Hidden Perspectives

Bringing the Bible Out of the Closet

LGBT and Religion in the Arts by Bethany Fenton

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“Art should comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable.” That was the summary by Cesar A. Cruz; and in regards to the LGBT religion discussion I think this is a particularly apt statement.

My preferred way to communicate to an audience is visually. Sitting in a room listening to a scholar speak about a subject is all well and good but I think there’s something deeper about studying art. You can look at one piece in any way you want and get from it whatever you want. One image can speak to ten different people in ten different ways and the more honest the piece, the more challenging.

Kittredge Cherry is one of our connections between the art world and the LGBT discussion. Kitt runs a blog ‘Jesusinlove.org” exhibiting the work of a range of artists and photographers online all with something positive to say about homosexuality from various religious backgrounds. The name ‘Jesus in love’ was chosen because Jesus, being human, must have fallen in love, and Jesus, being divine, is also madly in love with everyone. I’m quoting Kitt herself there and I think that’s a good voice for the blog.

What I find difficult to accommodate in the art world is the attempt to monitor and censor subjectivity. There have been bans put in place to prevent the exhibiting of Jesus as a woman or homosexual and I ask, where draw the line? I don’t see how we can start putting limitations on creative outlets. As an artist myself I use art as an expression of feeling where others may write it down or go for a walk or play sport, I record ideas visually in a way that can be shared. So if I want to communicate my beliefs that Jesus loves our LGBT community and wish to express that by painting Jesus as a saint kissing another male, I should be allowed due to artistic license. Once you make that option out-of-bounds you may as well be removing my freedom of speech.

One of my favourite images to be found on Kitt’s blog is Douglas Blanchard’s painting entitled ‘Jesus Dies’ from ‘The Passion of Christ: A Gay Vision.” The piece shows a twenty first century male in jeans hanging arms stretched out on metal and wooden scaffolding mimicking the cross Jesus was crucified on. But the subject is not Jesus; he appears to be an ordinary male but with the spear wound in his rib-cage making clear parallels with Christ. The backdrop for the piece is New York City; the Empire State Building is clearly in view and in the foreground, a crowd of contemporary citizens. Looking carefully, there is a priest, office workers, lawyers, soldiers all of whom look eerily similar to those holding these jobs today.

15 J Dies

The message I get from this piece is not a particularly positive one. The overall use of grey makes the scene look sad; our empathy goes towards the centered victim hanging his head in obvious pain and being jeered by the crowd. It is interesting to see that just as Jesus was taunted, rejected and tortured by the crowd, so are the gay community in today’s society. We can read the story of the crucifixion practice as one of great sadness because the sinless and loving Jesus is brutally murdered.

Art speaks to people, I know it speaks volumes to me and I encourage the experimentation of capturing inner-beliefs in physical form for that exact reason: to comfort the disturbed, and disturb the comfortable. If you want your thoughts to be heard, you share them with others, right? And that, I believe, is your right.

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Author: Hidden Perspectives

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

One thought on “LGBT and Religion in the Arts by Bethany Fenton

  1. I’m puzzled. This is a great modern interpretation of the crucifixion of Jesus which happened 2000 years ago. But how do we know that this “Jesus” is gay? Are all bare-chested slim young men in jeans gays? How does this say anything about LGBT issues?

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