A couple of weeks ago at 35 Chapel Walk artspace I curated an exhibition entitled “Sacred Stories of the Body: Gender, Sexuality & Spirituality”.
Drawing together 5 artists with varied backgrounds we wanted a show that celebrated humanities’ rich diversity of sexual and gender identities. Often the church operates with restrictive categories of male and female as well as being stuck in anaemic arguments about human sexuality so we sought to create a space that reflected the vibrancy of human experience as gendered, sexual and spiritual beings. My friend Sally commented on the show:
“Thank you for your theology of embodiment and art that is scraping off the shadows of grey after 2000 years of denial, that our very bodies are good and created in the image of God”
Whilst I wouldn’t make quite so grand claims I was delighted with the outcome and many visitors to the show were moved and challenged by the fleshy and sensuous celebration of body and spirit.
Here is a photo of me with the amazing artists who contributed:
From left to right: Jay Gadhia, Amberlea McNaught, Ric Stott, Jade Morris, Jade Pollard-Crowe (Photo Jeremy Godwin)
This show was the culmination of 3 years of work in my studio, and I exhibited a number of paintings that I have published on this blog including intimacy with Christ, This is my body, and Gabriel.
I also showed some new work:
How I learn to pray (Photo Rebecca Litchfield)
One day you will disappear completely (Photo Rebecca Litchfield)
Solidarity (Photo Rebecca Litchfield)
It was a privilege to show this work alongside those of the other artists.
Jade Pollard-Crowe’s video piece ‘window licker’ which saw her dancing and moving between masculine and feminine energies was a beautiful exploration of non-binary gender. It was fascinating to listen to visitors discussing the piece and arguing over whether the person in the video was a man or a woman as if to understand it they needed to force the dancer into a clearly defined category. Listening to the voices and experiences of those who don’t fit so neatly into the duality of male and female is an urgent task for our time primarily because the liberation transgendered people is as important as (and often falls behind) that of cisgendered LGB people but also because in hearing of the rich variety of human experience our own humanity and sense of self is enriched.
(photos Jeremy Godwin)
Jay Gadhia offered a startling compilation of images entitled “#whatmakesaman” in which he had invited men, via twitter, to send him an image from their phones that answered that question: “what makes a man?”. The images ranged from football and sporting identities, tender pictures of fatherhood, as well as cocks, breasts and drug taking. Standing to watch the 140 or so photographs through is like being immersed in the collective consciousness’ concept of masculinity.
His second piece “Shiva / Shakti” explored the divine union of masculine and feminine:
Amberlea McNaught tapped into the primal energies of creation with her terracotta and gold sculptures. Evoking ancient relics from forgotten tombs phallic shapes festooned with glittering sperm, masculine and feminine shapes work together: an expression of an archetypal creation myth deep within each of us.
(photos Jeremy Godwin)
Jade Morris’ photographs and photo collage “Maga, Maiden, Crone.” seem part of a pagan dance and are beautiful Images of her body that are bold and confident in their sensuality. Her raw femininity connects her to Mother Earth in both rural and urban landscapes.
A selection of this body of work is available to show elsewhere so if you are aware of a venue that may be interested in exhibiting this show then please get in touch. Prints of some of this work will also be available soon to raise funds for the arts & spirituality space at 35 Chapel Walk, more details will be posted soon.
2 thoughts on “Sacred Stories of the Body”
Your religious art continues to stimulate thought, spirituality, and creativity. Wonderful works! Thank you.
Well done, Rik. The exhibition looks to have been outstanding. We need to be willing to talk about embodied theology, and, as always, art has provided the opening and the structure for such a conversation to take place. Blessings on the work you are doing, and the conversation you have started.