonized by the Russian Orthodox Church. They were named “Passion Bearers” because, while they were not killed for their faith, they faced death in a Christlike manner, forgiving their murderers. Their father, St. Vladimir of Kiev, was the first Christian prince in Russia and their mother Anne was also Christian. Boris and Gleb are buried at the Church of St. Basil near Kiev in Ukraine.

The icon above was painted in 2000 by Brother Robert Lentz, a Franciscan friar and world-class iconographer known for his innovative icons. It is one of 10 Lentz icons that sparked a major controversy in 2005. Critics accused Lentz of glorifying sin and creating propaganda for a progressive sociopolitical agenda, and he temporarily gave away the copyright for the controversial images to his distributor, Trinity Stores.

Here George is restored to his rightful place beside Boris, properly honoring this extraordinary couple and the way they loved each other.

LGBT people in both Russia and the Ukraine still face legalized discrimination. May remembering Boris and George help bring equality for people of every sexual orientation and gender identity.

___
Related links:
Spiritual art supports Russia’s LGBT rights struggle (Jesus in Love)

Russia’s Anti-Gay Crackdown (New York Times)

To read this post in Spanish / en español, go to Santos Queer:
Borís y Jorge: unidos en el amor y en la muerte
____
This post is part of the GLBT Saints series by Kittredge Cherry at the Jesus in Love Blog. Saints, martyrs, mystics, prophets, witnesses, heroes, holy people, deities and religious figures of special interest to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) and queer people and our allies are covered on appropriate dates throughout the year.

Icons of Boris and George and many others are available on cards, plaques, T-shirts, mugs, candles, mugs, and more at TrinityStores.com




Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Symeon of Emesa and John: Holy fool and hermit who loved each other

“Symeon and John” by Jim Ru

Sixth-century Syrian monks Symeon and John were joined in a same-sex union and lived together as desert-dwelling hermits for 29 years. After a tearful split-up, Symeon went on to become known as the Holy Fool of Emesa, the patron saint of all holy fools (and puppeteers.) Their feast day is today (July 21).

These Byzantine saints are important for LGBT people because of their loving same-sex bond and Symeon’s role as holy fool. In the tradition of “fools for Christ,” believers deliberately challenge social norms for spiritual purposes. LGBT Christians, who face insults from both sides for being queer AND Christian, may be able to relate to the motivations and experiences of the holy fools.

Symeon the Holy Fool (or Simeon Salus) of Emesa (c. 522 - c.588) and John of Edessa were close friends starting in childhood, although Symeon was six years older. Both came from wealthy families. When Symeon was 30, they made a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. On the journey home they were both filled with an irresistible desire to leave their families and join a monastery together.

They took vows in the monastery of Abba Gerasimus in Syria. The two men were tonsured by the abbot who blessed them together in an early monastic version of the adelphopoiia ceremony -- the “brother-making” ritual that historian John Boswell calls a “same-sex union.” They were referred to as the “pure bridegrooms (nymphoi) of Christ.”

Soon the two men went together to live as hermits in the desert near the Dead Sea, where they could practice spiritual exercises in solitude. There is no suggestion that their relationship was sexual, but they shared a life together in the wilderness with all the emotional intensity of a same-sex couple for 29 years.

At that point Symeon decided to leave his longtime companion and move to the city of Emesa in modern Lebanon.  He wanted to do charity work while mocking social norms as a “fool for Christ.” John begged him not to go. John’s passionate plea is recorded in “Symeon the Holy Fool” by Derek Krueger:

“Please, for the Lord’s sake, do not leave wretched me. For I have not yet reached this level, so that I can mock the world. Rather for the sake of Him who joined us, do not wish to be parted from your brother. You know that, after God, I have no one except you, my brother, but I renounced all and was bound to you, and now you wish to leave me in the desert, as in an open sea. Remember that day when we drew lots and went down to lord Nikon, that we agreed not to be separated from one another. Remember that fearful hour when we were clothed in the holy habit, and we two were as one soul, so that all were astonished at our love. Don't forget the words of the great monk….Please don’t lest I die and God demands an account of my soul from you.”

Even this heartfelt appeal did not change Symeon’s mind. Instead he invited John into a long, intimate prayer session as described by Krueger:

“After they had prayed for many hours and had kissed each other on the breast and drenched them with their tears, John let go of Symeon and traveled together with him a long distance, for his soul would not let him be separated from him, but whenever Abba Symeon said to him ‘Turn back, brother,’ he heard the word as if a knife separated him from his body, and again he asked if he could accompany him a little further. Therefore, when Abba Symeon forced him, he turned back to his cell drenching the earth with tears.”

Symeon went on to help the poor, heal the sick and do other good works in Emesa. In order to avoid public praise, he shocked people by deliberately acting crazy, making himself a “holy fool.”

Not long before his death, Symeon had a vision in which he saw his beloved John wearing a crown with the inscription, “For endurance in the desert.” 

Symeon and John were honored together as saints on July 21 in many ancient calendars. In the 16th century Caesar Baronius separated them and moved Symeon to July 1, but some traditions still celebrate them both on July 21.

Artist Jim Ru was inspired to paint the Symeon and John as a couple, with John’s fervent words to his beloved, “Please don’t leave lest I die and God demands an account of my soul from you.” The painting was displayed in his show “Transcendent Faith: Gay, Lesbian and Transgendered Saints” in Bisbee, Arizona in the 1990s.
___

More resources:
Symeon the Holy Fool: Leontius’s Life and the Late Antique City” by Derek Krueger (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1996).

Simeon the Holy Fool (Wikipedia)

To read this post in Spanish / en español, go to Santos Queer:
Simeón de Emesa y Juan: un “santo loco” y un ermitaño que amaban el uno al otro
____
This post is part of the GLBT Saints series by Kittredge Cherry at the Jesus in Love Blog. Saints, martyrs, mystics, prophets, witnesses, heroes, holy people, deities and religious figures of special interest to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) and queer people and our allies are covered on appropriate dates throughout the year.





Monday, July 20, 2015

Seneca Falls to Selma to Stonewall: Four women reformers honored as saints


A vision of equality that inspired people “through Seneca Falls, and Selma, and Stonewall” is celebrated as a holy feast day on July 20. Four 19th-century American women reformers -- Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Amelia Bloomer. Sojourner Truth, and Harriet Tubman -- are honored on this date in the Episcopal calendar of saints.

All advocated abolition of slavery as well as women’s rights. The first Women’s Rights Convention ended on July 20, in 1848 in Seneca Falls, NY.

President Obama made connections between women’s liberation, LGBT equality and African American civil rights in a famous line from his 2013 inaugural speech: “We, the people, declare today that the most evident of truths, that all of us are created equal, is the star that guides us still, just as it guided our forebears through Seneca Falls, and Selma, and Stonewall,” he said.

Stanton used similar language based on the Declaration of Independence when she wrote the American Declaration of Rights and Sentiments signed by attendees at Seneca Falls, including this line: “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men and women are created equal.”

“Elizabeth Cady Stanton” by Robert Lentz

A portrait of Elizabeth Cady Stanton is one of 40 icons featured in “Christ in the Margins” by Robert Lentz, is a Franciscan friar known for his innovative and LGBT-positive icons, and Edwina Gateley.

Stanton (1815–1902) was a leader of the early women’s rights movement and one of the organizers of the Seneca Falls conference. Her faith led her to critique the church itself for degrading and discriminating against women.

Raised in the Presbyterian Church, she was outraged by the exclusion of women Bible scholars in the 1870 revision of the King James Bible by an all-male committee, so she founded a committee of women to write the landmark 1895 commentary “The Woman’s Bible.” The controversial work uses book-by-book Bible commentary to challenge prevailing religious beliefs with a liberating theology of equality between the sexes. (A similar work for the LGBT community is “The Queer Bible Commentary,” although it uses many authors to do what Stanton did singlehandedly.)

Stanton is often remembered with Susan B. Anthony because the two women were close friends who collaborated for more than 50 years on women's rights and other reforms. They shared “one of the most productive working partnerships in U.S. history,” according to the documentary “Not for Ourselves Alone: The Story of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony,” directed by Emmy Award-winning film maker Ken Burns.

Anthony has been called the “third person” in Stanton’s marriage to her husband. Stanton was a married mother of seven, but she and Anthony traveled together giving speeches over the course of three decades.

Anthony remained unmarried and her deepest relationships were with other women. Some historians, including Lillian Faderman, believe that Anthony was what today would be called a lesbian. In her book To Believe in Women: What Lesbians Have Done For America - A History, Faderman suggests that Anthony had long-term romantic relationships with other women.

Amelia Jenks Bloomer (1818-1894) was an advocate for temperance and women’s rights. Her name became associated with the loose trousers known as “bloomers” because of her advocacy of women’s dress reform in an era of tight-waisted corsets.  She is the one who first introduced Stanton and Anthony to each other. Bloomer was raised Presbyterian and her activism was based on her faith. “The same Power that brought the slave out of bondage will, in His own good time and way, bring about the emancipation of women, and make her the equal in power and dominion that she was in the beginning,” she said.

Sojourner Truth (1797–8 to 1883) was an escaped slave who became a traveling preacher. She is best known for her speech “Ain’t I a Woman?” She delivered it at the Ohio Women’s Rights Convention in 1851 after listening for hours while clergy use Biblical justifications to attack women’s rights and abolition. For her prophetic witness, she was known as “the Miriam of the Latter Exodus,” after the biblical prophet Miriam.

Harriet Ross Tubman (1820–1913) escaped slavery to lead more than 300 others to freedom through the Underground Railroad and later served as a spy for the Union Army during the Civil War. She was deeply influenced by the Bible story of Moses following God's command to deliver the Israelites from slavery in Egypt. Tubman believed that God called upon her to oppose slavery and help deliver American slaves out of bondage. She became known as "the Moses of her People," which is the subtitle of her 1869 biography written by her friend Sarah Bradford.

All four women for freedom are pictured together with rainbow colors in an icon by Tobias Haller, iconographer, author, composer, and vicar of Saint James Episcopal Church in the Bronx.

“It came to me in a flash that this would be an appropriate symbol for this early Rainbow Coalition for Freedom. I also like to think of it as a Feminist Rushmore!” he said.

He is the author of “Reasonable and Holy: Engaging Same-Sexuality.” Haller enjoys expanding the diversity of icons available by creating icons of LGBTQ people and other progressive holy figures as well as traditional saints. He and his spouse were united in a church wedding more than 30 years ago and a civil ceremony after same-sex marriage became legal in New York.

Both Stanton and Bloomer attended Trinity Episcopal Church in Seneca Falls. Truth and Tubman were both involved in African Methodist Episcopal churches. Today the Episcopal Church honors these four female freedom fighters with the following prayer:

O God, whose Spirit guides us into all truth and makes us
free: Strengthen and sustain us as you did your servants
Elizabeth, Amelia, Sojourner, and Harriet. Give us vision
and courage to stand against oppression and injustice and
all that works against the glorious liberty to which you
call all your children;
through Jesus Christ our Savior, who
lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for
ever and ever. Amen.

___
Top image:
“Four Women for Freedom” by Tobias Haller

___
Related links:

July 20: Elizabeth Cady Stanton, 1902; Amelia Bloomer, 1894; Sojourner Truth, 1883; and Harriet Ross Tubman, 1913, Liberators and Prophets (Holy Women, Holy Men blog)




Sunday, July 19, 2015

Saint Wilgefortis: Holy bearded woman fascinates for centuries

Saint Wilgefortis statue in the Church of Saint Nicholas in Pas-de-Calais, near Wissant, France (Wikimedia Commons)

Santa Wilgefortis” from “Queer Santas” series by Alma Lopez

Saint Wilgefortis prayed to avoid marriage to a pagan king -- and her prayers were answered when she grew a beard! This gender-bending virgin martyr has natural appeal for LGBT people. Her feast day was July 20 (tomorrow) until she was removed from the Vatican calendar in 1969.

Wilgefortis remains in standard Catholic reference works, and images of her as a bearded woman on a cross are plentiful across Europe and in Latin American folk retablos.

She probably originates more in popular imagination than in history, but Wilgefortis continues to be an object of devotion in folk religion, a favorite character in pop culture and an inspiration in queer art.

Contemporary readers have come up with many theories about Wilgefortis. She has been interpreted as the patron saint of intersex people, an asexual person, a transgender person, a person with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome or a lesbian virgin.

Legend says that Wilgefortis was the teenage Christian daughter of a king in medieval Portugal. She had taken a vow of chastity, but her father ordered her to marry a pagan king. She resisted the unwelcome marriage by praying to be made repulsive to her fiancé. God answered her prayers when she grew a beard.

Unfortunately her father got so angry that he had her crucified and Wilgefortis joined the ranks of virgin martyrs. The church has promoted “virgin martyrs” as examples of chastity and faith, but lesbians and other queer people recognize them as kindred spirits who do not engage in heterosexual activity.

Saint Wilgefortis in the Museum of the Diocese Graz-Seckau in Graz, Austria, 18th century (Wikimedia Commons)

Her veneration began in 14th century Europe and grew until the 16th century, when her story was debunked as fiction. People continued to worship her despite frequent opposition by church officials. She was honored all across Europe, and in some places her popularity rivaled the Virgin Mary. Wilgefortis stayed on the official Vatican calendar until 1969. Scholars suggest that her legend arose to explain the Volto Santo of Lucca, a famous Italian sculpture of the crucified Christ in a long tunic that medieval viewers thought was a woman’s dress.

The history is explored in the book “The Female Crucifix: Images of St. Wilgefortis Since the Middle Ages” by Ilse E. Friesen., professor of art history at Wilfrid Laurier University in Canada. She traces the emergences of increasingly female crucifixes over the centuries, focusing on the he German-speaking regions of Bavaria and Tyrol, where the veneration of Wilgefortis reached its peak.

The name Wilgefortis may come from the Latin “virgo fortis” (strong virgin). In Spanish she is Librada -- meaning “liberated” -- from hardship and/or husbands. She also goes by a bewildering variety of other names. Her alternate English name Uncumber means escaper. In addition, she is known as Liberata, Livrade, Kummernis, Komina, Comera, Cumerana, Ulfe, Ontcommen, Dignefortis, Europia, and Reginfledis. In Barcelona (Spain), local people honor Múnia de Barcelona, a legendary saint who is similar to Wilgefortis. Her feast day day is Feb. 28.

The saint is presented in two incarnations -- as Wilgefortis and as Liberata -- in the “Queer Santas” series by Chicana artist Alma Lopez. The series grew out of the artist’s insight that female martyrs may have protected their virginity to the death not so much out of faith, but because they were lesbians. Lopez paints Wilgefortis/Liberata as masculine women in crucifixion poses. They look like butch lesbians, liberating themselves by rejecting feminine appearance and traditional gender roles.

Saint Liberata” from “Queer Santas” series by Alma Lopez

Wilgefortis also makes various appearances in modern literature. The critically acclaimed 1970 novel “Fifth Business” by Robertson Davies concerns a scholar researching Wilgefortis. Castle Waiting, a graphic novel by Linda Medley, features a nun from the order of St. Wilgefortis, an entire convent full of bearded women!

St. Wilgefortis in the Chapel of Our Lady of Sorrows at the Loreta Sanctuary in Prague, Czech Republic. Photo by Curious Expeditions.

___
Related links:

Uncumber or Wilgefortis (Queering the Church)

To read this post in Spanish / en español, go to Santos Queer:
Santa Librada (Wilgefortis): Una santa Barbuda
____
This post is part of the GLBT Saints series by Kittredge Cherry at the Jesus in Love Blog. Saints, martyrs, mystics, prophets, witnesses, heroes, holy people, deities and religious figures of special interest to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) and queer people and our allies are covered on appropriate dates throughout the year.

Copyright © Kittredge Cherry. All rights reserved.
http://www.jesusinlove.blogspot.com/
Jesus in Love Blog on LGBT spirituality and the arts


Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Christa art exhibit celebrates female Christ

“Christa” by Angie Devereux

Female Christ figures by international artists are on display at the University of Winchester in England through Aug. 9.

“Celebrating Female Images of Christ/a” brings together women artists from across Europe to celebrate the ongoing heritage of Christ as a woman.

Artists include Silvia Martinez Cano (Spain), Annette Esser (Germany), Sylvia Grevel (Netherlands) and British artists Megan Clay, Angie Devereux and Jess Wood. The exhibit at the university's Link Gallery also includes the Bosnian Christa created by Margaret Argyle in 1993. The exhibition poster features “She is Risen” by Megan Clay, curator of the show.

I wrote about the importance of female Christ figures and their connection to queer Christ images in my book “Art That Dares: Gay Jesus, Woman Christ, and More.” Here are some excerpts from the book:

Two dramatic new visions are coming into consciousness: the gay Jesus and the woman Christ. They break gender rules and gender roles. Their very presence stirs controversy. These radically new Christ figures embody and empower people who are left out when Jesus is shown as a straight man. They can free the minds of everyone who sees them. Artists who dare to show Christ as gay or female have had their work destroyed—if they can find a way to exhibit it at all….

Appreciation for the gay Jesus and woman Christ images is not limited to LGBT people, women, or even Christians. Many others are also turned off by dogmatic, male-dominated religions and the wars they fuel. Such people may welcome the sacred feminine and the gay-sensitive reassessments of Christ. On a deeper level, the new images aim to heal the painful split between body and soul that came with patriarchy. Without that basic wholeness, humanity is likely to continue down the destructive path of war, economic exploitation and ecological destruction. …

The woman Christ is a radical reimagining of the central figure of Christianity. It’s possible that the historical Jesus was gay, but he definitely was not female. All artists who portray the female Christ are breaking with historical fact in order to express a deeper truth. Most say they are drawn to the Christ archetype for reasons that they cannot explain. Some note the influence of feminism or faith—the Christian belief that the risen Christ transcends gender. Some point out that the world needs to honor the sacred feminine and is cycling back to it.

A woman on the cross is still rare enough to shock, but for those who go looking, it is the most common motif for female Christ figures in art. As with the gay Jesus, crucifixions far outnumber resurrections. Female crucifixions generally express the sacrifice and suffering of women—and yet the power to overcome death is implicit in every crucifixion….

The current exploration of the female Christ is new, but not unprecedented. Some artists draw inspiration from Sophia, the female incarnation of Wisdom in the Bible. Sophia is considered a Christ figure in Byzantine tradition, and she has appeared in Byzantine churches and icons at least since the Middle Ages.

At the University of Winchester, lectures are being presented in conjunction with the Christa exhibit by Nicola Slee of the Queen's Foundation in Birmingham and Angela Berlis of the University of Bern, Switzerland. Slee is the author of “Seeking the Risen Christa.”

The exhibition catalog for “Celebrating Female Images of Christ/a” features a description of each painting and its meaning. To purchase the catalog, contact Lisa Isherwood, professor of feminist liberation theologies and director of the Institute for Theological Partnerships, which oversaw the exhibit. Her email address is Lisa.Isherwood@winchester.ac.uk.

The Christa exhibit opened on July 10, 2015. The opening weekend was so successful that the institute is already making plans for a follow-up exhibit next year on feminist images of Mary/Miriam.

For more info on the Christa exhibit, contact: Joanna.Wilson@Winchester.ac.uk.

___
Related links:

Crucified Christa embodies female Christ (Jesus in Love)

Exhibition poster for “Celebrating Female Images of Christ/a”

Copyright © Kittredge Cherry. All rights reserved.
http://www.jesusinlove.blogspot.com/
Jesus in Love Blog on LGBT spirituality and the arts




Wednesday, July 08, 2015

Artemisia Gentileschi paints strong Biblical women

“Judith and Her Maidservant” by Artemisia Gentileschi

Baroque artist Artemisia Gentileschi inspires many with her paintings of strong Biblical women -- created despite the discrimination and sexual violence that she faced as a woman in 17th-century Italy. She was born more than 400 years ago today (July 8, 1593).

Gentileschi was apparently heterosexual, but lesbians have drawn energy from her life and art. Many queer people can relate to her battles against prejudice and sexual violence, documented in her rape trial in 1612. She can be considered the patron saint of lesbian artists, women artists, and everyone who breaks gender rules.

Gentileschi (1593–1652) was successful in her own day, but was mostly written out of art history until the 1970s, when feminist scholars rediscovered her work. Now she is celebrated in many books, films and plays, and her work is widely reproduced. Her greatest paintings include “Judith Beheading Holofernes” and “Susanna and the Elders.”

Lesbians who have created tributes to Gentileschi include painter Becki Jayne Harrelson and playwright Carolyn Gage. In the play “Artemisia and Hildegard,” Gage has two of history’s great women artists debate their contrasting survival strategies: Gentileschi battled to achieve in the male-dominated art world while Hildegard of Bingen found support for her art in the women-only community of a medieval German nunnery.

The daughter of a painter, Gentileschi was born in Rome and trained as a painter in her father’s workshop there. She was refused admission to the art academy because she was a woman, so her father arranged for her to have a private painting teacher -- who raped her when she was about 19. Gentileschi herself was tortured by thumbscrews during the seven-month rape trial, but she stuck to her testimony. The teacher was convicted, but received a suspended sentence.

“Judith Beheading Holofernes”
by Artemisia Gentileschi
Gentileschi used art to express her outrage. During the trial Artemisia began painting the Biblical scene of “Judith Beheading Holofernes” (left). Judith, a daring and beautiful Hebrew widow, saves Israel by cutting off the head of the invading general Holofernes. Judith and Holofernes became one of Gentileschi’s favorite subjects, and she painted several variations during her lifetime.

Her realistic style, influenced by the artist Caravaggio, shows dramatic contrasts between light and dark. But Gentileschi usually created her own unique interpretation expressing a strong female viewpoint. The violence of Judith beheading the male general Holofernes speaks for itself. Another example is her painting (below left) of the Biblical story of the Hebrew wife Susanna and the lustful elders who spied on her while she was bathing. Although her male contemporaries painted the scene as a voyeuristic fantasy, Gentileschi presents it as a violation of the vulnerable Susanna by the predatory elders.

“Susanna and the Elders”
by Artemisia Gentileschi
Soon after the rape trial Gentileschi married and moved to Florence, where she became the first woman accepted into the Accademia delle Arti del Disegno (Academy of the Arts of Drawing). She had a full career, producing many paintings of powerful women from Christianity, history and mythology. She worked in various Italian cities and even spent a few years painting in London, England. It is believed that she died when she was about 60 years old in a plague that swept Naples in 1656.

Today Gentileschi’s life and work are admired by many, including artist Becki Jayne Harrelson. She is best known for her LGBT-affirming version of “The Crucifixion of the Christ” with the word “faggot” above Jesus on the cross, but Harrelson has also honored Gentileschi in her art and blog.

Harrelson offers this tribute in celebration of Gentileschi’s birthday: “Artemisia Gentileschi’s talent and mastery was equal to her male counterparts, yet because of sexism and misogyny, she was denied the recognition she deserved as a master painter until many centuries later. She also suffered sexual violence and was treated unjustly for standing up against it. Her art and life inspires me to persevere despite adversity and prejudice.”

“Tribute to Artemisia’s Judith” by Becki Jayne Harrelson, www.beckijayne.com
Oil on canvas | 36”w X 48”h

Gentileschi's story is told in a variety of movies and novels, including "The Passion of Artemisia" by Susan Vreeland.

Theologian Susan Thistlethwaite writes about Gentileschi in her 2015 book “A Theology of Women's Bodies as Battlefield: Just War, Just Peace, and the Global War on Women” (publication date: July 15, 2015). Gentileschi concludes the section on Renaissance painting and establishing the visiblity/invisiblity of rape culture.

Artemisia Gentileschi is included in the LGBT saints series at the Jesus in Love Blog because she has inspired so many lesbians with her paintings of women and her success despite gender barriers and sexual violence.
_________
This post is part of the GLBT Saints series by Kittredge Cherry at the Jesus in Love Blog. Saints, martyrs, mystics, heroes and holy people of special interest to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) and queer people and our allies are covered on appropriate dates throughout the year.

Copyright © Kittredge Cherry. All rights reserved.
http://www.jesusinlove.blogspot.com/
Jesus in Love Blog on LGBT spirituality and the arts

Saturday, July 04, 2015

Jemima Wilkinson: Queer preacher reborn in 1776 as “Publick Universal Friend”


Jemima Wilkinson (1752-1819) was a queer American preacher who woke from a near-death experience in 1776 believing she was neither male nor female. She changed her name to “the Publick Universal Friend,” fought for gender equality and founded an important religious community.

It’s appropriate to consider the Publick Universal Friend around July 4 for Independence Day. In 1776, the same year that America issued the Declaration of Independence, Wilkinson declared her own independence from gender. This fascinating person died almost 200 years ago today on July 1, 1819.

Wilkinson is recognized as the first American-born woman to found a religious group, but is also called a “transgender evangelist.” The breakaway Quaker preacher spoke against slavery and gave medical care to both sides in the Revolutionary War.

Wilkinson was 24 when she had a severe fever leading to a near-death experience. Upon waking she confidently announced to her surprised family that Jemima Wilkinson had died and her body was now inhabited by a genderless “Spirit of Life from God” sent to preach to the world. She insisted on being called the Publick Universal Friend or simply “the Friend.” From then on, the Friend refused to respond to her birth name or use gendered pronouns.

Seal of the Universal Friend
(Wikimedia Commons)
The preacher and prophet known as “the Friend” defies categorization. The Friend has been labeled a “spiritual transvestite” and is on lists of “famous asexuals” and “a gender-variance Who’s Who.” As a gender nonconformist whose life was devoted to God, the Friend fits the definition of a queer saint. The androgynous Friend was many things to many people.

Jemima Wilkinson was born to a Quaker family in Rhode Island on Nov. 29, 1752. She showed a strong interest in religion while growing up. On Oct. 13, 1776, the Sunday after being reborn, the Friend gave a public sermon for the first time. Quaker officials rejected the Friend as a heretic, but s/he went on to preach throughout Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Pennsylvania.

The Friend blended traditional Christian warnings about sin and redemption with Quaker pacifism, abolitionism, plain dress and peaceful relations with Native American Indians. Women had no legal rights in the United States, but the Friend advocated equality of the sexes. The Friend was a firm believer in sexual abstinence.

People were drawn not only to this progressive message, but also to the Friend’s forceful personality and genderbending appearance. S/he rejected standard women’s attire and hairdos for a unique blend of male and female. The Friend commonly wore a flowing black male clergy gown with female petticoats peeking out at the hem. The Friend’s long hair hung loose to the shoulder. The rest of the Friend’s outfit often included a man’s broad-brimmed hat and women’s colorful scarves.

The first recruits were family members, but the Friend soon attracted a diverse group of followers, including intellectual and economic elites as well as the poor and oppressed. Known as the Universal Friends, they upset some people by proclaiming that the Friend was “the Messiah Returned” or “Christ in Female Form.” The Friend did not make such claims directly.

The Friend founded the Society of Universal Friends in 1783. Members pooled their money and started a utopian communal settlement in the wilderness near Seneca Lake in upstate New York in 1788. As the first settlers in the region, they cleared the land and became the first white people to meet and trade with the Native Americans there. By 1790 the community had grown to a population of 260.

Hostile observers put the Friend on trial for blasphemy in 1800, but the court ruled that American courts could not try blasphemy cases due to the separation of church and state in the U.S. constitution. Thus the Friend was a pioneer in establishing freedom of speech and freedom of religion in American law.

Like other isolated utopian communities based on celibacy, the Society of Universal Friends dwindled. The Friend “left time,” as the Universal Friends put it, on July 1, 1819 at age 61. The organization disintegrated within a few years of the founder’s death.

The Publick Universal Friend continues to fascinate people today. One of the most authoritative biographies of this mysterious person is Pioneer Prophetess: Jemima Wilkinson, the Publick Universal Friend by Herbert A. Wisbey Jr. In recent years the life and work of the Friend has been examined by feminists and LGBTQ scholars, including gay historian Michael Bronski in his Lambda Literary Award-winning book, A Queer History of the United States.
___
Related links:
Chapter on Jemima Wilkinson from “Saints, Sinners and Reformers” by John H. Martin (Crooked Lake Review)

The Assumption of Jemima Wilkinson by Sharon V. Betcher (Journal of Millennial Studies)

Scherer Carriage House (permanent museum exhibit on Jemima Wilkinson)

___
Books on LGBTQ American history:

___
Related links:
Books on LGBTQ American history:

A Queer History of the United States” by Michael Bronski

Stand by Me: The Forgotten History of Gay Liberation” by Jim Downs

Gay American History: Lesbians and Gay Men in the U.S.A.” by Jonathan Katz


___
Top image credit: Jemima Wilkinson / Publick Universal Friend (Wikimedia Commons)

____
This post is part of the GLBT Saints series by Kittredge Cherry at the Jesus in Love Blog. Saints, martyrs, mystics, prophets, witnesses, heroes, holy people, deities and religious figures of special interest to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) and queer people and our allies are covered on appropriate dates throughout the year.

Copyright © Kittredge Cherry. All rights reserved.
http://www.jesusinlove.blogspot.com/
Jesus in Love Blog on LGBT spirituality and the arts

Thursday, July 02, 2015

Gay tours of Vatican art reveal hidden history


Gay history hidden in Vatican religious art can now be seen firsthand through new LGBT-friendly tours never offered before.

In a sign of the Vatican’s increasing acceptance of queer people, Italian travel company Quiiky has begun leading two gay-oriented day tours based on the lives, loves and masterpieces of Renaissance artists Michelangelo and Leonardo Da Vinci.

Same-sex kisses in the Sistine Chapel and Michelangelo’s love for a young male poet are the focus of Quiiky's queer tour of Rome. Moving north to Milan, the LGBT Da Vinci tour reveals how the artist’s own beloved male disciple Salai was probably the model for Christ’s apostle John in the Last Supper.

The most popular part of the tour comes in the Sistine Chapel when guides point to the top right corner of “Last Judgment,” just behind Saint Peter. Michelangelo painted three pairs of male figures kissing and embracing to celebrate their ascent to heaven.
Detail from “Last Judgement” by Michelangelo

“Our customers like the Sistine Chapel painting of a kiss between two men going to Paradise, not in Hell,” Quiiky CEO Alessio Virgili told the Jesus in Love Blog.

Using slang and simple language, Quiiky guides point out details that other guides ignore -- details related to the homosexuality of the artists. The tours were conceived especially, but not exclusively, for an LGBT audience.

“This gay tour gives finally the right importance homosexuality had in the Renaissance period and in the Italian art itself, a role that has been hidden until now because of the bigotry of certain environments,” the Quiiky.com website states.

Plans are underway to add two more gay excursions: a Caravaggio tour of Baroque Rome and a tour of Tivoli highlighting ancient Roman emperor Hadrian and his male lover Antinous.

“There is an untold history that some gays know, but I think it is time for everybody to find out,” Virgili said in an interview with Jesus in Love. “When I traveled abroad I always used to meet LGBT people who told me that they liked visiting Italy to look for history, especially places and art made by gay men and lesbians.” So he launched the gay tours.

The Quiiky Vatican Museum tour begins with ancient statues, such as Hadrian and his beloved Antinous, and concludes with a visit to the Gallery of Tapestries and St. Peter’s Basilica. But the highlight is the Sistine Chapel.

Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel paintings were controversial even in his own time because they include many sensous male nudes who are modeled on manual laborers. The models were probably men whom Michelangelo saw at gay bathhouses and brothels, according to historian Elena Lazzarini of Pisa University. Michelangelo's homoerotic interests are evident not only in his paintings, but also in the hundreds of love poems that he wrote during his lifetime.

"John the Baptist" by Da Vinci
The Da Vinci tour visits different sites in Milan linked to the artistic genius, including the Biblioteca Ambrosiana library where his work is preserved and the Sforza Castle where he painted on commission for a noble family.

The centerpiece of the tour is viewing “The Last Supper” in the convent refectory at Santa Maria delle Grazie. Next to Christ is his beloved disciple John, who resembles Da Vinci’s apprentice Gian Giacomo Caprotti. Nicknamed Salai (“little devil”), he was also Da Vinci’s frequent model and most likely lover.  Salai is also presumed to be the model for a painting of an almost coquettish John the Baptist by Da Vinci.

Historical documents show that Da Vinci was accused of sodomy as a young man. The charges were dismissed for lack of evidence, but speculation has continued for centuries as viewers perceived proof in his artwork.

Quiiky’s gay tours have been popular since their inception in November 2014. Every day about 15 people take the gay tours, which are designed for an intimate, small-group experience. About 70 percent of customers come from the United States, followed by England and Spain.

Vatican officials are aware of the gay tours, but have done nothing to stop them. “It is not a secret that Quiiky is a LGBT tour operator open to everybody, and we have access to Vatican Museum with official guides. This is, I think, because Vatican wants to open its doors to everybody, with no difference,” Virgili explained.

Pope Francis set a new tone in 2013 when he told reporters that his attitude about LGBT people is: “Who am I to judge?”

Virgili said that nonjudgmental attitude extends to the gay tours that he offers: “And so the Vatican doesn’t judge if you are looking for your personal identity and history in a place created to embrace the whole human being.”

___
Related links:
Vatican Art in a Gay Light (New York Times)

“The Last Judgement” and the Homoerotic Spirituality of Michelangelo (Queer Spirituality)

Michelangelo's 'The Last Judgement' was 'inspired by visiting gay saunas' (Daily Mail)

The Secret Gay Vatican Tour (Pride Travel)

The Passions of Michelangelo by Rictor Norton

___
Special thanks to Marco Wooster for the news tip.
___
This post is part of the Artists series by Kittredge Cherry at the Jesus in Love Blog. The series profiles artists who use lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) and queer spiritual and religious imagery. It also highlights great queer artists from history, with an emphasis on their spiritual lives.

Copyright © Kittredge Cherry. All rights reserved.
http://www.jesusinlove.blogspot.com/
Jesus in Love Blog on LGBT spirituality and the arts

New LGBTQ Christian books: July 2015


Two new books about AIDS and LGBTQ Christianity are announced this month.


Religion, Flesh, and Blood: The Convergence of HIV/AIDS, Black Sexual Expression, and Therapeutic Religion” by Pamela Leong.

Successful AIDS ministry by one black LGBT congregation in Unity Fellowship is the focus of a rich case study by a sociology professor. She describes how they blend African-American Christianity with the therapeutic ethic of American pop culture. The author focuses on the Los Angeles congregation through field work, interviews and analysis of sermons. Unity Fellowship founder Carl Bean is discussed in depth. Leong is assistant professor of sociology at Salem State University in Massachusetts.




After the Wrath of God: AIDS, Sexuality, and American Religion” by Anthony M. Petro.

The entire religious history of AIDS in America is examined by a Boston University religion professor. He goes way beyond the usual discussion of the Religious Right to cover a wide range of mainline Protestant, evangelical, and Catholic groups as well as AIDS activist organizations. The author reveals how the AIDS crisis prompted American Christians to start discussing homosexuality, fostering a moral discourse whose legacy includes abstinence education and same-sex marriage. This detailed and discerning history was published by the prestigious Oxford University Press. The section on Metropolitan Community Churches includes the ministry of long-time AIDS survivor Stephen Pieters.


___
Related links:

New LGBTQ Christian books: June 2015

New LGBTQ Christian books: May 2015

New LGBTQ Christian books: March 2015

New LGBTQ Christian books: Feb 2015

Top 25 LGBTQ Christian books of 2014 named (Jesus in Love)

Top 20 Gay Jesus books (from Jesus in Love)

Queer Theology book list (from Patrick Cheng)

Queering the Church book list

Jesus in Love Bookstore (includes LGBT Christian classics)


Copyright © Kittredge Cherry. All rights reserved.
http://www.jesusinlove.blogspot.com/
Jesus in Love Blog on LGBT spirituality and the arts

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

Pauli Murray: Queer saint who stood for racial and gender equality

Pauli Murray by Laurel Green

Human rights champion and queer saint Pauli Murray is a renowned civil rights pioneer, feminist, author, lawyer and the first black woman ordained as an Episcopal priest. Her feast day is today (July 1).

Murray was arrested and jailed for refusing to sit in the back of a segregated bus in Virginia in 1938 -- 15 years before Rosa Parks became a national symbol for resisting bus segregation. In 1941 she organized restaurant sit-downs in the nation’s capital -- 20 years before the famous Greensboro sit-ins.

She was attracted to women and her longest relationships were with women, so she is justifiably considered a lesbian. But she also described herself as a man trapped in a woman’s body and took hormone treatments in her 20s and 30s, so she might even be called transgender man today.

Murray was approved for trial inclusion in the Episcopal Church’s book of saints, “Holy Women, Holy Men” in a 2012 vote. Usually the Episcopalians wait until 50 years after a person has died before making granting sainthood, but for Murray the church set aside the rule and approved “trial use” of materials commemorating her now.

Others have written extensively about her many accomplishments, but material on Murray’s sexuality is hard to find. She did not speak publicly about her sexual orientation or gender identity issues, but she left ample evidence of these struggles in her letters and personal writings.

Pauli Murray (Wikipedia)

Anna Pauline (Pauli) Murray (November 20, 1910 – July 1, 1985) was born in Baltimore, Maryland and raised in Durham, North Carolina. She became aware of her queer sexuality early in life. In Pauli Murray and Caroline Ware: Forty Years of Letters in Black and White, historian Anne Firor Scott explains:

“In adolescence Murray began to worry about her sexual nature. She later said that she was probably meant to be a man, but had by accident turned up in a woman’s body. She began to keep clippings about various experiments with hormones as a way of changing sexual identity…. In 1937, at the initiative of a friend, she had been admitted to Bellevue Hospital in New York, and during her stay there she examined her worries about her sexual nature in writing, and said that she hoped to move toward her masculine side... . She continued for years to discuss the developing medical literature about hormones, thinking they might help her. She discussed the possibility of homosexuality with doctors; she knew that she was attracted to very feminine, often white, women, and she knew as well that… she was not physically attracted to men. This conflict would continue for the rest of her life.”

Murray’s queer side is discussed in many books, including American Eugenics: Race, Queer Anatomy, and the Science of Nationalism by Nancy Ordover and To Believe in Women: What Lesbians Have Done For America by Lillian Faderman, and in the play “To Buy the Sun: The Challenge of Pauli Murray” by Lynden Harris.

A graduate of New York’s Hunter College, Murray was rejected from the University of North Carolina UNC Chapel Hill’s graduate school in 1938 because of her race. She became a civil rights activist. In the late 1930s Murray was also seeking psychological help and testosterone implants from doctors in an effort to “treat” her homosexuality by becoming more male.

Eager to become a civil rights lawyer, Murray was the only woman in her law school class at Howard University in Washington, DC. She graduated first in her class in 1944, but was rejected by Harvard because of her gender -- even though President Franklin Roosevelt wrote a letter of support for her after Murray contacted First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt. Instead Murray studied law at the University of California in Berkeley. She wrote numerous influential publications, and NAACP used her arguments in the landmark 1954 Brown v. Board of Education case that ended racial segregation in U.S. public schools.

Her ongoing frienship with Roosevelt is described in the 2016 book, “The Firebrand and the First Lady: Portrait of a Friendship: Pauli Murray, Eleanor Roosevelt, and the Struggle for Social Justice” by women's studies professor Patricia Bell-Scott.

In the early 1960s President John Kennedy appointed Murray to the Commission on the Status of Women Committee. She worked with Martin Luther King Jr. and Bayard Rustin on civil rights -- and criticized the 1963 March on Washington at the time for excluding women from leadership. In 1965 she became the first African American to receive a law doctorate from Yale. A year later she co-founded the National Organization for Women.

Instead of retiring, Murray launched a new career at age 62. She entered New York’s General Theological Seminary in 1973, before the Episcopal Church allowed women priests. She was ordained in 1977. She celebrated her first Holy Eucharist at the Chapel of the Cross in Chapel Hill, NC -- the same church where her grandmother, a slave, was baptized.

After a lifetime as a human rights activist, she drew on her own experience to preach a powerful vision of God’s justice. It can be difficult to locate Murray’s sermons in books. Eight of Murray’s sermons can be found in the readily available book “Daughters of Thunder: Black Women Preachers and Their Sermons, 1850-1979,” edited by Bettye Collier-Thomas. Sermons by Murray in the book are Male and Female He Created Them (1978), Women Seeking Admission to Holy Orders as Crucifers Carrying the Cross (1974), Mary Has Chosen the Best Part (1977), The Holy Spirit (1977), The Gift of the Holy Spirit (1977), The Dilemma of the Minority Christian (1974), Salvation and Liberation (1979), and Can These Bones Live Again (1978).

In a 1977 sermon recorded in the hard-to-find Pauli Murray: Selected Sermons and Writings, she said:

It was my destiny to be the descendant of slave owners as well as slaves, to be of mixed ancestry, to be biologically and psychologically integrated in a world where the separation of the races was upheld by the Supreme Court of the United States as the fundamental law of our Southland. My entire life’s quest has been for spiritual integration, and this quest has led me ultimately to Christ, in whom there is no East or West, no North or South, no Black or White, no Red or Yellow, no Jew or Gentile, no Islam or Buddhist, no Baptist, Methodist, Episcopalian, or Roman Catholic, no Male or Female. There is no Black Christ, no White Christ, no Red Christ – although these images may have transitory cultural value. There is only Christ, the Spirit of Love.

Murray died of cancer on July 1, 1985 at age 74. Her best known book is Proud Shoes: The Story of an American Family (1956), her memoir of growing up as a mixed-race person in the segregated South.

The image of Pauli Murray at the top of this post is part of the “In the Spirit of Those Who Led the Way” series by North Carolina artist Laurel Green. She creates digital artworks in conversation with more traditional media.

“Pauli Murray” by Angela Yarber

A new icon of Pauli Murray was painted for the "Holy Women Icons" series by Angela Yarber, an artist, scholar, dancer, minister and LGBT-rights activist based in North Carolina. It is one of nearly 50 color images of her folk feminist icons included in her 2014 book "Holy Women Icons." Her colorful icon shows Murray with a closed eyes and large heart inscribed with the words:

“When her throat grew weary,
Her heart pulsed a song of hope,
Of justice, of equality,
Unconstrained by the binaries
That bind.
Authentically free.”

For more info on Yarber, see my previous post "Artist paints holy lesbians and other women."

The trial use commemorations of the Episcopal Church include this new prayer:

Liberating God, we thank you most heartily for the steadfast courage of your servant Pauli Murray, who fought long and well: Unshackle us from bonds of prejudice and fear so that we show forth your reconciling love and true freedom, which you revealed through your Son and Our Savior Jesus Christ.

Pauli Murray image from Holy Women, Holy Men on Facebook celebrating saints in the Episcopal Church, produced by the Paradoxy Center at St. Nicholas Church.

___
Related links:

Pauli Murray profile at LGBTHistoryMonth.com

www.paulimurrayproject.org

Pauli Murray Named to Episcopal Sainthood (duke.edu)

Paul Murray bio (Episcopal Diocese of North Carolina)

Queering Iconography, Painting Pauli Murray” by Angela Yarber (Feminism and Religion Blog)

Convention OKs continued trial use of ‘Holy Women, Holy Men’ (Episcopal News Service)

____
This post is part of the GLBT Saints series by Kittredge Cherry at the Jesus in Love Blog. Saints, martyrs, mystics, prophets, witnesses, heroes, holy people, deities and religious figures of special interest to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) and queer people and our allies are covered on appropriate dates throughout the year.

Copyright © Kittredge Cherry. All rights reserved.
http://www.jesusinlove.blogspot.com/
Jesus in Love Blog on LGBT spirituality and the arts