Hidden Perspectives

Bringing the Bible Out of the Closet

Beth Fenton Interview by Aysha Musa

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Can you introduce yourself to our readers and give us an idea of what you do?

Hello, my name is Beth Fenton, I’m a first year student at the University of Sheffield studying Philosophy & Religion. I’m also the resident artist for the Hidden Perspectives project.

When did you start ‘seriously’ creating art and how did you get into it? What was your motive, was it an outlet for you emotions or something you just loved doing?

I’m not sure there was ever a “serious” moment I got in to it. Art has always been something I’ve enjoyed doing since I was really young; sitting down and drawing with my music on, takes my mind off things. I never drew any attention (pun) from people to begin with – just doodling away in the corner but over the years the more I practiced and the better I got the more people started showing an interest which is still surprising to me because it’s just what I’ve always done for my own enjoyment.

What kind of things did you begin drawing?

From the age of about five to eleven I drew a lot of girly portraits with the eyelashes and lips and a lot of horses. Especially on a rainy-break at school when we couldn’t run around outside I would draw horses and unicorns galloping around. Classic girl.

Has you art progressed? If so, how?

Yes. I look back at some of my old sketchbooks, even work from last year and pick out all the technical faults in it. As with anything, the more you practise the better you get so I hope that every piece I do exceeds the last. Portraits have been my main progression, people have mistaken them for photos before and I can’t quite believe I’ve developed my skills to that point! It’s quite humbling.

What is your favourite piece of art and who is it by?

Oooh. Good question. Well I’m a photorealist, so the works that make an impression on me the most are pieces that look like photographs; I think I just find them more impressive that you can stand and study a piece of work and admire how on earth they captured exactly what they saw because everyone can appreciate that, you don’t have to know historical context etc. to engage with it.
So the work of Juan Francisco Casas is a favourite of mine. He draws contemporary images from polaroid photos all in biro, his subjects capture a youthful sexuality often involving alcohol, and underwear… But his stuff is great and I imagine he must go through a lot of biros.

Which is your favourite piece of art that you have created and why?

Ooh I don’t like this question. I don’t really like to point out what I think I’ve done well because I can see all the bits that don’t look like the original image but I quite like the close-up pieces I’ve done. There’s an image of a couple with their faces pressed together and their eyes closed. That will be exhibited at the Hidden Perspectives festival; I like holding it away at arms length and squinting a bit so that it looks like a photo and thinking “I did that with some pencils.”

How did you get involved with Hidden Perspectives?

It was in one of my ‘Understanding Religion’ lectures last term and Katie Edwards was lecturing about the portrayal of gender in media advertising and how this reflects religious beliefs. I love imagery and advertising especially about sexuality, so when I heard there was a festival highlighting the issues and debates about religion and gender I wanted to get involved.

Also I hear you will be exhibiting some of your art at the Hidden perspectives festival, can you give us an idea of what kind of work will be displayed?

Yes I am, there are going to be a range of different style pieces from me; the one I mentioned before which is photorealistic and I also have some sexy adaptations of Eve from a comic book/graphic illustration perspective and some more communicative images, like of girls kissing outside a church building

Have you created these pieces of art especially for the festival?

There are a number of pieces that I’ve done especially for the festival but the main one I thought up inspired by the project is an image of two girls kissing with a stained glass window behind them. I thought it could be offensive, but actually the colours of the stained glass celebrate the pro viewpoint. I drew it with the intention that they were standing outside the church building because I think that’s where our gay community feel their place is but when I look back at it, it looks like they could be standing at the alter inside the church with the stained glass above, which is also a suitable message. So take it as you will.

Do you have a personal story about LGBT and Religion/The Bible?

I’m not sure about personal, but from studying a bit about Biblical contexts in religion this year I think the argument against LGBT orientations is often argued from very weak and sometimes irrelevant passages of scripture so I hope we can shed some light on that.

Why do you think projects like Hidden Perspectives are important?

I think it’s important we do this because so often you hear these sweeping statements about religion or sexuality from a religious viewpoint with no knowledge of where the ideas have come from. We’re highlighting the original teachings and from there we can make up our own minds and potentially deviate from what society can teach.

Why should people get involved? What’s your hope for people who do?

People should get involved because this is a totally fresh way of approaching these issues. Hidden Perspectives is not a religious group so we’re not preaching one set of beliefs, it’s a chance to see with an open mind what you really think of sexuality and how it may fit with your own theologies by looking at a whole range of views. It might even change or affect yours by getting involved.

What has been your experience of the interaction between LGBT & Religion?

I have a number of friends who are homosexual and the overriding theme they argue for is that religious groups and their Gods hate them. But I think that’s a problem when religion is a personal thing that should enhance your life, not condemn you for it.

What are some of your hopes for the future of LGBT & Religion discussion?

I hope we can be more open to other peoples’ views. By all means we should express and share our own informed opinions, but when others show a differing view we should learn to not shoot them down but celebrate the diversity; it’s healthy.

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Author: Hidden Perspectives

A research project within the Sheffield Institute for Interdisciplinary Biblical Studies (SIIBS) at The University of Sheffield.

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