Friday, August 17, 2007

Today’s scandal is tomorrow’s masterpiece

Flowers welcomed people to the Taos festival

Artists and collectors alike were honored at the recent National Festival of Progressive Spiritual Art in Taos, NM.

At the kick-off banquet my partner Audrey and I read the Honor Roll of Artists and presented an iris to each artist whose work was included in my new book Art That Dares: Gay Jesus, Woman Christ, and More and/or in the related exhibit at JHS Gallery.

Audrey reminded collectors of the important contribution they are making by buying 21st-century progressive spiritual art. “You’re not only purchasing a beautiful painting for your wall, but you’re also creating the support necessary for this kind of art to flourish and continue,” she said.

Fifty people gathered for the banquet in the La Fonda Hotel’s historic conference room, which houses D.H. Lawrence’s famous Forbidden paintings. They were confiscated by police from a London gallery in 1929 for being obscene, just as images of the queer Christ often face censorship today.

“Yesterday’s scandal is today’s museum piece. Today’s scandal is tomorrow’s masterpiece,” Audrey told the crowd.

The related exhibit was titled Who Do You Say That I Am? Visions of Christ, Gender and Justice. The book focused on equality for women and gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people, while the exhibit put those issues into a larger context by also addressing war, racial justice and global warming.

For the Honor Roll of Artists, each artist stood as I read a brief description of their accomplishments. Then Audrey handed an iris to the artist. “We honor you,” she announced as the audience burst into applause.

Here is the Honor Roll of Artists. We began with artists in both the book and the exhibit:

Surrealists inspired Jill Ansell to develop her mature style of detailed, allegorical landscapes embedded with themes of feminism and social justice.

Becki Jayne Harrelson’s potent mix of rage, religion, memory, sex, and politics swirled together and brought forth stunning images.

People attacked every aspect of the painting, but the critics seemed most upset that Janet McKenzie had painted a Jesus who was female or at least had a feminine aspect.

In Sandra Yagi’s own words, “Christ treated women with much more equality than today’s church does. To say I can’t reach the same spirituality as a man is bunk!”

Then we honored artists in the exhibit only:

In her Silent Man series, Kathleen Brennan photographed a friend who took a vow of silence when the Iraq War started.

Military members are often stereotyped by liberals and conservatives. Holly Conlon goes deeper with her portrait of her husband, a career military officer.

Robert Ensor makes sculpture from discarded materials. Some call it outsider art—and he does live on the outskirts where town dwindles away to high desert.

Italian-trained David Hewson combines realist painting and classical gilding to present images that seem thoroughly modern, such as President Bush caricatured as an infant.

Through earthy colors, spiritual themes and soft compositions, Armando Lopez combines Catholic imagery with the pre-Christian tradition of his native Mexico.

Emerging artist Robert Walton is not out to make a literal statement, but rather to poeticize the human journey in both its subtleties and complexities.

Finally we honored people who worked behind the scenes on the festival:

People said that my books Art That Dares and Jesus in Love were so far ahead of their time that they could never be published. Then AndroGyne Press came along and published them!

As manager of JHS Gallery, Michael Roberts is always ready to solve problems with his own gentle, efficient style.

In addition to working as a doctor, Michael Simmons co-founded JHS Gallery, a destination gallery for high-quality sacred art in New Mexico.

She’s an artist. She’s an organizer. She’s a spiritual progressive visionary. “She’s the one who said: Bring the art to Taos and I’ll show it at JHS Gallery.” She's Jodi Simmons.

In closing, we all stood united and applauded each other.

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