CHRISTIANITY + NUDE ART. LET’S TALK.
Hey there *waves*
My name is Sophie. I’m a believer — I call myself a Christian — and I’m an artist. But, unlike your typical Christian artist, I draw women. And not just any women; I draw women in their nakedness, all of them representing Eve in the Garden of Eden before the fall of humanity.
I’m writing this piece for all of the side eyes, the confused stares, the misinterpretation, and the flat-out “but you can’t be a Christian and draw women nude” responses I’ve received since I started sharing my work. When somebody knows I’m a believer, and they see my work, they’re taken aback. And similarly, if someone knows my work, and then learns that I am a believer, they are…taken aback.
What this isn’t is a defensive piece, or a perpetuation of some perceived defiance to what it means to be Christian — nor is this a burn-your-bras-and-never-get-married kind of feminist work — but a response, that we might continue to engage in conversation. I didn’t want to have to explain my work, out of fear that it would water down my street credibility as an artist, but, alas (!), here we are anyway, and because God is asking this of me.
I’ve always admired artists that let their art speak for themselves. And often, that’s what I do — I leave both my drawings and my poetry up to interpretation, but in this case, it’s really important to dialogue…
…because, I promise, there’s more than meets the eye. And the body.
I’ll start here: The Bible says, in Mark 2:17, that Jesus came to heal the sick, and not the healthy. “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteousness, but the sinners.” What Jesus was doing on the earth was exceptionally controversial; those that saw Him accused him of blasphemy and unrighteousness. He proclaimed that he had come not for those that were well, but to save all of those (all of us) from their sickness, their perversion, their tendency to exploit and use and abuse. He came for redemption, and that was a scandalous claim.
Though this isn’t a new phenomenon, in the 21st century, there is so much sickness — especially around the body of the woman. She has been exploited, oppressed, used, abused, manipulated, mutilated, tormented, blamed. She has been objectified; sex — and the female body — have been so perverted that the unhealthy eye cannot look at a woman without thinking of her as an immediate way to gratify his fleshly desires.
But, she was made for so much more: to give life, to work, to worship, to nurture, to conduct business (Proverbs 31), to walk alongside her partner, doing for him what he could not do alone (Genesis 2:18), and to receive a Christ-like love from him, Adam, in return…even if it meant dying for it.
The running narrative I’ve held around my body has looked, unfortunately, so much more like the former than it does the latter. For most of my life — through my early twenties — my body was an ugly foreigner. It betrayed me in ballet class with ribs that were “too big,” reminded me of its limitations during my freshman year of college on the University of Washington crew team when I had to quit for fear of cardiac arrest due to a heart murmur. More than just awkward, following my stint on the rowing team, my body became my greatest enemy, when I developed an eating disorder that landed me in the ER my junior year of college.
(It was there that I first heard the voice of God, first prayed, and I felt my eating disorder evaporate out of my body through the top of my head like champagne bubbling out of its bottle.)
It wasn’t that I was necessarily big; I just couldn’t get small enough. My body was not my own to manage, to feed, and to love — it was the world’s. And I let the world nearly tempt me into evaporating altogether, had it not been for the goodness of God coming to save me at my darkest.
I spent the following few years learning how beautiful my body was, by trying to see it like God sees it. I had to be wildly intentional, saying out loud things I didn’t yet believe (“Sophie, you are beautiful. God made you awesomely and wonderfully. You are the perfect amount of tall. I love your thighs. What killer shoulders, sister!…”). Some days, it came naturally, and others, it was devastatingly, obviously forced. But it was okay.
I was growing in my relationship with God, coming to understand who I was as His daughter and not a child of the world — that I was loved inherently, no matter my body or my hair or my anything at all, that food was actually good for me, and that I could eat cookies and enjoy it. I was learning what it meant for my body to be mine and nobody else’s — it was mine to define, and its beauty was nothing short of 6 feet and curly-haired.
And then I was raped.
And, again, my body was no longer my own.
I’d like to say that my story is unique, because it would mean that sexual abuse is a rarity. But, it’s not. In one of my previous homes, living with two other beautiful, believing, smart, kind, wonderful, women, we were 3:3 for surviving rape (and coming out stronger, but I know this isn’t always the case). My mother had been sexually abused as a child by a close relative in the home…their dad. When she and her sister finally told their mother, my grandma, the abuser’s side of the family didn’t believe them — they claimed false accusations — and haven’t spoken to them since. Victims of sexual abuse were further oppressed and abused by mockery and abandonment of the family.
These are the stories of women whose bodies were claimed by another, used for sinful self-satisfaction at the expense of her, the woman — she who is supposed to be honored, and adored, and held tenderly, and kept holy and blameless for the day of the coming of Jesus.
It has been too long that women’s bodies are not their own. I’ve spent most of my own life in a body that was foreign to me, because it didn’t comply with the world’s standards of beauty.
And, it’s been too long that we’ve allowed the world to shape our understanding and our appreciation (and fleshly need) for the woman’s body, rather than God. When He created Adam and Eve, they were naked, and unashamed. She was the final work of God’s — the piece in which He finally could breathe a sigh of relief, seeing that the world was complete. She was naked, in the presence of God, and beautiful. And there was no exploitation of her beauty.
Because I care to represent Eve in the Garden — and not just a nude woman for the sake of drawing nude women — I am very careful about my approach. My figures are never suggestive or sexually inclined — they are demure, or powerful, and always strong, and they are uniquely personable, each with a story of their own to share. My creative space is worshipful; I seek God before, during, and after I create (often, pieces, ideas, color palettes, or messages come to me in dreams).
As an artist, and often as a poet, too, I am here to disrupt the narrative that women are sexual objects, and instead portray them as beautiful and authoritative and works of art in and of themselves.
I went to go see the Poets in Autumn Tour in Chicago last weekend and I was wrecked, rocked, and everything in between. Jackie Hill Perry, a Christian hip-hop artist, poet, spoken word performer, wife, mother, etc., was speaking during Q&A about her transition from “stud to believer,” telling the story of how she had given her life to Jesus and discovered what it meant to be a woman, his daughter in the process. As a woman, we are not to hide the beauty God has given us (by covering our faces in makeup so heavy that we are unrecognizable, or by pushing our breasts flat against our chests to make them non-existent); we are to enjoy our curves and our femininity, as this is what is distinguishable about us. Our hips are what make us women. We are not formed like men, and we are not supposed to pretend that our bodies look like theirs, or downplay in disgust what He’s given us.
It was about a year ago that I was getting frustrated in my creative process, because I was finding very little success in trying to sell my work (if you’re interested, please visit this page or contact me if you have something specific in mind you’d like). I complained to God, “Bruhhh. What the heck am I doing? Does this matter? It’s expensive. And time-consuming. And nobody cares.” And then He told me that He hadn’t just given me a dream to create art for the here and now, but that He had commissioned me to create art for heaven (as in, I will see my work again, hanging on the walls of palaces in heaven). And, in heaven, the woman’s body will be whole and beautiful — just like Eve’s, before she and Adam were separated from the goodness of God through their sin.
Art, and specifically, the drawing of the naked woman, is a reclamation of what had been taken from me outside of the will of God. The good news is that He takes what Satan provides to Him and turns it into good. If Satan can use, and abuse, and exploit, then God can create beauty that far surpasses the sin that tried to destroy, for “where sin abounds, grace abounds all the more.” My artwork, in the beginning, was part of my healing process; it was personal. But, as I’ve been healed from my past, my work is a reclamation of the woman’s body for all women — that their body might again be their own, and that they might see it, holy and blameless and beautiful in the presence of God.
Michaelangelo once said, “I will paint man as God made him, in the glory of his nakedness.” In my case, man can be read as woman — in the glory of her nakedness and in appreciation of her beauty.
Satan only has power over us when he things the story is his to tell. This is no longer his story, but mine, and ours — for the women and the men that stand in agreement that she is beautiful — in alignment with heaven’s.
On the real, though, if you wanna buy some art, please check out my work, or reach out for a commission or collaboration, especially now that you have some context around the narrative!