What is the exhibition about?
The Virgin Mary is one of the greatest icons of Western culture and art history. For centuries her image has been used to promote models of femininity. Today, her image has gone beyond religion, and Mary can be found in necklaces, t-shirts, comic books, and even underpants.
For this exhibition, 11 Western artists re-imagine Mary as a cultural icon beyond religion. The exhibition invites the audience to explore how Mary can take shape as a non-religious icon, and how her image adapts to current times. What kind of woman do the artists show? How does Mary’s image adapt to current ideas of femininity and womanhood?
Come see the exhibition at the York Explore Library, right in the city centre of York. July 12th to August 29th.
Why is this important?
This project is about creating dialogue and conversations around important social issues such as gender and religion. It will spark discussions around femininity and womanhood, and consider the meanings that the image of the Virgin can have outside of faith. Moreover, it will raise awareness of the importance of religion outside the realm of devotion and faith, and bring to the forefront how religion is still relevant for understanding attitudes towards gender and femininity.
To foster this dialogue, three additional activities have been organised: two workshops on Femininity in Art, Feminism and Religion, and an Interfaith Exploration on the role of the Virgin Mary in Christianity and Islam.
Who am I?
I’m a PhD student at the University of York, researching meanings of femininity in contemporary secular (non-devotional) images of the Virgin Mary. My PhD is an Arts-Based Research project, in which I collaborate with artists who are creating non-devotional images of the Virgin Mary. They are exploring the Virgin Mary from a secular perspective, and creating brand new images and knowledge. I want to show these images in an exhibition and then interview some audience members in a focus group.
But the exhibition is not only about interviewing for my PhD, it is also about taking academic research out of campus and into the city, to make it tangible and relevant to the people of York. The exhibition will give the public a glimpse into an Arts-Based research project; it will share part of the actual research process (not the results); it will open a window to an ongoing interdisciplinary research project, and for those who are interested, it will offer the opportunity to take part in it by participating in a focus group or by leaving comments and ideas in a purpose-built exhibition book.
What will you be funding?
There are many costs that come with organising an exhibition. I’m transporting artwork from around the globe, framing, printing leaflets and signs, renting the venue for the workshops, and insuring the artwork.
I have support from the University of York’s Centre for Women’s Studies, the Centre for Modern Studies, the Graduate Student Association, the Humanities Research Centre, the Research Centre for Social Sciences, and the York Explore Library who have waived the fee for the exhibition space. I still need to raise £350.
Any crowdfunded donations exceeding this target of £350 will be donated to IDAS (Independent Domestic Abuse Service), a Yorkshire charity dedicated to supporting anyone experiencing or affected by domestic abuse or sexual violence.