artist statement

hoosing to paint figures life-size make my oils scale large, so I can engage the viewer intimately with the narrative. I'm interested in the transformative possibilities of deconstructing classical or mainstream spiritual representations, so one can see that how God is constructed, so is the political power that impacts the human condition. My goal is to expose the nihilistic influence of religion on individual freedom and on the human condition; its preponderance for dualism – good versus evil – breeds authoritarianism, which in turn, strives to dominate, asserting Its Way into laws, social mores, and culture. In other words, as God is defined, so is reality, and so are our laws.

My first focus was Christianity, which has for thousands of years, reflected the institutional face of a patriarchal paradigm and a modern delusion that church and state are separate. The Bible, exploited as a political weapon, turns up in our modern courtrooms – a New Jersey Superior Court judge cited passages from Sodom and Gomorrah in his November 1995 legal decision to dismiss an anti-gay discrimination case. In Georgia’s Cobb County, the Christian Right hammered its anti-gay “family values policy into a 1993 government resolution that ultimately drove away the county’s 1996 Olympics venue. For a cultural construct, look to the Vatican. Pope John Paul II reiterated male supremacy as an infallible doctrine, banning female priests. These are but a few examples. Biblical references and a wealth of Renaissance art lend me a cache of images to raid for activism.

The issues in my art range from gay and lesbian to feminism and war. In The Legacy of Abraham, I examine a religion of self-sacrifice and obedience, a military or master-slave paradigm. With Judas Kiss, The Crucifixion of Christ, and Madonna, Lover & Son, I use a gay-lesbian narrative to get at the bigger issue of sexuality and spirituality. Surely, society has created the dualistic problem of sex and sin, good and evil, not a divine intelligence. In The Raped Virgin, The Resurrection, The Second Coming: Return of the Goddess, and The Healing of Our Mother, my narrative embraces a feminist viewpoint, the sacred feminine.

Paradoxically, a people seeking freedom from religious persecution founded America. Today, religions and their believers in government persecute gays and lesbians by denying them equal access, equal protection, and equal rights. Why? Because those who have been in power, asserting that homosexuality is sinful, evil, and immoral, have written their religion into our laws. The legacy of mainstream religions has shaped the fundamental quality of freedom that continues to permeate every aspect of American life, from our schools to our bedrooms.

Though arguably, the quality of life is at best in the U.S., we have no more New World on this planet to escape religious tyranny. The frontier to transform is now inward, in the mythologies, the belief systems of the paradigm. This is where I have aimed my art.

© Copyright 1993, 2015 Becki Jayne Harrelson