In the world of contemporary pop spirituality, Mary Magdalene is viewed as everything from the archetypal goddess of wisdom to the bad girl of the bible. With this annual exhibition, we wish to restore her image as the divine feminine and her role as apostle and muse.
No one in the Christian pantheon except Jesus, Mary his mother or perhaps “John the Baptist” has inspired artists more than Mary Magdalene. Her themes remain remarkably vivid today in a global conversation about women, female power, participation and sexuality. She is currently at the epicenter of a cultural movement, and as always, art finds itself at the leading edge, the prism through which one sees what popular culture believes about a person at particular moments in time.
Did early Church founders selectively compile the Gospels? What about Papyrus Berolinensis 8502 and the intriguing tale of her "gospel"? Did folks edit out the central role that women played in early Christianity? If so, why? Was there some fear of women? And if so, what was it? Mary Magdalene was, after all, a woman seemingly far closer to Jesus than suited others' mission, and some have argued persuasively that the sacred feminine voice was sacrificed to invent an Orthodox tradition.
From this view, Mary Magdalene, Magdalena, is among the most wronged woman in human history. Her identity purposely reshaped. Airbrushed. Concealed. Rewritten and diminished. Bad girl of the Bible. Christianity’s most notorious sinner. Repentant prostitute. Demon-possessed crazy woman. Her gospel said not to exist. Her truth suppressed for 2000 years, with roughly 91 generations misled.
To these same people, there has been recent relief, with her whisper harkening through the ages, dusted digs and clouded pages of history. Like a tuning fork, they say her truth resonates through a fabricated storyline. That hers is a clear, cogent VOICE offering a radically different perspective and worldview than Church canon. They point to evidence in Leonardo’s tantalizing clues. In Rilke’s poems. Pagels’ scholarship. The Gnostic Gospels. The Gospel of Magdala revealed and an inspirational woman rediscovered.
And this view is winning large numbers of converts, with it generally accepted that in word and in deed Magdalena was Jesus' closest confident and trusted apostle, by far, the most influential among them? Was she this pivotal leader? His friend? His lover? Secret wife? Even some say the mother of their child? Soul mate? Partner in a shared vocation that shook the world? She is a complex historical figure and enigmatic icon.
Writes John Van Mater, "Every person in this world is a searcher for truth. Scholars delving into the past; scientists seeking to explain the universe, the atom, the butterfly; neighbors conversing over the back fence: each of us in every daily situation endeavors to see things as they truly are." Yes, man's search of truth. So, we ask: Who was she, and why was she?
Some of these remarkable pieces might help: The first by Princeton’s gifted Elaine Pagels a second by distinguished former priest and author James Carroll, as well as various others among Karen King’s significant contributions, to this discourse, each intended to spark ideas and artful inspiration.