RELIQUARY Megan Culhane Galbraith November 29 - December 5, 2020
Show statement by Megan Culhane Galbraith: A reliquary is a gilded, be-jeweled shrine; a portable temple to be carried through the streets on a saints given feast day. The female body is also a temple––of pleasure and of vice––expected to bear the constant weight of the patriarchy’s expectations. Dolls are tiny incorruptible saints; palatable toys that don’t offend gentle sensibilities yet fetishize women and rely on traditional ideas of beauty. The female saints in this show––Lucy, Agatha, Juliana, Mary––all experienced corporeal violence for their faith. They’ve been beheaded, tortured, silenced, had their eyes gouged out, and their breasts cut off for not bowing to the will of men. This show began with a deep question. What does it mean to have faith? I’m used to questioning myself art making and writing is a way to understand myself more deeply. I’d reconnected with my high school friend Kathleen*––a progressive Catholic––after nearly 30 years and confessed to her I had no patron saint. I asked for her help in choosing one. The Marys (the Virgin and the Magdalene) besotted us both and we set out on quest to find them, determined to visit Italy in search of them. For this show, she’s drawn tiny portraits of her favorite saints and designed the stained glass. Faith to me is about constant questioning: What does it mean to find peace when our very existence is a battlefield? How do we maintain faith when history bends its hard body against us?
As it was with The Gospel of Mary, men’s voices drown out women’s. In reading the apocryphal stories of Mary Magdalene, I can’t stop thinking about our modern struggles such as #metoo, #believewomen, #whyididntreport #cassandra. I aim to celebrate the humanity of these female saints and rewrite bedazzled versions of their stories.