Welcome to the Garden
It would be a sad world if we forgot that wisteria was originally a living, growing being and not simply color and texture in a stained glass window.
Yet that is often how we understand the place or role of both women and the arts in the Christian church. Cut off women from being co-heirs and co-creators with men and they become merely ornamental. Force art to be only didactic and evangelizing and it becomes outdated and not particularly beautiful.
This blog, Wild Wisteria, has been created to be a place for faith, art, and equality to flourish. The writers and artists for Wild Wisteria come from a variety of Christian faith traditions, including the Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholic, and Protestant churches ranging from Anglican to charismatic. We are women and men, aged late teens to late 50s, mostly American, mostly white, and fairly—though we are actively seeking contributor diversity. Our professions include ministry, parenting, education, medicine, service, and creative arts (which we take to be pretty much inclusive—written, visual, auditory, participatory). Some of us come to this blog with a passion for gender equality in the Church, while others find more lamentable the broken state of Christianity’s engagement with culture. A few of us are equally passionate about co-creating (Madeleine L’Engle’s term in Walking on Water) and bringing equality because of the message of Christ redeeming the world to himself. While a focus in this blog will be gender equality (known also as biblical egalitarianism or Christian feminism depending on your definition and your comfort with the term), striving for equality between races, nations, socio-economic divides will not be forgotten. But how we get to these particular passions will depend on the particular background, gifts, and talents of the specific author.
The Louis Tiffany stained glass triptych provides a nice image for what Wild Wisteria endeavors to do.
If I were only a theologian, I might discuss the significance of the personification of Wisdom as a woman in the Proverbs. Or how much fruit flourishes if we are connected to the vine, who is Christ. Or how, like a flowering plant, Christians are the aroma of Christ. If I were a visual artist, I might focus on the techniques of color, design, and perhaps how Tiffany made stained glass. If I were a professor, I might teach students how to sketch the window. If I were a historian, I might lecture on the historical woman the glass likely depicts (her name is Nellie Virginia Sands De Lamar). If I were a social reformer, I might question money being spent on decorative windows when millions of people do not have access to safe housing.
If I were a fiction writer, I might base an entire character just on the woman portrayed in this image. If I were a feminist scholar, I might ask why her garment focuses our gaze on her chest or why images of beauty are so often young, rich, and white. If I were a prophet, I might remind us like other voices in the wilderness, that the window, while lovely in and of itself, is also a remembrance of a better reality when we will see Loveliness face to face.
And the beauty is that all of those perspectives can deepen the lens from which each of us views the woman with wisteria. We hope you find Wild Wisteria a nurturing space where you can experience community with like-minded women and men, learn from others’ passions and talents, and grow in faith, hope, and love for creation—everything from your quirky sister to your child’s first art project, and most important, love for our creator and redeemer God.
Wild Wisteria is a collaborative project, edited by Emily Zimbrick-Rogers.