I can almost always rely on maximum spin and distortion for a story from the Religion News Service. This article by Kimberly Winston delivered via RNS and Crux is very laughable in a sad way.
BERKELEY, Calif. — Step into the one-room art gallery inside the Pacific School of Religion and look closely at the saints in the paintings: Some have beards; some have buzz cuts; some have their breasts obscured; some appear in unisex clothes like tanks tops and jeans.
Are they women or men?
That’s the point of artist Alma Lopez’s new show, “Queer Santas: Holy Violence,” on display at this theological school known for its embrace of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender persons. In playing with the gender characteristics of religious icons usually depicted as feminine, Lopez asks us to reconsider our ideas of religion, beauty, and gender.
Justin Tanis, who teaches at the school, said it’s as if these saints, with their direct eye contact and open arms, are saying, “‘I am natural, I am one of God’s people.’ And yet this is an image that many people would consider heretical because gender play is involved.”
Gender play is at work in each of the icons in the show — St. Lucia, St. Wilgefortis, and St. Liberata.
Lopez, a visiting artist at the University of California, Los Angeles, said she was attracted to these saints because their stories have a common theme — each one tried to step out of the expected role for a woman of her time and, as a result, was the victim of terrible violence.
Take St. Wilgefortis’ story. A 14th-century noblewoman promised in marriage without her consent, she prayed to God to be made ugly so she could keep a vow of chastity she made to Jesus. God granted her a man’s beard. The marriage was off, but Wilgefortis — whose name means “strong face” — was crucified by her father.
The stories of St. Liberata and St. Lucia are similar: Liberata sprouted a beard, and Lucia had her eyes torn out when she disappointed her family.
“All of these saints are women who took their own agency and stepped outside gender norms,” Tanis said as he stood before Lopez’s rendition of St. Liberata, arms splayed in a way that suggests both crucifixion and winged flight. “In that sense, they were queer and violence was done to them for it.”
As they say “Read the whole thing” if you want to get hit repeatedly with the stupid hammer.
“So far it’s been quiet,” he said. “But we are prepared to offer hospitality to any protesters.”
In other words “Where are the protesters? We did something shocking to draw the loving media gaze and nobody is giving us free publicity by protesting us.”