Violence Erupts Over Gay Jesus Art


Kittredge Cherry reports on her Jesus In Love blog about violence that broke out at an exhibit of photos by Swedish artist Elisabeth Ohlson Wallin:

A group of young people tried to set fire to a poster at the cultural center that was exhibiting her photos of a queer Christ. Staff intervened and as many as 30 people joined the fight, according to news reports.

The recent melee broke out over her Ecce Homo series, which recreates scenes from Christ’s life in a contemporary lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) context. The conflict occurred in the Swedish city of Jonkoping, known as a center of evangelical Christianity.

Wallin’s “Sermon on the Mount” is one of my favorite images from Cherry’s book Art That Dares, which I blogged about in August. Buy a copy and sign up for the Jesus In Love newsletter here.

More provocative and enlightening images from Ohlson’s Ecce Homo series can be viewed on her website. The AIDS-victim Pieta and the gay-bashing crucifixion fit comfortably with compassionate liberal Christian sensibilities, but what to make of John baptizing a naked Jesus at the baths? Does it sully a spiritual moment with sexual innuendo, or reveal an unlikely place where Christ may be present? It speaks well of this photo that I can’t collapse it into a single meaning. Perhaps it illuminates how sex can be both transcendent and decadent–and how religion also contains the potential for vulgarity and excess.

All I know is, if the wedding feast of the Lamb is anything like Ohlson’s drag-queen Last Supper, I’d better start planning my outfit. (In heaven, everyone looks great in a thong.)

3 comments on “Violence Erupts Over Gay Jesus Art

  1. I appreciate the question you posed about Ohlson’s Baptism: “Does it sully a spiritual moment… or reveal an unlikely place where Christ may be present?”

    I ask myself this kind of question a lot this time of year in regard to much of the commercialized Christmas kitsch that goes with the marketing of Christmas. What would Jesus do?

  2. Jendi Reiter says:

    Thanks for the thoughtful reaction to my blog post. Another challenge for artists in this field is how to include visual cues telling us that a work of art is “Christian” or “gay”, without relying on cliched or overly literal symbols. Re: Jesus at the baths, could it still send the same pro-gay message if the artist reached beyond the instantly familiar “gay bathhouse” stereotype, or for that matter, portrayed men of an age, body type and race that are different from standard Jesus art? I’m still thinking about it, so Ohlson is doing something right.

  3. prohorrors says:

    Will explode if the reactor in Japan?

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