A guest post by Arthur T
A picture of the Last Supper showing a black Jesus has been installed in a cathedral in what campaigners described as a "bold statement".The print, by Lorna May Wadsworth, has been placed at the Altar of the Persecuted in the North Transept of St Albans Cathedral.
It has been noticeable over the last few years how little attention the BBC have given to Christian religious art. In An Avowed Silence? and An Avowed Silence? Part 2, readers will remember the BBC’s reluctance in reporting such.
Lorna May Wadsworth is a well-respected portrait artist, having famously painted Margaret Thatcher and David Blunkett to great critical acclaim. The Yorkshire Post sets out the artist’s achievements in their coverage of her recent exhibition Gaze.
Sheffield artist Lorna May Wadsworth on her homecoming exhibition and what it was like painting Margaret Thatcher
It’s where, in the Chapel of the Holy Spirit, a charcoal sketch of her acclaimed reworking of Leonardo’s Last Supper, in which Jesus is represented by a black fashion model, has been installed.The title, as with her aforementioned altar drawing, is quietly subversive playing as it does with the so-called ‘male gaze’ – a representation of women defined by how men view them – which has become a contentious topic in the past couple of years. “I wanted to call it the ‘female gaze’ but I was told that was not inclusive enough. But the underlying theme of my work is an inversion of that assumed male gaze which permeates contemporary culture and the whole of Western art.
Aha! The clues are starting to appear as to why the BBC are suspending their embargo on displaying Christian art - ‘Male Gaze’.
The painting has history:
A painting of Jesus is thought to have been shot while it was hanging on the wall of a Cotswolds church. An interpretation of The Last Supper, featuring a black Christ, has been on display in St George's Church, Nailsworth since 2010. Artist Lorna May Wadsworth noticed a hole in the 12ft (3.7m) by 3.5ft (1m) picture while moving it to put on display in an exhibition in Sheffield.
As with the Homeless Jesus story, Black Jesus would normally be heard of, but not seen - Radio 4 frequently are the only way stories about Christian art are aired. Whether Martin Bashir has taken his eye off the ball or not could be debated, but more likely it’s the ‘bold statement’ aspect that allowed Christian religious images to slip the net. From today’s BBC story, an extract:
In a statement, the cathedral said: "We stand with the Black Lives Matter movement to be allies for change, building a strong, just and fair community where the dignity of every human being is honoured and celebrated, where black voices are heard, and where black lives matter.”
It looks to me as though the BBC’s aniconism is selective.