Vital Signs

Colleges Against Christ

Mary Beth Edelson's 1977 poster "Some Living American Women Artists/Last Supper" not only means to spread the word that there are, in fact, dozens of American women artists who have not yet become household names, but also to appropriate the sacred images of Da Vinci's "The Last Supper" by giving that point an in-your-face punch. For Edelson, the Catholic Church is largely responsible for the numerical disparity between male and female artists; and as such, Christ and His disciples are simply getting the rough treatment they so richly deserve. Thus, her painting substitutes the head of Georgia O'Keefe for that of Christ (one wonders if Ms. O'Keefe would have been flattered or appalled), sculptor Louise Nevelson for St. Andrew, and makes Judas conspicuous by his/her absence. "Organized religion's penchant for cutting women out of positions of authority," Ms. Edelson argues, implies that "women do not have direct access to the sacred," and by extension to artistic representations of the Divine. Her poster is a willfully provocative effort to change this situation.

Edelson's work is, in short, political to its teeth. But should that work be exhibited at our campus gallery, I would be among the first to defend the right of a legitimate sponsor to give her art wider exposure. I would, of course, also insist that those who choose to view the exhibit might well have a wide range...

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