Sunday, December 23, 2007

Lesbian Madonna embodies Christmas spirit

Annunciation by Elisabeth Ohlson Wallin

Christmas has inspired many contemporary GLBT artists to create queer spiritual art.

For example, Annunciation by Swedish photographer Elisabeth Ohlson Wallin shows the Madonna and her female lover are portrayed by a lesbian couple, pregnant through artificial insemination.

The photo is included in my new book Art That Dares: Gay Jesus, Woman Christ, and More. In our interview for the book, Ohlson Wallin told me how she created the striking, mysterious image. Here are some excerpts from Art That Dares:

She combined the dual influences of Christianity and queer consciousness to create a groundbreaking series of twelve photos showing Jesus in a contemporary LGBT context. It became one of Europe’s most noticed and notorious art exhibits, even arousing the disapproval of Pope John Paul II—who reacted by canceling his planned audience with the Swedish archbishop.

Ohlson Wallin called the series Ecce Homo, a pun meaning “See the human being” and “See the homosexual.” …

She enlisted local LGBT folk to serve as models, and they spent three years meticulously recreating scenes from the life of Christ based on the artistic masterpieces of Michelangelo, Caravaggio, Rubens, and others….

“It’s very important for me in my work that the picture have a documentary truth mixed with the way I arrange the story in the picture,” Ohlson Wallin said. She and her models played with the contradictions….

“I wanted Jesus for me and my own sexual sense. I wanted to be able to identify with Jesus. There are millions and billions of Jesus pictures for heterosexuals to identify with. In Africa they have black Jesus. In China they have Chinese Jesus. Lots of different countries each have a different Jesus.” …

The exhibit went on to tour Scandinavia and continental Europe from 1998 to 2000, winning awards and breaking several attendance records. More than 250,000 people viewed it. Not everyone liked what they saw. A man with an ax destroyed two of the photos. People threw stones at Ohlson Wallin and she needed police protection after receiving death threats….

Ohlson Wallin recorded the whole span of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection, beginning with the announcement of his coming birth. In her version, the Madonna and her female lover are portrayed by a lesbian couple, seven months’ pregnant through artificial insemination. The angel Gabriel comes in the form of their gay male friend, who floats in with a message from God—and a test tube for insemination.

May everyone experience God born anew in their hearts this Christmas season!

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