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My most recent body of work begins with The Tree of Life, You're in our thoughts and prayers.  These works are a critique of the power structures that have been recycled since the beginning of modern civilization. Currently, it seems that the United States is living in Medieval times on the verge of Enlightenment, but not quite there. Religious crusaders are battling to influence the decisions of our government, pitting religion against science on issues such as women’s health, environmental policy and laws affecting the LGBTQ community.  We are desperate for solutions to the environmental mess we are in and a pandemic has been raging unchecked throughout our country. The science that could help us fight the pandemic has been politicized under the leadership of a man who seems to thrive on chaos; rather than bloodletting he suggested injecting disinfectant into the body. Many people in our country deny that humans are responsible for the rapid climate change and mass extinction taking place right now. Most of them rely on Fox News to explain these complex issues much as people in Medieval times relied on the church to educate them about heaven and hell. Meanwhile, black families are not safe in their own homes, hundreds of immigrant children may never be reunited with their families and women are still fighting for their right to determine basic health care needs.   Although our leadership has changed with the last election, the events on Jan. 6 show us that our democracy is fragile. Many people still worship the previous president and refuse to take their flags down that bare his name. Do they not see the hypocrisy of flying a flag that exhalts an individual while proclaiming a love of country? 

Behind these problems is a congress who are 88% Christian, (pewresearch.org, 2020), three-quarter percent male, 76.4% white (fas.org., 2020), and 90% heterosexual (advocate.com, 2020).  We are celebrating the most diverse congress in the history of our nation, yet the statistics show that our congress is still mostly white, Christian, male and straight. At least three congressmen have been serving for over 35 years (senate.gov, n.d.), and the 45th president, who many congressman still idolize, would have been happy to turn our democracy into an autocracy, leading our nation with lies, and fear through his Twitter account. 

In this body of work, I am not trying to capture one moment in time, rather I am presenting a world of ideas and possibilities.  Similar to the structure of Medieval alter pieces where for example, the entire story of how Helena, the mother of Constantine discovered the true cross is illustrated in a compressed narrative where everything appears simultaneously in one altarpiece.  In contrast to Medieval art which was primarily concerned with telling stories of a biblical nature to educate the serfs, my work is focused on a narrative that asks the viewer to question these stories of faith as viewed through the context of the contemporary world. 

On a personal level, my work references my own evolving relationship with religion.  I was brought up Catholic but drifted away from the church and its teachings. As I get older, I find that I feel closer to God when my hands are busy planting a garden. The idea that God is a harmonious part of our practical everyday life makes more sense to me than a God who is sitting up in the heavens waiting to judge us for our sins. The Catholic doctrine of confession; that we can be redeemed for our sins through prayer, gives us permission to do whatever we want to assault the earth and each other. All we must do to find absolution is confess those sins and say a few Hail Marys. But the wake of destruction left behind is not being addressed or repaired by our leaders and we’re left with plastics that kill ocean life, women who are assaulted with no one to turn to, and children who are abused in the name of national security.  

The Christian religion worships a deity that is a man and emphasizes the afterlife; I think that is a mistake.  It seems to me that worshiping a God who is understood to have created man in his image is dangerous and often results in the worship of ego. The result of focusing on the afterlife results in a second-rate job of taking care of the earth and its inhabitants.  Religious leaders manipulate the message in the bible to suit whatever agenda they are trying to push.  In America, God is referenced in our Declaration of Independence, our Pledge of Allegiance, and it’s printed on our money (2020). It seems God has been a political player since the founding of our country. 

I am inspired by the transgressive attitude of Reverend Billy Tallen and his Church of Stop Shopping who, in 2015, told Business Insider, “If we stated to you what we believe, we would be seen as full of common sense and scandalous at the same time.” I hope that is true of my work. I am also inspired by Kehinde Wiley and the way he inserts contemporary African Americans into traditional European paintings.  In this body of work, I have been using religious images from another time and place; my goal is to challenge the religious models that we have grown up with and the social power they embody. I hope to change the meaning of these images and give them new life through a feminine narrative. According to Rupert O’Shea (2015), medieval art was designed to “educate the illiterate masses in religious doctrine and used to bind believers to the church as part of ritual.”  I want to break those bonds and adopt more pragmatic democratic rituals. My paintings question the role of the church and the power structure that was born of “the landowning class in a world where monarchy and lordship were sanctified” (2015).   

According to Pewresearch.org (2020), “Roughly half of U.S. adults say the Bible should influence U.S. laws either a great deal (23%) or some (26%), and more than a quarter (28%) say the Bible should prevail over the will of the people if the two are at odds.” If this is true, why were so many Christians in favor of an immigration policy that separated children from their parents when they must understand that the Virgin Mary was herself a refugee.  The Bible says, “Love thy neighbor,” not Love thy neighbor unless they are black, gay or transgender.  Yet the far right often works to take away the rights of the LGBTQ community and “back the blue” without question or justice for those whose lives have been forever altered because of the authority we give to police. It seems many in power gain the trust of those who elect them by claiming to love Jesus, yet once in power they ignore his most important teachings. 

Inspired by my daughter who will inherit this world we have abused, I hope to communicate these hypocrisies in my work, point out the failings of the traditional power structures and offer a new interpretation to Christian doctrine.  I am responding to the conversations I have with friends, the stories I see on the news and postings that are found on social media.  Once I have an idea of what I want to say, I do research to fine tune my point of view, find images that will work with the narrative and put it all together to tell my story.  I hope to make people think about how our civilization has evolved and where we are right now as a species. I hope to tell a story that inspires people think about the role they must play in the way we shape our future. 

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