Crucified Woman

Terry O’Neill, ‘Raquel Welch on the Cross, Los Angeles,’ 1970, C-print mounted on aluminum.

There are few artistic representations of crucified woman in the art world. Most famously there is the photograph of Raquel Welch by Terry O’Neill, (owned by Khloe Kardashian) of which he said: “I wanted to symbolize the dilemma facing Welch as the female sex symbol of the decade -‘crucified’ for her sexuality by the movie industry and the wider public who did not take her seriously as an actress. It was deemed too controversial for use at the time, and wasn’t published until 30 years later on the cover of The Sunday Times Magazine.”

Despite the figure of a crucified Jesus being the central focus of Christianity for millennia, somehow the image of a crucified woman seems too much to bear. Representing the crucifixion of Christ, the focus has been on God embodied in man, a suffering hero offering himself as the ultimate sacrifice for the benefit of a hapless humanity. Woman stands in the sidelines in this story.

The image of a woman crucified makes the pain of the human condition instantly palpable, almost too painful to consider. The body of woman carries the potential for safety and seclusion, the promise of life nurtured and protected. We associate women with sexuality, pleasure, motherhood, and as the esoteric teachings of the ages would have it, with the lowness of the material plane that humanity would do well to move beyond, to ascend above in its quest for spiritual realization. Woman as matter is considered something which humanity should strive to overcome and leave behind. And yet, in overlooking the physical, represented by the symbol of suffering woman, humanity misses the opportunity to address its true vulnerability. The symbol of crucified, suffering woman is an important and necessary focus of meditation if humanity is ever to truly embrace empathy and kindness, the opening of the heart which can allow true inclusivity and understanding to occur.

Almuth Lütkenhaus, ‘Crucified Woman,’ bronze, ~1978, installed at Emmanuel College, University of Toronto.
The Doors album ‘LA Woman’ promotional art, 1971
 Jens Galschiøt , ‘In the Name of God,’ bronze, Copenhagen, 2007. ‘In the Name of God’ is a project launched by Jens Galschiøt depicting a sculpture of a pregnant teenager, created as an indictment against the Church’s strict, regressive policy on sex and sexual education.

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