I Am Unholy Mary — a new oversized oil text painting by the conceptual artist Adam Daley Wilson, now exhibiting in Chicago at Aspect/Ratio Projects Gallery, is a story of identity. In this forgotten narrative, the Christ child — not he or she but All, not one gender or race or sexual identity but All, not just intersex or transgender but Everything — this Christ (they / them) simply desires the most basic of human relational needs — freedom to declare their identity and a mother’s unconditional love. But this Mary, neither virgin nor Holy, cannot give this maternal love — she is repulsed that her Christ is physically, racially, and sexually Everything, and that they want to give their love to Everyone, and be loved by All, through peace.
Repulsed yet intrigued, human and lonely, Mary has corporal needs, and commits the true Original Sin — the Sin that, to this day, Catholic Priests commit over and over again. Mary to her Christ, Priests to thousands of Christs. In this reclaimed gospel, it is unclear how many times Mary committed her Original Sin on her child. What is clear is that Mary knew, and enabled, many more upon Christ by the Priests. And it is clear that, by knowing, she consequently joined. This gospel thus states God’s true law: That to know and look away has the same moral culpability as committing the act itself. By knowing, by enabling, by ignoring, one consequently joins. This we have refused to remember, or have chosen to forget, as it is all but absent in our laws and morality and ethics today.
In this reclaimed story, Christ was crucified not only as an adult, but also as a child, systematically. Each time, Mary knew, watched, allowed, and thereby joined. The narratives do not disagree as to the adult crucifixion: The Bible says Mary stood by and let her Christ be publicly humiliated, emotionally tortured, and slowly murdered on the Cross. Does this not describe what today’s Catholic Church does to its rape victims if they dare publicly self-identify? Two millennia ago, Mary let her adult child be publicly destroyed. Today, that is just what Catholics let their Church do, to victims of their Priests, to victims who dare reclaim their identity — Christs who dare self-identify.
In Christ’s child crucifixions, now no longer forgotten, the parallels hold. The abuse to Christ the child, for the courage to identify as Everything, match the identity crucifixions of today: Sexual and physical abuse, psychological torture, barbaric murder — just for daring to declare one’s truth. Why is it acceptable to destroy a human — but unacceptable to let that human declare their identity? In too many lands, the Catholic Church and Catholics are culpable as the primary, if not exclusive, sellers of this poison. So where did their Priests, Bishops, Cardinals, and Popes all learn and nurse their depravity? From Unholy Mary, we now remember, say all the Church’s men.
This work appropriates and alters a detail from Raphael’s Sistine Madonna. Removed are Raphael’s elements symbolizing Mary’s purity and Holiness; enhanced are his original yellows. In historical paintings of Christianity, yellow has symbolized Judas — here, Mary the traitor to her Christ. Yellow has also represented cowardice, and the rejection of outsiders, those Christianity and Christians refused to accept. Final words, in the artist’s handwriting, are a coda to this now-remembered narrative. Purposefully illegible, they are known to and retained by the artist, kept so he will not forget.
Updates: Artforum International magazine has listed as ‘must see’ the Chicago show at Aspect/Ratio Projects Gallery featuring this work by Adam Daley Wilson. Subsequently, a journalist with NBC News in Maine has covered this development as well, in an in-depth article.