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MAVCOR Journal is an open access born-digital, double blind peer-reviewed journal dedicated to promoting conversation about material and visual cultures of religion. Published by the Center for the Study of Material and Visual Cultures of Religion at Yale University and reviewed by members of our distinguished Editorial Board and other experts, MAVCOR Journal encourages contributors to think deeply about the objects, performances, sounds, and digital experiences that have framed and continue to frame human engagement with religion broadly understood across diverse cultures, regions, traditions, and historical periods.

Conversations

MAVCOR began publishing Conversations: An Online Journal of the Center for the Study of Material and Visual Cultures of Religion in 2014. In 2017 we selected a new name, MAVCOR Journal. Articles published prior to 2017 are considered part of Conversations and are listed as such under Volumes in the MAVCOR Journal menu.

  • Suzanne Glover Lindsay
    The French Republic's July 1793 exhumation of the royal tombs intertwines not only contemporary religion and politics but also religious traditions with contemporary intellectual debate.
  • Emily Engel
    Material objects, including a group of documentary paintings of Our Lady of Cocharcas, recall the processes by which ancient Andean pilgrimage traditions became deeply integrated into late-colonial socio-religious consciousness.
  • A large wooden figure has an oversized head with carved scarification. Flat breasts with carved, erect nipples and scarification flow over the sculpture's curved, four-legged base. The work's face has large ears and a rounded, protruding nose.
    Frederick John Lamp
    What is the meaning of the word "spirit" in Africa?
  • Guy Jordan
    The old Islamic Center of Murfreesboro was not, it seems, meant to be seen at all. A yearning to blend in, be ordinary, unremarkable, even overlooked, would, as I later discovered, inflect the architectural presentiments of the old and new centers alike, and provide an apt metaphor for the struggles that have confronted the Islamic community in this small city in central Tennessee.
  • Minoo Moallem
    Consumption as a material practice changes religious meanings and practices, and value comes to be invested in certain religious objects, rituals, and ideas rather than others.
  • Ashley Makar
    Imam Shamsi Ali is an Islamic scholar, Chairman of the Al-Hikmah Mosque in Astoria, and the Director of Jamaica Muslim Center in Queens.
  • Ashley Makar
    Ashley Makar interviewed Reverend Alex Dyer, priest-in-charge of St. Paul and St. James Episcopal Church of New Haven, CT in May 2011.
  • Bryan Wolf
    The world of handmade objects and manual labor turns strange in Puryear's Desire, and in this way, the ordinary becomes—here is list of options, choose one—estranged, uncanny, defamiliarized.
  • In a black and white photo, a young light-skinned man wears a slightly rumpled suit jacket. He looks up and out of the picture frame in the portrait.
    Lindsay Reckson
    Early debates around the use of the electric chair pivoted on the convergence of state and divine power.
  • A circular tortoiseshell frame holds an embroidered image of an enthroned Virgin wearing a light blue cloak and holding the Christ child. Both wear royal coronets. A treasure chest lies open on the ground at their feet.
    Cristina Cruz González
    Nun's badges worn in colonial New Spain not only articulated a woman’s religious affiliations, family fortune, and ethnic purity but also expressed her desire to influence political opinion.
  • A white t-shirt with blue lettering that reads "Adonai" is displayed on a black clothing form. The text uses the same geometric sans font used by Adidas, and the trefoil corporate logo is included in blue above the "ai."
    Anne Grant
    The t-shirt’s appropriation of a multinational sportswear corporation’s logo into a sacred Hebrew name for God could be simply a clever play on words, but a more critical approach might take into account the commodification of this sacred name for the deity and its subsequent selling in the marketplace for profit.
  • Interviewed by Ashley Makar
    Ashley Makar interviewed Julie Dickerson in 2010 while she was painting a mural of “dancing saints”—ranging from Moses’ sister Miriam to Martin Luther King—in the undercroft at St. James and St. Paul Episcopal Church in New Haven, Connecticut (affectionately nicknamed “St. PJ's”).
  • In this painting, a light-skinned man in a black waistcoat raises his hand and addresses a large assembly of figures. They wear stereotypical American Indian dress of hide clothes and red or blue cloaks. Teepees stand in the background.
    Nathan Rees
    Although LDS doctrine esteemed Native Americans as literal descendants of the peoples of the Book of Mormon, relations between Mormons and Indians in Utah grew increasingly strained as resources became scarce. Christensen’s work reflects this divided perspective.
  • A gem-encrusted gold altar is a squat rectangular box with a white-speckled porphyry top. Archangels, apostles, and Christ are shown within a colonnade depicted on the object's sides.
    Crispin Paine
    The portable altar seems to have developed in the missionary world of the seventh century, to meet the Church's requirement that Mass be celebrated only on a consecrated altar—a requirement that strengthened the position of bishops, who alone could consecrate them.
  • Akela Reason
    In his 1880 The Crucifixion, Thomas Eakins, a reputed agnostic, crafted a realist interpretation of one of the central devotional subjects in Christian art, challenging the traditional iconography of the crucifixion by eliminating all signs of divine presence.
  • Sally M. Promey
    Visibly claiming to regulate the prescribed Christian imitation of the biblical figures they represented, late-nineteenth and early-twentieth century statues of light-complexioned religious figures populated domestic spaces, churches, and missions fields, and implied that looking like Jesus or Mary or John might be more “natural” or “complete” for some than for others.
  • Anya Montiel
    Unlike its solid stone predecessor, deSoto’s work, made from painted polyethylene cloth, is hollow, filled only by air from a fan that keeps the sculpture inflated. The resemblance to the reclining Buddha is nonetheless remarkable, from the curls of hair to the folds of the robe, the one exception being that deSoto superimposed his own facial features, complete with goatee, on this Buddha.
  • Sally M. Promey
    In the second half of the nineteenth century, in Europe and the United States, chalkware accomplished for three-dimensional devotional objects what chromolithography managed for images in two dimensions.
  • A black and white photo depicts a dark-skinned woman in a white veil cradling a swaddled baby close to her chest. She fold her hands in her lap and casts her eyes down. A nativity star is visible in the righthand corner.
    Camara Dia Holloway
    During the Harlem Renaissance, mother and child portraits and figure studies were especially popular in the African American media, signaling the importance placed on motherhood and the nurturing of future generations.
  • Ashley Makar
    This conversation about spirituality happened in the home of Aparajita Guha in Rexford, New York, on June 20, 2012. Guha, a practicing Hindu, is a family friend of Ashley Makar, who is a practicing Christian.
  • Sally M. Promey
    Among the material items that might occupy the pre-Vatican II American Catholic home, regardless for the most part of the occupant’s ethnicity or familial nation of origin, the last rites cabinet or viaticum (Latin for “supply of provisions for a journey”) asserted a powerful daily and nightly presence.
  • The rectangular swaths of color on a color field painting do not extend to the end of the canvas. A red stripe at the center lies below a larger section of yellow and above a hazy rectangle of orange.
    Andrea Pappas
    Strong, gestural markings in the central red band distinguish this painting from Rothko’s other mature works. This anomaly consists of long, gently undulating lines formed by gouging the surface of the paint all the way to the canvas before it dried. Straining out from a central point, the horizontal lines contrast sharply with the fuzzy, indeterminate edges of the other elements of the painting.
  • A busy painting captures a profusion of 19th century figures in one crowded section of the sunny street. Men dig trenches or toss back drinks. Women grasp babies, hand out pamphets, hold baskets of flowers, and stroll by with parasols.
    Tim Barringer
    Ford Madox Brown’s allegory of labor in all its forms is the most ambitious Pre-Raphaelite painting of modern life and a profound meditation on the relationship between art, religion, and labor in Victorian society.
  • Petra ten-Doesschate Chu and Peter Ahr
    The internationally famous Danish sculptor Bertel Thorvaldsen (1789–1838) was asked to produce a series of colossal statues of Christ, John the Baptist, and the apostles for the new Neoclassical Vor Frue Kirke of Denmark. Of these, Christus (Christ) has become best-known. Copies of the sculpture, often true to size or even larger, can be found around the world.
  • Interviewed by Ashley Makar
    Ashley Makar spoke with Rabbi Jordie Gerson on October 26, 2010 at Yale University’s Joseph Slifka Center for Jewish Life. Rabbi Jordie Gerson currently works as the Assistant Director and Campus Rabbi at University of Vermont Hillel.
  • The homemade cover of a book depicts a young man reclining in a row boat as he reads a book. The background of the watercolor and ink illustration is a deep red. A set of red and black beads are affixed to the flat image as a necklace on the man's neck.
    Kristin Schwain
    Rolando Estévez Jordán, a visual artist, and Alfredo Zaldívar, a poet, co-founded Cuba’s Ediciones Vigía (Watchtower Editions) in 1985 to create an open forum for writers, musicians, and artists.
  • A gold border encircles a braided piece of hair arranged in an arc on a book page. Bows are tied on the hair tips. Handwritten script below reads, "Mother. Died Dec. 16th 1867. Aged 56 years."
    Rachel McBride Lindsey
    What photograph albums teach us about nineteenth-century viewing habits is that the reach of religion extended beyond compositionally “religious” subjects. Modes of beholding were often forms of religious practice that did not require a regulated rift between sacred and secular.
  • A wood-engraving depicts a woman sitting on a bench staring off into a grassy landscape with a house and trees.
    Sonia Hazard
    That “Protestants don’t have pictures” remains a common generalization. Yet in the early nineteenth century, nothing could be further from the truth. Protestant publishers like the nonsectarian American Tract Society (ATS) lavishly decorated their tracts with small but expressive printed illustrations.
  • A black and white photo shows a space with adults and children on kneelers before an altar arrayed with devotional statues. The walls are lined with small framed images. One devotee stands on crutches.
    Timothy Matovina
    No exact date is known for the founding in San Antonio, Texas, of the Capilla de Nuestro Señor de los Milagros (Chapel of the Lord of Miracles), or Capilla de los Milagros, as it is sometimes called. Visitors to the shrine and its central Christ image offer both their orations and material expressions of prayer.
  • Shira Brisman
    This object is an example of a type of small-scale Christian moveable-part medieval sculpture called a Vierge Ouvrante (“Opening Virgin”).
  • A light-skinned figure of a young boy wears a shiny blue robe, brown stole, and wide-brimmed hat. He is seated in a gold throne with an ornate canopy carved with a lamb insignia. The child holds a basket and staff.
    Jennifer Scheper Hughes and Daisy Vargas
    Each year, certain special religious images are ceremonially brought from Mexico and Central America to visit Catholic devotional communities in Southern California. These devotional statues of Catholic saints are “imágenes peregrinas,” pilgrim or traveling images.
  • Two half-naked female figures gather around a brown ox in a dark, painterly image. Thick brushstrokes also render fruit-bearing trees in the background.
    Emily Gephart
    Two maidens, one bright and one shadowy, lead an ox through a curiously dense, shallow, and cubistically-fragmented woodland, heading (one presumes) through the titular sacramental trees and towards an uncertain destination.
  • In a grayscale photo, a female stone torso with carved jewelry protrudes and swoops off a building. There is a jagged stone space where the figure's head should be.
    Tamara I. Sears
    Hovering above the central courtyard of a Hindu monastery at the rural central-Indian village of Chandrehe was once a set of finely sculpted flying celestials, known within their original, tenth-century context as gandharvas, heavenly singers in the court of the gods, or vidya-dharas, meaning “carriers of truth.”
  • A colorful but weathered ink painting shows a pale-skinned, many-armed figure sitting cross-legged at its center. A large halo of hands surrounds him, each with a single eye. Accompanying figures lie outside the halo against a blue background.
    Michelle C. Wang
    Avalokiteshvara, one of the most important bodhisattvas in Buddhism, was popularly known as the “perceiver of the world’s cries.” Bodhisattvas, meaning literally “enlightened beings,” were devoted, out of a deep sense of compassion, to aiding other sentient beings in their quest for enlightenment, even to the point of postponing their own entry into nirvana.
  • A stone plinth holds a sculptural group of two stone, male figures. One concerned-looking robed man crouches down to adjust the cloths on the head of a supine male figure. The lying man has a bare chest and a pained expression.
    Annette Stott
    In the summer of 1900, Denver acquired an unusual sculpture to mark the last resting place of pioneer attorney Vincent Daniel Markham (1826-1895) and his wife Mary (ca. 1834-1893).
  • A pale gold tall cap that rises to a peak is decorated with ornate embroidery all over. The colorful embroidery depicts swirling floral and vegetal designs in red, blue, and green.
    Maya Stanfield-Mazzi
    The Cathedral of Cuzco, Peru holds several liturgical ornaments from the Spanish colonial period in its treasury. Among them is a magnificent embroidered miter, the headdress worn by bishops for blessings, baptisms, and processions.
  • A dark-skinned man wearing a white t-shirt holds a large, broken mortar transformed into an art object. It is painted orange with a large eye depicted at center. Other smaller eyes cover the object's surface. Neat, white text also covers the piece.
    Birgit Meyer
    During a trip to Ghana in May 2010, I visited the roadside shop and atelier of painter Kwame Akoto, alias “Almighty,” a name he adopted so as to praise the power of God.
  • A grayscale chart consists of a series of different size ovals set in a horizontal line. Each oval contains more circles with illustrations inside them. Text labels the spheres and thin lines make connections between events.
    A.T. Coates
    Clarence Larkin’s dispensationalist chart “Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth” (1920) offers a detailed schematic of biblical history. The artistic product of an individual with experience in mechanical draftsmanship, Larkin’s chart shows how events and epochs fit together like parts in a salvation machine.
  • A painting of a light-skinned Mary with a large, oblong disk of gold leaf light behind her head is painted on a red background. She has large stylized eyes, red lips, and wears a burgundy cloak.
    Elena Kravchenko
    Icons move. They cross national borders and traditional boundaries. They show up in the least expected places.
  • In a mural on a cave wall, robed figures gather around a painted tablet. Two larger figures kneel while their attendants hold offerrings. Much of the colorful paint has chipped off the figures.
    Winston Kyan
    The integration of “secular” figures into a Buddhist cave complicates the separation established by both medieval Chinese authors and modern scholars of Buddhist art between practices of familial commemoration and religious devotion.
  • Mia Mochizuki
    “Why, some people may lose their faith looking at that picture!” Dostoyevsky famously had his fictional character Prince Myshkin exclaim over Hans Holbein the Younger’s Dead Christ Entombed.
  • Three shelves of small gable-roofed and house-shaped boxes are displayed behind bars. Each box is black and white with a cross affixed to the top. All have text inscribed on the front.
    Maura Coughlin
    Skull boxes that both memorialized a dead individual and displayed the deceased person’s skull were made in Brittany from the eighteenth century to about 1900.
  • John E. Cort
    These glass eyes seem to look intently at the viewer, seizing the viewer’s attention. This is precisely what they are intended to do by the Shvetambar Murtipujak Jains of western India; it is also precisely why the Digambar Jains of western India strenuously object to them.
  • Jeanette Favrot Peterson
    This Marian icon cannot be characterized as a single object as the perception of her authenticity, from which she gains her numinous power, draws on two distinct representations, one nested inside the other.
  • Allison Stielau
    In 1890 two men working in the area around Dolgellau in North Wales discovered this pair of objects in a crevice between rocks. Encrusted with soil and plant matter, the objects were not at first identifiable.
  • Emily C. Floyd
    Credited with saving the town from sure disaster, the Cross of Motupe became the centerpiece of a devotion that drew pilgrims from throughout the region, and eventually from throughout Peru.
  • A painting provides a view into a forest clearing with a green canopy of trees over a muddy, watery expanse.
    Rebecca Bedell
    In June 1840, Asher Durand wrote in his journal: “Today again is Sunday. I have declined attendance on church service, the better to indulge reflection unrestrained under the high canopy of heaven, amidst the expanse of waters—fit place to worship God and contemplate the wonders of his power.”

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