Sunday, March 16, 2008

Lambda Literary Awards

The 20th Annual Lambda Literary Awards nominated my friend Kittredge Cherry as a finalist in the LGBT Arts and Culture category for her breakthrough book, Art That Dares. I'm tickled for Kitt! She deserves the recognition for her hard work in creating a history-making art book.

You can read a summary about the book at Cherry's Jesus In Love website. I've typed the beginning grafs from the Introduction (pg. 7) of my personal copy signed by Kitt to give you a flavor of what's inside:

Two dramatic new visions are coming into consciousness: the gay Jesus and the woman Christ. They break gender rules and gender roles. Their very presence stirs controversy. These radically new Christ figures embody and empower people who are left out when Jesus is shown as a straight man. They can free the minds of everyone who sees them.

Artists who dare to show Christ as gay or female have had their work destroyed--if they can find a way to exhibit it at all. Now for the first time these beautiful, powerful, sometimes shocking images are gathered together for all to see.

Art That Dares features the work of eleven brave, visionary artists who portray the gay Jesus, the woman Christ, and more. Here they tell the stories behind the images, including the controversies that erupted when the art was exhibited. In some cases the artists faced censorship, hate mail, violence, death threats, and/or vandalism that destroyed their work. Many were accused of blasphemy. Religious freedom clashed with freedom of expression, raising important legal issues. The most virulent opposition came from the religious right, but some were also criticized by feminists and queers for being too Christian.

The paintings, photographs, and sculpture selected for Art That Dares were done over the last thirty years by a diverse group of artists. Most work was done independently, in isolation from the others. Each arrived at the revolutionary images in a unique way. They run the gamut from well established to emerging artists. They are women and men of various races and ethnicities who come from both the United States and Europe. They are among the best of a growing number of artists all over the world who do queer or female Christ figures (Comparable images from Africa and Australia could not be included due to limited resources.)

The artists in this book stand both inside and outside the institutional church. Their religious backgrounds include Buddhism and Judaism as well as Christianity. Some still claim those traditions, while others decline to label their current spirituality. A few hold official church positions. All tried to portray Jesus in a way that honors his life and teachings. The profiles in Art That Dares are based on the author's interviews with the artists, their written statements, and/or news reports.

Full disclosure: I'm one of the "daring" artists in her book:

Jill Ansell
F. Douglas Blanchard
Alex Donis
Becki Jayne Harrelson
Robert Lentz
Janet McKenzie
William Hart McNichols
Elisabeth Ohlson Wallin
Edwina Sandys
Gary Speziale
Sandra Yagi

At Amazon, you can "look inside" and read an excerpt of Kitt Cherry's enchanting prose with a historical bent that hopefully you'll find as fascinating, inspiring, and educational as I do.

I'm crossing my fingers that when the Lambda presenter opens the envelope during the Lambda Literary Awards ceremony in West Hollywood, May 29, the announcement, "And the winner is..." will be followed by "Kittredge Cherry."

POSTSCRIPT: Reading the customer reviews of the book at Amazon one can understand why Kitt was nominated as a finalist for a Lambda Literary Award.