Curated by Lauren Leving

In many religions worldwide, especially within the most conservative sects, women are seen as second-class citizens. To be male means to hold the power. There is no denying the progress that comes with time, but contemporary interpretation of religion is still drastically lacking in regards to gender equality. Reform institutions allow female rabbis, imams, and pastors, yet a female pope is not allowed. In 2015, the Rabbinical Council of America developed a policy forbidding the hiring of female rabbis in Orthodox institutions and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints refuses to ordain women. Women, both those in leadership roles and worshippers, are often silenced in their own religious institutions—spaces which, in theory, are meant to be welcoming, and provide solace to those who seek it.

Reinterpreting Religion is a group exhibition featuring seven artists from the U.S., the U.K., and Italy including: Giulia Bianchi (Milan, IT), Sarah Maple (Sussex, UK), Yvette Mayorga (Chicago), Roni Packer (Chicago), Lakshmi Ramgopal (Chicago), Kristine Stolakis (San Francisco), and Rhonda Wheatley (Chicago). These artists employ photography, installation, painting, sculpture, and video to examine the nuances of spirituality. Their bodies of work highlight the ways feminism, religion, and perspectives shaped by life experiences coalesce to cultivate individualized systems of belief that move away from stringent guidelines outlined by the conservative structures of worship. Raising questions of ownership in regards to religious practices, the artists in Reinterpreting Religion use their artwork to reclaim power against unjust systems, not just for themselves but also for the subjects depicted in their work and for their audiences.

Religion does not lie on a single plane. It is layered; each congregant has ownership over her perspective. Rejecting blanket statements and cultural stereotypes, this exhibit showcases differing feminist interpretations of contemporary religion and spirituality. Reinterpreting Religion highlights the ability to pick and choose fragments of religion; each artist creates her own way of worship, forming an intersectional spirituality that includes multiple viewpoints and cultural practices that stay true to one’s self and set of beliefs. This exhibition brings to the forefront opinions typically ignored in conservative institutions and encourages viewers to stop relying on tradition, be receptive of new schools of thought, and learn to be unafraid of otherness.