I recently contributed to a new book, Claiming Notability for Women Activists in Religion. My chapter is titled “Janet McKenzie: A Sacred Artist’s Life of Creative Activism.” I have always admired Janet McKenzie’s art. Writing this chapter gave me the opportunity to learn more about her artistic triumphs and tribulations. In the year 2000, Janet McKenzie won a world-wide art competition to create images of Jesus for the new millennium. Over 1,600 images were submitted, and when McKenzie’s Jesus of the People won the competition, the painting had its debut on network TV during a segment of the Today Show.
The artwork instantly elicited praise but also condemnation when it became known that McKenzie had an African American woman model for the image. McKenzie received death threats and her mail had to be separated at her local post office. McKenzie’s intent was to include the essence of all people in the work, particularly women and people of color who are rarely reflected in images of Jesus. Thankfully, the harassment subsided and praise for the painting endured. McKenzie’s artwork has toured museums and churches internationally and Jesus of the People has been reproduced on numerous book covers as well as posters and lithographs that you can find HERE. McKenzie continues to receive commissions to create art for churches and universities around the world and her work, Companions on the Journey can be seen at Harvard University’s chapel.
Claiming Notability for Women Activists in Religion is available for free download through ATLA Open Press and available for purchase in paperback through most online retailers. Happy reading, and I hope you will come back for future posts!
Leading creatively at the intersection of Scholarship, Spirituality & the Arts