Untitled (the Female side of God)
Untitled (the Female side of God) Inkjet print, size variable
I chose to play with the most iconic image in Western art: Michelangelo’s ‘God Creating Adam’, from the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican. Throughout the Bible, God is mostly referred to in the masculine, but right at the beginning, in the description of Creation, we find:
Genesis 1: 27
And God created man in His own image, in the image of God created He him; male and female created He them.
So from the very start there is an ambiguity, and God, like the people he created in his own image, comes in male and female form.
We know that in traditional Jewish sources, God has many names and most of them are masculine, but He also has female forms, representing the female aspects of God. Right at the start, in the second sentence of the Bible, Genesis 1:2, “And the spirit of God hovered on the face of the waters”, the Hebrew word for hovered (merachefet) is in the female and some scholars explain this as representative of God’s female side. Likewise, the Shechina is primary among God’s names, and in Hebrew this literally means the Dwelling or Settling. In Talmudic literature, the Shechina connotes righteous judgment or personal need (e.g. TB Sanhedrin 39a; TB Brachot 6a; TB Shabbat 12b; TB Megillah 29a). There is also a strong tradition of the Shechina as the Sabbath bride associated with the 16th century mystic, Rabbi Isaac Luria, among other Rabbinic and Kabbalistic references.
Relying on these sources, I have transformed Michelangelo’s male God of Creation into a female Creator, maintaining the other aspects of this famous fresco intact. Thus I hope to make the point –humorously and visually- that God is not exclusively male or female, but contains the characteristics of both genders.
The idea of God having a female component, or aspect, is a bit revolutionary but the traditional sources acknowledge it. This attitude is also sometimes accepted in Christianity and Islam, and this resonates with widespread contemporary calls for inclusion and diversity, extending even to world-wide religions’ ideas of what constitutes God.