While at first you might assume that this piece is religious in nature, it is not. This piece has to do with nature and science. The figures featured are the Madonna and Child because Mary is the most famous mother in all of recorded history. I chose her as my subject because in the time that she lived (and up until about 100 years ago), breastfeeding was natural and normal; it was a given.
The idea of decency, morality or the sexual nature people associate with breasts today did not exist in the same context back then. Breasts were for giving your child nutrition. As the most sacred of all mothers, Christians should feel comforted by the fact that Mary did breastfeed, as it is natural act shared between a mother and child.
Although I do not subscribe to any organized religion, I have a healthy curiosity about each of them. Religion is obviously a powerful motivator for people, as all the wars over it throughout history can attest to.
For me, breastfeeding my son was the closest thing I ever had to a religious experience. The primal connection that I felt while nurturing and comforting him was beautiful and amazing. So I hope that this piece in its own way helps to normalize breastfeeding and allows our breastfeeding patrons know that they are in a safe place where it is welcome.
Additionally, this piece speaks to the worship of false idols. For all of the 35 years I been on this planet I have only seen Jesus depicted as tall, white man. According to modern forensic and archaeological techniques, Jesus most likely appeared to be of Middle Eastern descent, and was shorter and darker in appearance. Various religious people have argued with me that I am missing the point: It is not his appearance but his life and teachings that are most important. If that is the case then why paint him as a Caucasian (or African American, or Spanish depending on where the church is located)? Maybe there would be less racism if humans could be inspired by someone who looked different than them.
Painting & Artist Statement by Jody Parmann, Co-Owner Raven Café
Edited by Bonnie Sue Kalmar, Editor Extraordinaire
Reply by Bob Lotz, Raven patron and member of a local Episcopal church:
“I loved your article, and your depiction of Mary and Jesus — and your discussion of where so many Christians get it wrong. Of course Christians too often act like the all-white anti-sex league. Yes, let’s depict Mary, and Jesus, and the whole lot of them, as Jews from Palestine, people of color, descendants of the Hebrew slaves for whom Moses demanded, “Let my people go!” Let us see what this does to the theology in most of our white Christian churches. As for the notion that the point of Jesus is not his appearance … well, your interlocutors should remember that there is a context for everything, and in the context of the Roman Empire, Jesus came as a marginalized outsider, wrong color, wrong class, wrong nationality. If that doesn’t have to do with his teachings, what does?”