MAVCOR Journal

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: An Online Journal of the Center for the Study of Material and Visual Cultures of Religion

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.

Object Narratives The Balvanera Escudo 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.

Object Narratives Adonai/Adidas T-Shirt 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.

Conversations Julie Dickerson: Creative Currents 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”).

Object Narratives C. C. A. Christensen, Joseph Preaching to the Indians 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.

Object Narratives Portable Altar of Countess Gertrude 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.

Object Narratives Thomas Eakins, The Crucifixion 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.

Object Narratives Gordon Parks, Dresser in the bedroom of Mrs. Ella Watson, a government charwoman 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.

Essays Art That Breathes: Lewis deSoto’s Paranirvana (self-portrait) 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.

Medium Studies Chalkware, Plaster, Plaster of Paris 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.

Object Narratives James Latimer Allen, Madonna and Child 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.

Conversations Aparajita Guha: Conversation about Contemporary Hindu Spiritual Practice Interviewed by 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.

Constellations Viaticum, Last Rites Cabinet, Sick Call Set 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.

Object Narratives Mark Rothko, No. 5/No. 22 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.

Object Narratives Ford Madox Brown, Work 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.

Object Narratives Bertel Thorvaldsen, Christus (Christ) 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.

Conversations Rabbi Jordie Gerson: Reflections on Images and Jewish Traditions 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.

Object Narratives Barquitos del San Juan: La Revista de los Niños, Year 13, No. 23, 2007 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.

Object Narratives Carte de visite Photograph Album 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.

Object Narratives Alexander Anderson, Abigail Hutchinson: A Young Woman Hopefully Converted 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.

Object Narratives The Chapel of Our Lord of the Miracles (La Capilla de Nuestro Señor de los Milagros), San Antonio, Texas 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.

Object Narratives Opening Virgin (Vierge Ouvrante) Shira Brisman

This object is an example of a type of small-scale Christian moveable-part medieval sculpture called a Vierge Ouvrante (“Opening Virgin”).

Object Narratives Traveling Image of the Holy Child of Atocha (Santo Niño de Atocha), Plateros, Mexico 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.

Object Narratives Arthur B. Davies, Sacramental Trees 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.

Object Narratives Drain-spout in the Form of a Flying Celestial Figure 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.”

Object Narratives Thousand-armed and Thousand-eyed Avalokiteshvara 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.

Object Narratives The Vincent and Mary Markham Monument 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).

Object Narratives Cuzco Miter 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.

Object Narratives Kwame "Almighty" Akoto, The Supernatural Eyes of God 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.

Object Narratives Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth 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.

Object Narratives Icon of Mary Elena Kravchenko

Icons move. They cross national borders and traditional boundaries. They show up in the least expected places.

Object Narratives Ancestor portraits at Mogao Cave 231 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.

Object Narratives Hans Holbein the Younger, Dead Christ Entombed 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.

Object Narratives Skull boxes 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.

Object Narratives External Eyes on Jain Temple Icons 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.

Object Narratives The Virgin of Guadalupe, Extremadura, Spain 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.