Jesus of the PEople

“Jesus of the People”
When thinking of the physical image of Jesus Christ, one usually pictures
a middle aged white, bearded male. This has been a common image for
centuries; however, it is now the year 2000 and everything is changing. During
this period of change and to celebrate the millennium and observe Christ’s birth,
the National Catholic Reporter decided to sponsor an international contest which
invited artists to conceive new images of Christ. Janet McKenzie’s painting
“Jesus of the People” represents the complete antithesis of the common overused
image of Jesus. McKenzie’s painting portrays Jesus as not white but black, not
male but androgynous. Her image has shocked many and received many
varying responses.
Personally, I think that this portrayal is amazing. It’s avant-garde and
ahead of the times. The world is changing in all aspects and I believe that this
new image of Jesus is extremely appropriate in that the world is no longer
predominately run by wealthy white males. Although some may not accept
McKenzie’s work now, I think that in time it will become more and more
appropriate and desirable.
McKenzie’s Jesus seems to be calm and relaxed. I strongly agree with
Sister Wendy Beckett’s comment of Jesus gazing back at viewers with “ineffable
dignity.” Although he/she appears to be at ease, he/she also suggests a state of
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deep thought and contemplation. His physical characteristics and stance are also
quite interesting. As he/she stands with his/her arms crossed and closed,
he/she still appears loving. I believe that this feeling comes from his/her facial
expression. Yet although his/her arms are crossed shut, it almost seems that
he/she is embracing someone or something. It’s inviting as if he/she wants to
be holding the viewer.
In conclusion, Janet McKenzie’s “Jesus of the People” is a work of art both
representative of the times yet parallel to old ideas. I admire her courage to
portray Jesus in her personal unique view and respect her vision. I believe that
it is time that our common image of Jesus transforms into one which is more
universal and acceptable by all races and both genders.