Martyr—from the archives

Artist: Gil Martinez, RGD
Although I am now an agnostic, I grew up catholic in Mexico, where there is a fascination with the gory depiction of martyrdom. You might be exposed to the torn skin and exposed vertebrae of Christ on the column, St. Lucy with empty eye sockets and her eyes on a little silver plate, or the bloody body of St. Sebastian riddled with arrows.
In 1998 Matthew Sheppard, a normal college kid from an unimportant small town in middle America, was picked up at a bar by two men, beaten, and left to die in the countryside. His mother, Judy Shepard, has since been a passionate speaker for gay rights and anti-bullying measures. At the same time, the Catholic Church, led by Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, has made a crusade against gays and lesbians a central part of Vatican agenda. This 2007 piece, depicting this young man covered in blood with exposed clean skin only where his tears have washed the blood away, with the attributes of martyrdom, is a modest effort to change the narrative while keeping the gory tradition of icons alive.

M. Shepard '98—2007
7.5 cm x 10.2 cm
Acrylic and metal leaf on maple wood

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