Sunday, December 14, 2008

AltXmasArt 1: Annunciation

“Annunciation” (from “Ecce Homo”) by Elisabeth Ohlson Wallin, 1998. Photograph, 79 x 60 inches.
The Madonna and her female lover are portrayed as a lesbian couple, seven months’ pregnant through artificial insemination in “Annunciation” by Elisabeth Ohlson Wallin. 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. A Bible quote is displayed with the photo: “The angel said to her, “ ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus.’” (Luke 1:30-31) It’s important to imagine the Christmas story in new and different ways because it empowers people to grow in their relationship with each other and with God. Imagining the Madonna as a lesbian may be shocking, but it reminds the viewer that the story of Jesus’ birth has always been radical. It was scandalous that God’s son was born to an unwed mother in poverty. God became flesh—a shockingly total identification with all people. “Annunciation” is the opening image in the Swedish photographer’s series titled Ecce Homo, a pun meaning “See the human being” and “See the homosexual.” Each image is haunting and sharply beautiful, with a fashion-photo clarity and documentary truth that makes the familiar story become acutely real. All hell broke loose when Ohlson Wallin recreated twelve scenes from Christ’s life using contemporary LGBT models and locations. Her Ecce Homo series toured Europe, often in churches, but the Pope expressed disapproval by canceling a planned audience with the Swedish archbishop. Opponents vandalized the art, threw rocks at the artist and issued death threats. This kind of religious bigotry is exactly why images of a queer Christ are needed. “I wanted Jesus for me and my own sexual sense,” Ohlson Wallin explains. “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.” Please come back tomorrow for AltXmasArt2: “La Anunciación (The Annuciation)” by Armando Lopez. _______________ This photograph 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. Five artists from AltXmasArt are featured in the book. 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.

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