Introduction from Rev. Dr. Angela Yarber
Confronted with a virtually all-male sainthood in every wisdom tradition, I took to canvas, giving traditional iconography a folk-feminist twist. As a queer ordained clergywoman with a PhD in Art and Religion, I have long known of the cisheteropatriarchal white-washing of saints and holy figures across spiritual traditions. Stained in glass, canonized in sacred texts, codified throughout history and mythology are the stories of men in power. With paint and canvas, I wish to offer a corrective, elevating the stories of revolutionary holy women from history and mythology.
After a decade of painting, over 100 holy women icons fill the collection, with particular attention given to queer women and/or women of color. Most of these icons are in galleries and homes throughout the world, but twelve remain here in this space with you. The majority of the holy women icons in this collection come from the Grief Project, which attends to goddesses and saints associated with grief and dying from myriad cultural traditions, in addition to Virtue Goddesses. The Virtue Goddesses function as archetypes embodying some of the virtues that help us make the world a more just and beautiful place. Additionally, there are two historical women in the gallery today.
Empowering marginalized women by telling the stories of revolutionary holy women from history and mythology is the foundation of my work at the Holy Women Icons Project, where I am the Executive Director, author, and artist. These paintings are accompanied by several books, including Holy Women Icons and Holy Women Icons Contemplative Coloring Book, both of which join two of my other publications in being awarded Top LGBTQ Religion Books. My painting and writing have been featured on NPR’s Progressive Spirit, Maya Angelou’s memorial celebration, on the television show Tiny House Nation, and as a finalist for the International Penelope Niven Creative Non-Fiction Prize.
I don’t claim to be a technical or “fine artist,” but a folk artist who tells accessible and meaningful stories often overlooked or strategically erased. The heart of each woman is typically the largest element on the canvas, and the “cry of her heart” is often scrawled across it, encapsulating part of her essence in poetry and paint. Personally, I have experienced much of traditional iconography as, not only patriarchal, but also inaccessible, even a bit brooding. By offering a stylistically folk twist through an intersectional feminist lens, I hope to provide viewers with glimpses into the divine dwelling within all of us, in addition to offering much-needed representation for women (queer women and/or women of color, in particular). These glimpses and representations stir within us our own innate worth and holiness, so that we might stretch our arms wide, worthy of the space we occupy in this world.
I invite you to engage with each of these revolutionary holy women, and then take a look in the mirror, for you are holier than you think. Whether it is painting, writing, or leading retreats in Hawai’i and throughout the world, the heart of my work is inspiring and empowering marginalized women.
See the schedule below for our events at herchurch, and, if you’d like to learn more, click here to join our virtual subversive sisterhood of saints.
Schedule of Events at herchurch
Sunday, August 4
10:30 am: Angela speaks during the Liturgy of the Divine Feminine
2-5 pm: Reception in the gallery
The Holy Woman Within Mini-Retreat on Wednesday, August 14 is cancelled.
Instead, please join us on Sunday, August 18 for a Holy Woman Icon Talk-Through!
Following worship from 12:45-1:30, join Rev. Dr. Angela Yarber in the gallery as she introduces you to each of the 12 revolutionary holy women icons in the gallery. With space to connect deeply with the icons who resonate most profoundly for you, there will also be opportunity for Q&A and discussion. This Talk-Through leads into the Goddess Painting class for those interested. Everyone present at the Talk-Through will also have access to special final discounts on the original icons in the show! Join Angela and these 12 revolutionary holy women in the gallery before they head back to Hawai'i!