by Dr. Christy Sim
Eric Drooker is one of the most provocative artists of our day, with over thirty New Yorker covers to his credit. By pushing limits, he uses art to introduce his viewers to new ideas.
When I first saw his piece Crucifixion it brought tears to my eyes. In nearly every mention of the cross event, the visual image evoked is a male hanging on a cross with rags covering his reproductive anatomy. Rarely does a crucifixion image include any female imagery, and seldom have I seen an image that makes feminine power central to the experience. But this artist dares to do just this. Rather than artistically portray Christ’s Passion in the same way it has been portrayed thousands of times, Drooker begs viewers to imagine and dream beyond the norm.
Drooker pictures a divine who looks more like a loving womb than a crucified king. The piece is edgy and risky, but this unique view evokes new, deeper feelings about the well-known narrative.
The central figure in this piece is female, with her arms outstretched to literally become the feminine reproductive system. Beneath her bare, abused body, contained within a womb and fallopian tubes, are scenes of violence. Drooker explains:
“… women’s reproductive rights are at the heart of this image. Beyond male-dominated images and symbols of the divine, the literal reality that male politicians are making decisions about women’s bodies is a central plank in how Patriarchy is currently enforced.”
In the background, there appears to be a black man being lynched, and perhaps a witch burning. There are bones scattered on the ground, bringing death close, and the image of a coat hanger. I asked Drooker about what he intended to convey in these small scenes, and his answer let me know he was very intentional about creating images that would evoke the notion of patriarchal oppression and male domination. He said, “I left those details semi-abstract, to evoke the unrecorded bloody centuries of patriarchy.” I loved that answer, as it is incredibly empowering for women everywhere to know there are men with this level of awareness.
Drooker explained that “the image has inspired so much passion among so many people [that] women from various countries have tattooed themselves with it.” That is an indication of how empowering women find this image!
For me, this piece invokes deep feelings of the strength and power that I can access as a woman. My reaction to it, the tears, the depth of my resonance with the image, helped me realize I need a divine who looks like me and is embodied in the same way I am. With that vision, I can imagine how I might mirror the divine in the world.
I cannot find myself in the white man with a beard. I cannot mirror the broken man on the cross. I cannot fathom being a king or even a priest. These images are masculine; I am not.
In this image Drooker gives me the divine feminine. I know what it is to feel life in my womb. I understand the agony depicted here. I recognize the fear that I too could be burned for my ideas. Drooker’s rendering of the divine feminine helps me connect and understand how all this strengthens my ability to be compassionate in this world.
I view this piece and know I can gather the hurting world in my womb. I can allow my feminine-specific suffering under patriarchy to be the conduit for my passionate pursuit of justice and my spark of love I extend toward others. For truly, I am the arms stretched out inside the fallopian tubes. The darkest night of my soul under patriarchy can become the very hope for others to find light.
I assert this piece is important, not only because the crucified one is always depicted as male and this goes outside those boundaries, but this image is also significant because women are usually depicted as side characters, extras, in the typical narrative. Yes, women cry at the feet of Jesus and over his body; and yes, women are the first at the empty tomb. These are important roles. Yet the feminine is traditionally portrayed in the story as essential only in support of the masculine. The divine is male, and the focus, the center.
However, I believe this image leads women into the realization that we, too, embody the divine; we too personify the lead role, and we too are the focus, the center. This art helps women imagine notions of our embodied spirituality in a whole different, and exciting, way.
Truly, Drooker’s “Crucifixion” gives women the opportunity to realize there is a big difference between being a side character (who loves and supports the male divine) and being the divine.