The Series - Ascendancy
ascendancy - the state that exists when one person or group has power over another;
In the art world there is a LOT of religious art. Which makes sense as artists like to use art as a means to express themselves and their beliefs. However, another reason there is so much, specifically Christian, art is because for a long time churches were the only entity that could afford to hire artists. Many people couldn't read, so the churches hired artists to paint stories from the bible. It also made the churches more beautiful which would hopefully encourage more followers to come in and see the art.
Religion has always fascinated me. As such, I've examined many religions. I'm fascinated with the fact that there are over 4000 religions in the world. I believe that a spiritual path is a personal path that we must all go on alone. As such, I've gone on my own journey and arrived at my own beliefs. If my beliefs are in opposition to your own, please don't take offense, as none is intended. This art series is simply a way for me to explore and share my beliefs and is not intended to attack yours.
I believe that man created God, not vise-versa. Along with creating God, man has also created religion. I also believe that man, throughout time used religion and God as a means of power and dominance over other men, over women, and as a justification for actions. This is especially true for maintaining power over women.
I often wonder what religion would be like if 2000 years ago women were the dominant sex who create God, created religions and doctrine, and translated doctrine, etc. etc. If women were the dominant sex, who created God and religions, would God be a woman? The questions are endless.
To explore these concepts, I’m using highly recognizable religious art pieces as a vehicle to tie religion into the concepts of the work. The work is more about individualism, equality, feminism, and the idea that maybe things are the way they are because of what men in power wanted. I want people to stop believing what we are told to believe without first questioning and educating themselves. I want people to embrace the idea of individuality and humanity.
I think that we are highly conditioned, even brainwashed by religion, government, corporations, and as a result, society as a whole. We often accept what we are told to believe, how we are told to live, how we are supposed to think, act, dress, etc. We even have monetary items we use as measurements of where we are at in life. "By the age of ____ you should have purchased a new car." "By the age of ____ you should have purchased your second home." etc. etc.
We are not supposed to think for ourselves, we are not supposed to question, we are supposed to play along, do what we are told, accept what we are told as truth and reality, and become identical thinking, acting, dressing, worshiping, robots. And, if you dare question it, then you are looked down on, shunned, disliked, and sometimes threatened, or even jailed.
Look at the bad rap feminists get. I love telling people I’m a feminist. They often look at me like I’ve grown a second head. I often get lectured about how wrong I am and how wrong feminism is. I see people literally get angry about it, they get heated and yell about how horrible feminism is. The people in power have made it into a bad word to stop it from spreading. Sadly, it has helped slow down the equal rights movement. I even know many women who get angry about the word, “feminism.” Where do you suppose they got the idea that it was a bad word, or bad for our society?????
Meanwhile, the men in power, remain in power. The masses of wealth remain with the wealthy, and the world goes round.
To my friends of various faiths, please do not take this piece as an attack on your beliefs, as it is not. This piece is simply bringing attention to the fact that religions and governments have used their scripture and laws as a means to exert power and control over women from the birth of civilization.
Crucifixion art is very common in religious art. There are likely 1000’s of art pieces depicting the crucifixion scene from Christianity. This piece is mimicking a crucifixion piece by Gabriel Metsu. (1660 – 1665) I did not choose the crucifixion scene as a means to attack or belittle Christianity. It is not meant as an attack on the Christian’s Lord and Savior. I chose it simply because it is a highly recognizable religious piece, which helps bring attention the concept of religions misusing power to usurp control over women.
The woman represents women from the beginning of civilization. She is physically beautiful, which is something women are allowed to be, as long as it is only for their husband, and only when he wants her to be. In modern times she is expected to have plastic surgery of some sort in order to live up to and obtain an ideal body image set by modern men. The chastity belt is self explanatory. She is bound, tortured and controlled by religions, governments, and laws. She is allowed to be certain things, but not others. The lashings are only on her stomach, yes that was intentional. The three entities have always used their power to control women’s vaginas and reproductive abilities.
The three men represent two concepts. One, three main areas where women have been controlled; religion, laws, and politics. Two, the passing of time from ancient religions to a modern politician. This discrimination has always been a part of society and still is today.
In the following write up, I use many quotes from the book, The Indignities of Being a Woman by Merrill Markoe and Megan Koester. I had been developing this piece in my mind for over a year when my wife had me listen to chapter 4 of their audio book. The information in this chapter sparked a fire in me and gave me the motivation to finish this piece ASAP.
Paraphrasing from the book, The Indignities of Being a Woman – Many religions were created by self-proclaimed “holy men” who claimed to have talked to God and God told them what “he” wanted. Then they helped create societies in which members of one sex were encouraged to oppress members of the other sex. Then both sexes were taught to call it a natural state ordained by the creator.
Before I start listing quotes from various religions that condemn women, I would like to clarify that there are also many positive scriptures about women in every religion. It’s not all bad by any means. In fact, many of these religions started out very positive towards women. Then, powerful men stepped in and created and used negative and condemning scriptures as justifications for control and harm against women.
Sociologist Max Weber wrote, “while women were generally allowed more freedom and authority in these subsets (religious sects) when they first began, only in very rare cases does this practice continue beyond the first stage of a religious communities formation. As routinization and reunification sets in, authority previously allotted women diminishes.”
One of the problems with having scripture that discriminates against women is in the idea that, if it’s the word of God, then it is perfectly ok to do it, regardless of anything a mortal person would believe. I’ve personally heard it preached in more than one church. “The laws of God are above the laws of man.” Unfortunately, many men used this idea to create, or interpret scripture for their own satisfaction and personal gain. Hence, we have scripture in almost every religion that keeps women “in their rightful place,” beneath men. Below are some samples.
1. Hinduism – The Laws of Manu –
a. A woman should do nothing independently, even in her own house. In childhood subject to her father, in youth to her husband, and when her husband is dead, to her sons.
b. Though he be uncouth and prone to pleasure, though he have no good points at all, the virtuous wife should ever worship her husband as a God.
c. If a wife, proud of the greatness of her relatives, or of her own excellence, violates the duty of which she owes her husband. The king shall cause her to be devoured by dogs in a place frequented by many.
d. From Upanishad - Surely a woman who has changed her clothes at the end of her menstrual period is the most auspicious of women, therefore one should approach that splendid woman and invite her to have sex. Should she refuse to consent, he should bribe her. If she still refuses, he should beat her with a stick, or with his fists, and overpower her. Saying, “I take away this splendor from you with my virility and splendor.
e. From The Vedas – Women can only be saved if they are reborn as high cast males.
f. Atharva Veda – Let a female child be born somewhere else. Here, let a male child be born.
g. From the God Indra – “The mind of women cannot be disciplined. She has very little intelligence.
a. Women are YIN – water death and decline – Men are YANG – life growth and light.
b. Confucius – defined the superior-inferior relationship between men and women as heaven-ordained. The ideal of feminine behavior created a dependent being, at once inferior, passive, and obedient.
3. Buddhism –
a. women cannot achieve enlightenment without first being reborn as men.
4. Shintoism –
a. When a woman has her period she soils the ground, offends the earth gods, and pollutes the rivers from which the holy men draw water to make tea.
5. Judaism –
a. Women should be isolated when menstruating because they are dangerously unclean. If any man lay with her, and her flowers be open him, he shall be unclean 7 days, and all the bed where on he lay will also be unclean.
b. Leviticus 12:15 Speak unto the children of Israel, saying, If a woman have conceived seed, and born a man child: then she shall be unclean seven days; according to the days of the separation for her infirmity shall she be unclean. But if she bear a maid child, then she shall be unclean two weeks, as in her separation: and she shall continue in the blood of her purifying threescore and six days.
c. Jewish men at the beginning of the daily morning prayers: “Blessed are you, Lord, our God, ruler of the universe who has not created me a woman.”
6. Christianity – (old and new testaments)
a. Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything. Ephesians 5:22-24.
b. Tertullian - And do you not know that you are each an Eve? The sentence of God on this sex of yours lives on in this age. You are the devil’s gate way, you are the unsealor of the forbidden tree, you are the first deserter of the divine law. You, who destroyed so easily God’s image, that even the son of God had to die. Woman is a temple built over a sewer.
c. St. Thomas Aquinas – As regards to the individual nature, woman is defective and misbegotten. The production of woman comes from a defect in the active force.
d. Martin Luther 1483 – 1546 - The word and works of God is quite clear, that women were made to either wives or prostitutes. No gown worse becomes a woman, than the desire to be wise.
e. John Dodd and the puritans – Even as the church must fear Christ Jesus, so must the wives also fear their husbands. For if there be not fear and reverence in the inferior, there can be no sound or constant honor yielded to the superior.
f. But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet.
g. If a man sells his daughter as a servant, she is not to go free as male servants do. Exodus 21:7
h. If a man happens to meet a virgin who is not pledged to be married and rapes her and they are discovered, 29 he shall pay her father fifty shekels of silver. He must marry the young woman, for he has violated her. He can never divorce her as long as he lives. Deuteronomy 22:28-29
i. If, however the charge is true and no proof of the girl’s virginity can be found, she shall be brought to the door of her father’s house and there the men of her town shall stone her to death. Deuteronomy 22:20-21.
j. Now kill all the boys. And kill every woman who has slept with a man, 18 but save for yourselves every girl who has never slept with a man. Numbers 31:17-18
k. When a woman has her regular flow of blood, the impurity of her monthly period will last seven days, and anyone who touches her will be unclean till evening. 20 “‘Anything she lies on during her period will be unclean, and anything she sits on will be unclean. 21 Anyone who touches her bed will be unclean; they must wash their clothes and bathe with water, and they will be unclean till evening. 22 Anyone who touches anything she sits on will be unclean; they must wash their clothes and bathe with water, . . . 30 The priest is to sacrifice one for a sin offering and the other for a burnt offering. In this way he will make atonement for her before the LORD for the uncleanness of her discharge. 31 “‘You must keep the Israelites separate from things that make them unclean, so they will not die in their uncleanness for defiling my dwelling place,[a] which is among them.’” Leviticus 15: 19-31
l. When a young woman still living in her father’s household makes a vow to the LORD or obligates herself by a pledge 4 and her father hears about her vow or pledge but says nothing to her, then all her vows and every pledge by which she obligated herself will stand. 5 But if her father forbids her when he hears about it, none of her vows or the pledges by which she obligated herself will stand; the LORD will release her because her father has forbidden her. . . . . A woman’s vow is meaningless unless approved by her husband or father. But if her husband nullifies them when he hears about them, then none of the vows or pledges that came from her lips will stand. Her husband has nullified them, and the LORD will release her. 13 Her husband may confirm or nullify any vow she makes or any sworn pledge to deny herself. Numbers 30:1-16
m. Women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the law says. 1 Corinthians 14:34
n. Wives, submit yourselves to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. Colossians 3:18
o. A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. 12 I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet. 13 For Adam was formed first, then Eve. 14 And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner. 15 But women will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety. 1 Timothy 2: 11-15
p. For if a woman does not cover her head, she might as well have her hair cut off; but if it is a disgrace for a woman to have her hair cut off or her head shaved, then she should cover her head. 7 A man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God; but woman is the glory of man. 8 For man did not come from woman, but woman from man; 9 neither was man created for woman, but woman for man. 1 Corinthians 11:2-10
q. No one could learn the song except the 144,000 who had been redeemed from the earth. 4 These are those who did not defile themselves with women, for they remained virgins. They follow the Lamb wherever he goes. They were purchased from among mankind and offered as first-fruits to God and the Lamb. Revelation 14:3-4
7. Islam –
a. Menstruation is an illness, therefore keep away from women during the menstrual discharge, and do not go near them until they have become clean.
b. There are many perfect men, but no perfect women.
c. A woman’s testimony counts half a man’s testimony.
d. If you fear hi handedness from your wives, remind them of the teachings of God. Then ignore them when you go to bed. Then hit them.
e. Mohammed looked at hell and saw that most of its inhabitants were women.
While the laws of God are considered by many to be first over the laws of men, the laws of men haven’t done much better at treating women fair or kind. From the dawn of civilization and to current day, there are laws written against women. The laws are based on nothing other than being female, as laws are not carried out against men.
1. Mesopotamia –
a. If a woman says something bad to a man, her mouth will be crushed with burnt bricks.
2. Sumerian –
a. If a wife hates her husband and says to him, “thou are not my husband,” he may throw her in the river. If a husband says to his wife, “thou are not my wife,” he shall pay her ½ amana of silver.
3. Assyrian -
a. Women who are honorable will wear a veil in public. However, if dishonorable women such as prostitutes or servants wear a veil in public, they will have their clothes removed, receive 50 blows, and have hot asphalt poured over their heads.
4. Ancient Greeks –
a. Men raping women was not a crime, in fact it was encouraged and in some religions, it was expected. If a man committed adultery, it was also not a crime, in fact men were encouraged to sleep with as many people as possible. If a woman committed adultery, which included seduction and property damage (the property being the woman), it was a crime punishable by law. The man was to punish the woman using various methods.
5. Ancient Rome –
a. A Christian emperor boiled his wife alive for being SUSPECTED of adultery. She died, and he was later canonized as a saint in the Catholic church.
6. Witchcraft – A brief list of things marking a witch.
a. Pale blue eyes
b. Red hair
h. Pock marks
j. Liver spots
l. Insect bites
n. Signs of melancholy
o. Woman too vocal about wanting to live alone.
p. Too sullen
s. An estimated over 200,000 women have been executed as witches throughout history.
7. Rape –
a. Even when rape finally became a crime, there have been many laws throughout history stating that men cannot be charged with raping their wives because the wives were the property of the men, and by agreeing to marry the man, she gave him lifelong consent to do whatever he wanted to her. Some of these laws were not overturned until the 1990’s.
8. Beating woman –
a. Beating women was not against the law for centuries. However, there was finally a law put into place called the “rule of thumb” law. It stated that men could only beat their wives with a stick the same size or smaller than their thumb
9. Crimes – here is a brief list of crimes that have been on record beginning in the late 1800’s. Some of these laws were still in effect as of 2016 and some are still on the books. Some of these are from other countries, but you would be surprised as to how many are in the US. Some of these laws, while still on the books, are often overlooked, but many are not.
a. Lewd and lascivious conduct.
c. Serial premarital pregnancies
e. Venereal disease
f. A woman 'must permit her husband to have legitimate intercourse with her when she is fit to do so.
g. A 15-year-old girl can marry any man older than 18.
h. If you kidnap someone and marry them, you don’t need to go to jail.
i. A husband can beat his wife as long as he does not cause grievous bodily harm.
j. A man can stop his wife from taking a job.
k. In Massachusetts, you can’t advertise birth control through the mail
l. Women cannot show ‘too much cleavage’ in Cleveland
m. In North Carolina, a woman cannot withdraw consent and call subsequent actions rape
n. Women cannot wear sleeveless tops or dresses to Congress
o. In Carmel, California a woman must have a permit to wear shoes with heels that are over two inches high and less than one square inch thick.
p. An unmarried woman in Florida cannot parachute on a Sunday, or else she will be fined or arrested
q. Child marriage is still legal
r. In Michigan, a wife must obtain her husband’s permission before she can cut her hair
s. Women can’t wear pants in Tucson, Arizona
t. New legal precedent set in Georgia last year established that it is NOT illegal to take upskirt photos of women in public
u. Oral Sex Isn't Rape If The Victim Is Unconscious
v. Only five states in the U.S. — New York, Hawaii, Maine, Ohio, and Texas — have specific laws allowing women to go topless in any situation where a man can legally do the same. On the flip side, dozens of other states have laws which consider women's breasts in the same category as genitalia and classify exposing one's breasts, except in the case of breastfeeding, as a crime
w. In Oklahoma, a woman technically has to possess a license to do her own hair
x. In Nebraska, an antiquated law says that a mother must obtain a special state license if she wishes to perm her daughter's
y. There are still 7 states with a law that allows rapists parental rights. Yes, that means that if a woman is impregnated by her attacker, the attacker has rights over the child and the woman gets to spend the rest of her life in contact with her attacker on a regular basis.
You don’t even want to know what some of the punishments for some these crimes were. It will turn your stomach and boil your blood. Do some research on early women’s prisons.
As I mentioned, I got most of this from the book, The Indignities of Being a Woman, (a book I highly recommend) however, when researching this, I found a lot more. This is just scratching the surface. Take some time and do some online research. It will blow your mind.
In this piece, God is giving life to the first human on earth. As part of giving life to Eve, she is offering Eve fruit from the tree of knowledge. God want's her children to be free to learn, grow, discover and express themselves. She realizes that Eve is not complete until she has knowledge.
All of the other Eve's waiting with anticipation around God are different personalities, emotions, and sides to Eve. They are parts of Eve that she will not discover or know until she partakes of the fruit. Without eating the fruit, she would simply be a zombie of sorts, one dimensional, flat, lost, and empty. Destined to go through life with a very narrow window of the world, the universe, and herself.
The lower Eve in waiting has a tattoo and a drawing. The drawing was created by the talented Leslie Podjun. The tattoo starts with stars, the moon, and some leaves. Leslie added a bird cage with an open door and birds flying free and continued the vine, arrows and stars down the figures back and leg. As the drawing moves downward, it transforms from black and white into color.
The drawing sums up the concept of God giving life to Eve quite well as we move from the black and white heavens to green earth. The birdcage represents the freedom Eve will obtain by eating the apple and being allowed to discover herself. The tattooed model also represents a different side of Eve, as she is the only one of the 12 who has tattoos.
The First Supper -
Religions, governments, corporations, and society have constantly tried to tell us, especially women, what we should be. How we should act, what we should wear, what we should look like, etc. The list goes on and on, and we CANNOT win. We are judged and shamed for everything regardless of what we are.
I wanted to do a piece that incorporated some of these ideas and photograph 13 badass women looking intense, like a rebellion. After getting my 13 models, I realized how different and unique every one of them are. So, I turned this piece over to my models. Instead of trying to make everyone look like bad ass warriors, I decided that everyone should represent themselves, and make this piece about individualism.
Each model chose what they wanted to wear, say, and be for this piece. The bottom line is, stop judging us, stop labeling us, stop trying to make us conform to your ideals. We are ALL individuals and WILL NOT fit into the same box.
MODEL quotes and notes from The First Supper
Sydney – “Movement has it’s importance in society. How we carry ourselves speaks volumes to those around us. It used to be that movement was strictly exotic, and what was exotic was considered erotic; another means to use a woman's body as a consumable good for others. Something money, power, and prestige, could buy. Something dirtied and scorned by whispers, secrecy, and exclusivity. But movement is the essence of soul, and for so many years I walked stiff, curled in on myself, standing in the back of every room and every crowd, hoping to shrink further and further down; to just disappear. MY movement is my rebellion against those ideas. That I need either be small and quiet or big and loud. I can bend in three and be small and my movement speaks volumes, or I can be large and expanded and in elegance remain silent. It’e the embracing and realization that movement is a HUMAN characteristic, not a commodity, for every person has the capacity to move and to express themselves. Especially outside the cookie cutter ways we are taught we should.”
Lucinda - Breastfeeding as a topic can be looked at in many ways. Breastfeeding while pregnant and you hear comments like, "she's already having another kid, doesn't she know there's birth control?" It is also shamed when you do it in public, it's often referred to as disgusting or obscene. It's an odd concept, but maybe women weren't given breasts simply to attract men, maybe they were meant for something else. But, breastfeeding and being pregnant also represent the strength, power, and the beautiful ability that women have to give and sustain life.
Beth – “My hair is not my identity. My make-up is not my identity. You can’t sell what makes me beautiful.”
Acacia – “Women are always perceive to be a certain way… I Incorporated my son for this shoot as he is my whole life...I am a working mother of six jobs… I refuse to get help financially and sometimes I get criticized for it… I get criticized for the fact I may be too busy to raise my son, or if I wasn’t working I would be criticized that I am not working and providing. I am representing the working mother- my life revolves around my son and my planner- after numerous mistakes I have had to live up to everyone else’s ideas of what I should be.... but at the end of the day, I am me. And my life is anything but easy or perfect. But it’s mine. And I am proud of it.”
Raven - "I am a strong, beautiful, brave human being. I accept challenge, I push for change, I keep my head high. I am an individual with a uniqueness that society doesn't want me to have. I am a woman and most importantly a warrior!"
Fay - We are constantly judged for our weight. For some reason, there seems to be nothing more important in the world than a number on a scale. As such we are in a constant battle with body image, depression, and anxiety… and it is all over food. Do we eat healthy and expensively, or do we eat unhealthy and conveniently? It doesn't help that the FDA will allow major corporations to put just about anything in our food just as long as it is profitable.
Fathom - Who wouldn't want to play the role of a beautiful, red headed, nude, female Jesus? Also, some women are take charge people who do well when they are in positions of leadership.
Andrea V - Why can't a woman like masculine things and still be feminine and pretty? Why are women, especially short women, considered weak? Don't judge my femininity because I like guns and tattoos, and don't judge my strength by my sex, or my size.
Tiana - For many generations women weren't allowed to be educated. Now women are educated at very high rates. However, they are often still considered intellectually inferior to men, and many men are negative about educated women.
Ashlynn – “Every artist has a canvas of sorts to express themselves, I have chosen to use my body as my canvas for burlesque and have been shamed for it many times. Numerous people have called me every name in the book trying to "brand" or "label" me as such things but I have news for them; I will not have those people brand me for what I love to do. Instead, I will write my own Scarlet letter and wear it proudly because I respect myself even when I'm fully clothed or partially naked.”
Riley - Stop labeling people! Why must I be straight, gay, bisexual, trans gender, male, female, or anything else? Why can't I just be a person?
"'I chose to represent myself as simply as I could for this piece, because I wanted to demonstrate that who I am isn't associated with what I do, wear, or have on my person. I wanted to show that what I am is a basic principle, and not a moral grey area or a taboo. My idea was to try and convey the simple idea that a person is, above all, a person."
Lorraine - Women's appearance are too often judged by their breasts. We are made to feel inadequate by advertising every day. Women with smaller breasts have been made to feel less attractive than women with large breasts. To the point where breast implants have become commonplace. Women shouldn't need to feel inadequate because of their breast size, however if a woman wants to have implants, then she should be allowed to do them for herself without judgement, and she shouldn't get them to please a man. Too much emphasis is placed on women's breasts in our society. They were actually designed to feed children.
Andrea S – “I was burnt when I was 5, leaving me with some pretty crazy scars on my back and shoulders. As I grew up, I was embarrassed of the scars and hated people staring at them, wondering silently about them, or feeling sorry for me. I finally decided that I would choose what people stare at, and at the age of 30 I started getting tattoos.
I really loved the way they looked and the confidence they gave me, not to mention all the cool people I have met because of them! They are a part of me - I love them! They express who I am through the art, and I hate when I have to hide them - as though a part of me is unacceptable.
This project was a way for me to embrace my body in every way and all of the art that adorns it. I like to encourage everyone (especially women) to love themselves and their body, so I figured I should probably start with me!!”
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Clint Saunders © 2015