Virgin of Guadalupe Collage-Making Provides Healing in Challenging Times

A Harvest Festival attendee cuts up magazine pages for her Guadalupe collage.

A Harvest Festival attendee cuts up magazine pages for her Guadalupe collage. (Photo: Creo Noveno/KQED)

Faith and art are interminably bound at herchurch Lutheran Church. Worship in the tall, purple chapel located in San Francisco’s Twin Peaks neighborhood consists of art in every form: drum circles, poetry, interpretive dance, collage — whichever medium allows members to best connect with their spirituality and celebrate the “divine feminine.”

Visitors and church members alike find solace in a safe, affirming place — something that feels all the more necessary after last week’s presidential election results. “This has always been a space for healing,” Jennifer Mantle, a herchurch minister, says. “But you could feel the air shift.” 

A rainbow reflects into the herchurch building after Yolanda Lopez's talk.
A rainbow reflects into the herchurch building after Yolanda Lopez’s talk. (Photo: Creo Noveno/KQED)

The congregation’s annual Harvest Goddess Festival, a three-day event celebrating Bay Area feminist artists and the Goddess Spirit, best demonstrates the relationship of art and spirituality within herchurch and how it can serve to unite people in trying times. 

The church’s most recent festival was held just a few days after Trump was pronounced President-Elect. “Past festivals had a very celebratory mood,” Mantle says. “Now people walk in and we’re exchanging glances and telling each other ‘We’ve gotta keep going,’ like it’s some kind of code.”

The participation of guest artist Yolanda Lopez, whose brightly-colored and arresting paintings of the Virgin of Guadalupe icon directly address marginalized communities and their struggles, greatly helped to console and energize festival attendees.

The original Lady of Guadalupe next to "Portrait of the Artist as the Virgin of Guadalupe" (1978) by Yolanda Lopez.
The original Lady of Guadalupe next to “Portrait of the Artist as the Virgin of Guadalupe” (1978) by Yolanda Lopez.

Lopez’s Lady of Guadalupe triptych reimagines the Guadalupe in the image of Lopez, her mother and her grandmother, whom the artist believes are just as deserving of the respect and love that the religious figure receives.

“It’s a critique of theology as well as a loving portrait of working-class women,” Lopez says. “It’s an alternative way for women to think about themselves in the church.”

The series transforms the symbols present in traditional Guadalupe iconography — the Virgin Mary’s mantle of stars, the crescent moon, the angel — and repurposes them on Lopez’s own terms. In the portraits, Lopez’s mother sews her own mantle of stars, her grandmother pins a moon brooch on her dress, and Lopez herself leaps over the angel that traditionally weighs the Guadalupe down in artistic renderings.

Muralist Yolanda Lopez speaks to festival attendees after her talk.
Muralist Yolanda Lopez speaks to festival attendees after her talk. (Photo: Creo Noveno/KQED)

It was this act of redefinition that Maggie Olman Shannon, resident minister of Unity Spiritual Center of San Francisco and festival attendee, found herself drawn to as Lopez encouraged the crowd to create a collage of their own Guadalupes at the festival. “I loved the idea of deconstructing something in order to construct your own meaning,” Shannon says.

Former preschool teacher Andra Young says her collage made of jumping lambs, an orchid, and leopard print aims to channel joy and strength, especially as she continues to reel from the election results.

“After that night, I felt frightened and lost and needed a space where I could grieve and feel safe to be myself,” Young says of how she felt directly following the announcement of Trump’s win on Tuesday, Nov. 8. She found herself in the welcoming arms of herchurch, and she’s been returning to the chapel since attending the organization’s post-election mourning prayer meeting.

Guests work on their collages after Yolanda Lopez's talk.
Guests work on their collages after Yolanda Lopez’s talk. (Photo: Creo Noveno/KQED)

In addition to consoling participants, Lopez’s collage-making workshop also helped to provide them with the strength to carry on in the face of their feelings of uncertainty and grief.

Lopez reaffirms the power that each individual possesses, even in a figure so often rooted in suffering like the Lady of Guadalupe. “The Guadalupe is not a passive figure,” Lopez says. “Love is always active. I want to see your own active sacredness.”

Andra Young cuts up pieces for her collage.
Andra Young cuts up pieces for her collage. (Photo: Creo Noveno/KQED)
Virgin of Guadalupe Collage-Making Provides Healing in Challenging Times 16 November,2016Creo Noveno

Sponsored by

Become a KQED sponsor