A gay artist explores connections between sexuality and spirituality in a new series of paintings titled “All Desires Known and No Secrets Hidden.”
Using the pseudonym “Queer_Mystic,” the anonymous British artist was inspired by medieval Christian mystics, his own deepening gay identity and his engagement with Christ.
The five expressionistic oil paintings show nude men in various erotic poses, their faces masked by bold black brushstrokes. A naked man gazes suggestively at the viewer in one painting, while the other paintings show a male couple passionately making love. His work evokes the vulnerability and ecstasy of mystical and sensual union with Christ.
The series “All Desires Known and No Secrets Hidden.” was recently posted in an online exhibit at Balaclava Q, an International Queer Visual Arts Project.
Queer_Mystic takes photographs of live models as the basis for his paintings. In this case the photos were particularly personal because the artist himself posed with the model. The photos were taken years ago, when he was wrestling with his sexuality shortly after coming out as a gay man. The same hands that caressed the model also spread the paint on the canvases.
Prayer: All Desires Known and No Secrets Hidden
The artist adopted the title of his series from a widely used prayer known as the Collect for Purity. Dating back to the eighth-century, the words are used near the beginning of the Eucharist at Anglican churches worldwide. It was written by Alcuin of Tours, whom many consider to be a “queer saint.” The prayer takes on fresh meaning when read in light of Queer_Mystic’s art:
Almighty God, to whom all hearts are open,
all desires known,
and from whom no secrets are hidden:
cleanse the thoughts of our hearts
by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit,
that we may perfectly love you,
and worthily magnify your holy name.
Loving God perfectly can be interpreted to mean loving God with one’s whole being, including one’s sexuality. “Mystical marriage” is a Christian concept in which the love between people and God (or the soul and Christ) is compared to a human marriage, including the sexual ecstasy between spouses. Erotic union becomes a metaphor for union with God. This understanding dates back at least as far as Solomon’s Song of Songs in the Hebrew Scriptures. Medieval mystics are particularly known for their vision of mystical marriage with Jesus.
“I began to understand my God-given identity as a gay man…”
Queer_Mystic wrote the following statement for the Jesus in Love Blog at Q Spirit about these how the new paintings relate to reconciling his gay sexuality with Christian faith:
Ever since I began to understand my God-given identity as a gay man, my experience of spirituality and exploration of my sexuality have been intimately connected. I had always been taught that any sexual experience outside of a monogamous heterosexual marriage was a perilous path, damaging to my spirit.
But once grace had set me free of the guilt that flowed from my early days of faith as a conservative Christian, I began to understand and experience the depth and beauty in each sensuous encounter. I drew closer to Christ in the process.
There is so much to explore in that mystical moment of sensuous touch, tasting and smelling that comes with the intertwining of bodies. Fear had kept me from fully entering into those experiences. Freedom from that fear has been part of my liberation in Christ.
Nevertheless I had still been reticent to fully explore the richness of my experiences in my art (and I do think the most affecting art comes when we can be honest with reckless abandon). The series “All Desires Known and No Secrets Hidden” has enabled me to be more honest.
Behind the mask of anonymity, I am able to expose more of my soul and be just as God sees me in those most intimate moments. I have been changed by the experience of making art in this way and will continue to explore the depths of a fully embodied engagement with Christ – in my art, in my meditation and in the midst of those sensuous encounters.
To get in touch with Queer_Mystic, please contact the Jesus in Love Blog at Q Spirit.
All five paintings in the series “All Desires Known and No Secrets Hidden.” are online exhibit at https://balaclavaq.wordpress.com/2016/10/17/artist-queer_mystic/.
Top image credit: Detail from “All Desires Known and No Secrets Hidden” by Queer_Mystic
Links related to mystical marriage and erotic Christ:
Books related to mystical marriage
“Saintly Brides and Bridegrooms: The Mystic Marriage in Northern Renaissance Art” by Carolyn D Muir
“The Sexuality of Christ in Renaissance Art and in Modern Oblivion” by Leo Steinberg. University of Chicago Press, 1996. This is the definitive work on the subject, with 300 illustrations.
“Tantric Jesus: The Erotic Heart of Early Christianity” by James Hughes Reho with a foreword by Matthew Fox. Published by Destiny Books. (2017)
This post is part of the Artists series by Kittredge Cherry. The series profiles artists who use lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) and queer spiritual and religious imagery. It also highlights great queer artists from history, with an emphasis on their spiritual lives.
It is also part of the Queer Christ series series by Kittredge Cherry. The series gathers together visions of the queer Christ as presented by artists, writers, theologians and others.
Copyright © Kittredge Cherry. All rights reserved.
Qspirit.net presents the Jesus in Love Blog on LGBTQ spirituality.
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