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.
Ah, body parts! It always comes down to body parts. While I am in no way a prude, having long ago rejected the notion that certain body parts are dirtier than others (unless there is mud wrestling involved, in which case they're all literally filthy), rejected the sex is dirty principle that so excites some humans ... just can't see reproductive parts as aesthetically pleasing - just not all that pretty - functional for sure, useful for sure, quite fond of my own, for sure ... will continue the "keep America beautiful, cover that" plan, and defend the right of others to disagree with my personal taste ... still, the point of those who violently oppose honesty about body parts in art seems to be some need to "protect" the mystery of the feminine with ridiculous insinuations of filth inherent in any female actually doing the things they so desperately want to do but can't admit, namely have sex and hide it too. Sad.
Perhaps you are not a fan of Vicar of Dibley, but there was that famous/offensive/whatever Christmas episode some years ago over a contest to write a new Christmas song and one of the towns dolts decided that there had never been a song about the actual birth -- and so one was written and performed in that episode. Some found that offensive too. It was in bad taste but I did not find it offensive. Typical Dibley where bad taste is common.
Marthe - You know, I wouldn't necessarily have this statue in my own home but I'm glad it exists. I'm not a prude, either, but I think this is a lovely balance to David.
I LOVE the Vicar of Dibley and I LOVED that episode. You make an important distinction, Matthew, between bad taste and offensive. Neither one applies for me in terms of this statue but I think the distinction is an important one.
What lovely sculptures and a very lovely post. I agree with you observations on sexuality and spirituality. I admire your courage with this post.
On my blog the most popular post by far is on St Teresa of Avilla. It has twice as many page views as the next most popular post. No one comments so I am not sure exactly what the attraction is but I have a feeling it is an expression of a desire to recognize the inherent sexuality and the Divine Feminine with in our Souls.
Very lovely blog. What a serendipitous find.
The inherent difference is that David is portrayed as a whole person, whereas Mary has been reduced to her vulva. When it comes to representations of our humanity it would only be fair to compare Mary and David if the statue of David was merely his penis and testicals, which it plainly is not. David gets the respect of being created by the artist and experienced by the audience as a person, whole and complex.
What I dislike about the Mary statue is that it clearly has been designed to shock and that's banal in this jaded day and age. But as a feminist I deplore anything that objectifies women and this clearly does. Mary is no more a woman but genitals alone. Perhaps this is a comment on society but if it is it does Mary no justice.
Glad to know another fan of the Vicar. I was recently reminded of another Christmas episode (or maybe a different part of the same one -- there are 2 I believe) in which David Horton told her that she should be a bishop "by now" until she immersed herself in the chocolate fountain. Well, Geraldine Boadicea Granger, you have at least 5 more years to wait.
The Blessed Vagina Mary is AWESOME! (I've never seen it before---but I find it quite a bit less shocking than, say, The Dinner Party)
FWIW, while "David" is an impressive sculpture over all, I've always thought that David's Big Hands (what they implied) might have led to some *disappointment* for Michael or Bathsheba...or Jonathan! ;-p
"Christa" has led to some particularly visceral freak-outs on EWTN (Go figure, huh? >:-/)
Frankly, I saw a flower, not a vulva. Maybe people just a filthy-minded.
Second, I object massively to the statue of David - I've never gotten to see it close up, but, from the photos, I don't think that's a good Jewish boy (and speaking of good Jewish boys, here's the classic punchline ". . and the portions are so small!").
Sextant - I'm not sure I always know the difference between courage and foolishness. Let me be a fool for Christ.
Therese - You make a very valid point. Thank you.
Matthew - maybe not. Stuff's happening in the CofE. I think we're making unexpected process.
JCF - I love Christa. It's a powerful message.
Mark - Whoa! "filthy"? Why are external female genitalia "filthy"?
You are reading with your own agenda of offense, Elizabeth. I didn't say the vulva was filthy, I said people are being filthy-minded. Even seeing a vulva is simply a body part, seeing it and being offended by it is to reduce it to filth and thus be filthy-minded.
It never pays to read more into what I say. Like Pilate, what I've written is what I've written.
Ah, now I understand what you were saying. Thanks, Mark.
Thanks for a beautiful image blending the sacred and sexual, and for creating a forum to discuss this important topic.
Thanks, Kit. I can't hold a candle to your blog, but I do try my best.
And the important thing, still . . . is the under-endowed David circumcised, or not?
This is the great philosophical question!
Mark - LOL. Cut. Definitely cut.
I loved the way you tied it all togeher at the end. It would be wonderful if we all could truly reflect on the spiritual meaning of Advent.
I loved the sermon.
I'm not certain how I feel about the vulvic Madonna- I find it both beautiful and slightly creepy- but I am extremely grateful to have been led to my first view of Christa. It's a beautiful sculpture, and I love how her face and body largely resemble the traditional images of Christ crucified. She is just as feminine as she must be, but no more.
"More vaginal than virginal."
I'm surprised that you missed the opportunity to use the more accurate and nicely parallel "more vulval than vulgar" there. It would've fit right in.
Aine - I understand. I would wish that the vaginal madonna wouldn't be necessary but she makes an important statement.
Randy - I'm just not that clever. Thanks for that.
"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."
I'm *still* not sure which was the bigger boob...
Ain't that just the everlivin' truth.
What I like about the first sculpture is that it emphasizes not Mary as vagina, but the physicality of Mary and therefore, of Jesus. In the emphasis on Mary's virgin nature during Jesus's birth, it's easy to forget that he was, in fact, born the ordinary human way. There was no divine c-section, no leaping out of Mary's head like Athena. No, he was born from a vagina like every other human, with all of the blood and pain that involves.
Thanks storiteller. I think you summarize part of the artist's message quite well.
Elizabeth....Catching up on blogs, etc. and do love this vaginal Mary, appropriately subtle but a whole woman nonetheless. As a priest who played a script in the V-Monologues with my clerical collar on, I have no issue with the fullness of Christ in incarnational art. Thanks much. And Merry Christmas. Lyn
Honestly, how could a priest ever support such desecration to the image of Mary? You might as well paint Christ as a penis crucified on a set of testicles. I mean, really? Do you not realize that she is seated next to Christ at this very hour? It seems to me that only a person who fails to understand the magnitude of the Kingdom of Heaven and its Saints as a living reality could ever be fooled into being so distastefully iconoclastic!
Hi, Sarah. Honestly, do you not understand that God designed and created both the penis and the vagina. I mean, actually had to think about it for awhile before creating it? Even the palmist sings, "We are wonderfully and marvelously made."
So, I'm seeing a lot of your friends making many similar comments all over my blog. I am flattered by all the attention. Thank you.
Post a Comment