A friend of mine posted it on FaceBook and it's been causing quite a stir. Some say it is "provocative". Others have called it "offensive". One person said it was "immodest". Another said that it was "vulgar".
I happen to think its beautiful. Highly feminine. Decidedly labial. More vaginal than virginal.
I suppose that makes it offensive to some. Which is fine. Picasso said, "Painting isn't an aesthetic operation; it's a form of magic designed as mediator between this strange hostile world and us."
Indeed, it is a celebrated "work of art" which stands in the Accademia Gallery in Florence, where it has been viewed by millions of tourists over the years.
I'm told that a replica of Michelangelo's David stands in a park in, of all places, Buffalo, New York - as if the proximity of the magnificent Niagara Falls wasn't enough grandeur for one person to take in all of the same day.
The plaster cast replica of David at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London has a detachable plaster fig leaf which was re- attached from time to time and now stands nearby - on display itself.
The fig leaf was created in response to Queen Victoria's shock upon first viewing the statue's nudity, and was hung on the figure prior to royal visits, using two strategically placed hooks.
Bless her heart.
I do think we've come a ways since Victoria took offense at this magnificent statue. Then again, perhaps that's only in terms of of male nudity. I'm remembering that it was Attorney General John Ashcroft who insisted that the breasts of the statues of the Spirit of Justice be covered before he would speak in front of them in the Great Hall of the Department of Justice.
The government actually spent $8,000 on blue drapes that hide the two giant, aluminum art deco statues. Modesty, it turns out, can be costly.
When former Attorney General Edwin Meese released a report on pornography in the 1980s, photographers dived to the floor to capture the image of him raising the report in the air, with the partially nude female statue behind him.
An effort to legislate someone else's sense of modesty and impose it on others, it turns out, can be hilarious.
What I find offensive is the double standard, especially in religious circles, about what - or whose - nudity is "offensive".
In his book, "Take A Bishop Like Me," Paul Moore muses that perhaps, wherever it is in the psyche that spirituality arises, sexuality also arises. The two are intertwined helix in the human DNA.
There is an ancient rift in the institutional church between sexuality and spirituality that is part of the sin of misogyny - the "original sin" of the Garden. "Immodesty", in my read, is code for suppression - when it has to do with the Divine Feminine - it's flat out oppression.
|“Christa” by © Edwina Sandys|
Christa simply reminds her viewers that women as well as men share the sufferings of Christ.
What a revolutionary idea, eh?
Her bare female body also reminds us that Jesus is the embodiment of Wisdom - Sophia - which the ancient mind has always understood to be female.
I think Advent is a perfect season to consider the Divine Feminine. If we believe in the Incarnation - even if you believe in the Virgin Birth - you must accept that Mary must have had "lady parts" that served as a passage way for the Christ child to be born into the world.
It is not to focus on them, but not to deny them, either, as the church has tried to do for centuries.
Advent beckons us - male and female - to embrace the Divine Feminine within each one of us. To become more receptive. Open. Soft. That we may become vehicles of Christ's Incarnate Love.
I hope this Advent might call us all, like Mary, beyond boundaries of propriety and niceness, risking offense to cultural sensibilities and baring all for the sake of the one who bore all for us.