Review: Art That Dares by Kittredge Cherry

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Also on this website:

Toby Johnson's books:

GAY SPIRITUALITY: The Role of Gay Identity in the Transformation of Human Consciousness

GAY PERSPECTIVE: Things Our Homosexuality Tells Us about the Nature of God and the Universe

SECRET MATTER: updated, revised & expanded edition from Lethe Press with Afterword by Mark Jordan

GETTING LIFE IN PERSPECTIVE: A romance novel set in the 1980s and the 1890s.

THE FOURTH QUILL, a novel about attitudinal healing and the problem of evil

TWO SPIRITS: A Story of Life with the Navajo, a collaboration with Walter L. Williams

CHARMED LIVES: Spinning Straw into Gold: Reclaiming Our Queer Spirituality Through Story


About ordering

Books on Gay Spirituality:

White Crane Gay Spirituality Series

  Articles and Excerpts:

Read Toby's review of Samuel Avery's The Dimensional Structure of Consciousness

Funny Coincidence: "Aliens Settle in San Francisco"

The Simple Answer to the Gay Marriage Debate

Why gay people should NOT Marry

Wedding Cake Liberation

Gay Marriage in Texas

What's ironic

Shame on the American People

The "highest form of love"

Second March on Washington

A Bifurcation of Gay Spirituality

 The cause of homosexuality

The origins of homophobia

Q&A about Jungian ideas in gay consciousness

What is homosexuality?

What is Gay Spirituality?

My three messages

What Jesus said about Gay Rights

Queering religion

Common Experiences Unique to Gay Men

Is there a "uniquely gay perspective"?

The purpose of homosexuality

The Reincarnation of Edward Carpenter

The Gay Succession

Interview on the Nature of Homosexuality

What the Bible Says about Homosexuality

Mesosexual Ideal for Straight Men

Varieties of Gay Spirituality

Waves of Gay Liberation Activity

Why Gay Spirituality: Spirituality as Artistic Medium

Easton Mountain Retreat Center

Andrew Harvey & Spiritual Activism

The Gay Spirituality Summit in May 2004 and the  "Statement of Spirituality"

"It's Always About You"

The myth of the Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara

Joseph Campbell's description of Avalokiteshvara

Avalokiteshvara at the Baths.

You're Not A Wave

What is Enlightenment?

What is reincarnation?

How many lifetimes in an ego?

Emptiness & Religious Ideas

Experiencing experiencing experiencing

Going into the Light

Meditations for a Funeral

Meditation Practice

The way to get to heaven

Buddha's father was right

Advice to Travelers to India & Nepal

The Danda Nata & goddess Kalika

Nate Berkus is a bodhisattva

John Boswell was Immanuel Kant

The Two Loves

Curious Bodies

What Toby Johnson Believes

The Joseph Campbell Connection

Campbell & The Pre/Trans Fallacy

The Nature of Religion

What's true about Religion

Being Gay is a Blessing

Drawing Long Straws

Freedom of Religion

The Gay Agenda

Gay Saintliness

Gay Spiritual Functions

The subtle workings of the spirit in gay men's lives.

The Sinfulness of Homosexuality

Proposal for a study of gay nondualism

Priestly Sexuality

 "The Evolution of Gay Identity"

"St. John of the Cross &
the Dark Night of the Soul."

 Eckhart's Eye

Let Me Tell You a Secret

Religious Articulations of the Secret

The Collective Unconscious

Driving as Spiritual Practice


Historicity as Myth


No Stealing

Next Step in Evolution

The New Myth

The Moulting of the Holy Ghost

Gaia is a Bodhisattva

The Hero's Journey as archetype

Marian Doctrines: Immaculate Conception & Assumption

Teenage Prostitution and the Nature of Evil

Allah Hu: "God is present here"
Adam and Steve

The Life is in the Blood

Gay retirement and the "freelance monastery"

Seeing with Different Eyes

The mystical experience at the Servites'  Castle in Riverside

The Great Dance according to C.S.Lewis

The Techniques Of The World Saviors

Part 1: Brer Rabbit and the Tar-Baby
Part 2:
The Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara
Part 3:
Jesus and the Resurrection
Part 4:
A Course in Miracles

The Secret of the Clear Light

Understanding the Clear Light

Mobius Strip

Finding Your Tiger Face

How Gay Souls Get Reincarnated

In honor of Sir Arthur C Clarke

Karellen was a homosexual

About Alien Abduction

What are you looking for in a gay science fiction novel?

The D.A.F.O.D.I.L. Alliance

More about Gay Mental Health

Psych Tech Training

The Rainbow Flag

Ideas for gay mythic stories

Kip and Toby, Activists

Toby's friend and nicknamesake Toby Marotta.

Harry Hay, Founder of the gay movement

About Hay and The New Myth

About Karl Heinrich Ulrichs, the first man to really "come out"

About Michael Talbot, gay mystic

About Fr. Bernard Lynch

About Richard Baltzell

About Guy Mannheimer

About David Weyrauch

About Dennis Paddie

About Ask the Fire

About Arthur Evans

About Christopher Larkin

About Sterling Houston

About Michael Stevens

Our friend Tom Nash

Book Reviews

Be Done on Earth by Howard E. Cook

Pay Me What I'm Worth by Souldancer

The Way Out by Christopher L  Nutter
The Gay Disciple by John Henson

Art That Dares by Kittredge Cherry

Coming Out, Coming Home by Kennth A. Burr

Extinguishing the Light by B. Alan Bourgeois

Over Coffee: A conversation For Gay Partnership & Conservative Faith by D.a. Thompson

Dark Knowledge by Kenneth Low

Janet Planet by Eleanor Lerman

The Kairos by Paul E. Hartman

Wrestling with Jesus by D.K.Maylor

Kali Rising by Rudolph Ballentine

The Missing Myth by Gilles Herrada

The Secret of the Second Coming by Howard E. Cook

The Scar Letters: A Novel by Richard Alther

The Future is Queer by Labonte & Schimel

Missing Mary by Charlene Spretnak

Gay Spirituality 101 by Joe Perez

Cut Hand: A Nineteeth Century Love Story on the American Frontier by Mark Wildyr

Radiomen by Eleanor Lerman

Nights at Rizzoli by Felice Picano

The Key to Unlocking the Closet Door by Chelsea Griffo

The Door of the Heart by Diana Finfrock Farrar

Occam’s Razor by David Duncan

Grace and Demion by Mel White

Gay Men and The New Way Forward by Raymond L. Rigoglioso

The Dimensional Stucture of Consciousness by Samuel Avery

The Manly Pursuit of Desire and Love by Perry Brass

Gay Jesus, Woman Christ, and More

Art That AdresArt That Dares:
Gay Jesus, Woman Christ, and More

By Kittredge Cherry
AndroGyne Press, pb, 96 pages, $38.95

    Kitt Cherry’s newest creation is wonderful, mind-blowing, and beautiful. White Crane readers will recognize her name from previous mentions of her equally mind-blowing novel, Jesus in Love, which presents an autobiography (i.e., told in the first-person) of Jesus Christ as a modern psychologically sophisticated and sexually aware ego-person. Cherry is a lesbian former MCC minister, now in semi-retirement, and author of a book for young people on coming out and a guide to lesbian and gay worship and ceremonies. She is also an art historian. And it is in this last identity that she has collected paintings, photographs and graphics that depict what might be called “alternative” versions of Christian imagery.

This book is effectively a “catalogue” of an exhibition she mounted at the JHS Gallery in Taos, New Mexico, as part of the National Festival of Progressive Spiritual Art, in May 2007.  It includes beautifully reproduced images of some eleven artists, along with in-depth articles about each artist and explanations of the themes in the selected examples. The subtitle reveals just why “explanations” are in order: “Gay Jesus, Woman Christ, and More.” The introduction contains an account of Cherry’s motivation in searching out this truly “visionary” style of artistic expression and an intelligent discussion of the meaning of the oh-so-religious-sounding term “blasphemy.”

You can imagine she’s had that epithet hurled at her!

Her “blasphemy” is so honest, so respectful, visionary, and inspiring that it becomes a kind of new religion, a Christianity not stuck in literal old stories, but alive with imagery meaningful to us today—not the Jesus of history 2000 years old, but the mystical Jesus of the present NOW, alive in human beings today, suffering and resurrecting through the struggles of modern life and of sexual and gender liberation.

Cherry explains that blasphemy refers to speech intended to transgress or express contempt for central religious beliefs, in that sense, the idea is to protect the status quo religion and culture. But in effect, blasphemy is what wakes people up and forces them to rethink their unquestioned cultural beliefs and myths. In that sense, blasphemy is the truly spiritual tool for transforming consciousness. Jesus Christ, after all, was put to death for blasphemy.

I suppose not all blasphemous speech or art wakes people to the true meaning of religion, but the very fact that a believer would feel so threatened that he or she would hurl accusations at another of this sin ought to tell them something about their own precarious hold on truth. It’s like the Jungian  notion of “the shadow” that what upsets you the most—and the most compulsively in other people—is a reflection of traits in yourself you are trying to protect yourself from recognizing and admitting. Being upset by somebody else’s beliefs one disagrees with is some sort of sign of one’s own skepticism. And so the more the beliefs seem meaningless, the more fiercely they have to defended.

"From Michelangelo to Mantegna, Piero Della Francesca to Paul Gauguin, images of Jesus Christ have offended, delighted, outraged, and inspired the devout. For each controversial image, the sacred and profane become intermixed in new ways, challenging viewers to rethink their own imaginary history of religion, spirituality, and sexuality. Kittredge Cherry has performed a great service for our contemporary age, reminding us again what we hold sacred and profane, and how our old categories might be reimagined."

—S. Brent Plate, Associate Professor of Religion and the Visual Arts, Texas Christian University, and author of Blasphemy: Art that Offends

The sinfulness of blasphemy is based on the first of the Ten Commandments: Thou shalt make no graven images. Jesus, of course, transformed those commandments, reducing them to two: love God and love your neighbor. And as Christianity moved into Europe in its early missionary days, it dropped the objection to graphic images altogether. That was a desert thing! Nomads--Jews and later Muslims--objected to depictions of God. Greek, Roman and European cultures exulted in creating representations of God. Indeed, during the Middle Ages, the stained glass windows of the great cathedrals were the catechisms by which the religious stories were portrayed and promulgated. The imagery made the stories more real--and memorable--and provided insight into their meaning.

That’s exactly what the image, say, of a female Christ--like that of acrylic artist Jill Ansell--does: causes the viewer to think through the contradiction and to understand “Christ” as a mystical reality which necessarily includes both male and female since humankind includes both male and female. The image of a woman rising from the tomb triumphant reminds us vividly that the Christian message about resurrection includes the feminine principle as well as the masculine.

Depictions of Jesus are often “homoerotic” in that he is prototypically shown near naked and suffering the afflictions of the flesh. Oil painter F. Douglas Blanchard portrays Jesus as a modern gay man in modern clothing being brutalized by police and by fag-baiting protestors. The disturbing, but ultimately glorious, series of twenty-four painting, of which five are included in the book, force the viewer to consider that anti-gay violence in the name of religion is an exact parallel to the violence done against Jesus and which Christians believe was salvific for us all.

With paint on plexiglass Alex Donis produced faux stainedglass windows  showing improbable combinations in an intimate kiss--John Kennedy and Fidel Castro, the Pope and Gandhi, Adolf Hitler and a Holocaust survivor--to call into question conventional dualistic categories. Reproduced in the book are the kisses of Jesus and the Hindu god Rama and Mary Magdalene and the Virgen de Guadalupe. Several of Donis’ creations were destroyed by vandals in protest against the exhibit in San Francisco in 1997.

Perhaps the most familiar artwork in the book is that of Franciscan brother Robert Lentz. His modern day Greek Orthodox-styled icons--of both traditional holy figures and modern  political and cultural characters--have been distributed through progressive and GLBTI bookstores and card shops for years. The icon of Harvey Milk, Martyr is a national gay treasure. (Since Lentz returned to the Order later in his life, he’s been forbidden for marketing the more controversial of his icons, but they are still available through his previous distributor.) And the icons of Jesus as AIDS sufferer by openly gay ex-Jesuit priest William Hart McNichols will also be familiar. They’ve appeared in the gay press.

That’s to point out only five of the eleven artists. All the images in Art That Dares are equally striking and transforming of ideas about the meaning of religious iconography.

The book is liable to be dismissed and deprecated by the Religious Right. Some of the people who really need to see this material will never lay eyes on it. But now it’s out there. Kitt Cherry’s work has already gotten notice and condemnation that ironically has brought needed attention.

This is a lovely book. And a very neat idea! I urge readers to seek it out.

Selections from Art That Dares are highlighted on Cherry’s internet page

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Toby Johnson, PhD is author of eight books: three non-fiction books that apply the wisdom of his teacher and "wise old man," Joseph Campbell to modern-day social and religious problems, three gay genre novels that dramatize spiritual issues at the heart of gay identity, and two books on gay men's spiritualities and the mystical experience of homosexuality. In addition to the novels featured elsewhere in this web site, Johnson is author of IN SEARCH OF GOD IN THE SEXUAL UNDERWORLD and THE MYTH OF THE GREAT SECRET (Revised edition): AN APPRECIATION OF JOSEPH CAMPBELL.

Johnson's Lammy Award winning book GAY SPIRITUALITY: The Role of Gay Identity in the Transformation of Human Consciousness was published in 2000. His Lammy-nominated book  GAY PERSPECTIVE: Things Our Homosexuality Tells Us about the Nature of God and the Universe was published by Alyson in 2003. Both books are available now from Lethe Press.

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