Tend Your Flock
Fringe Review: Pope Up
By SJ Punderson
BRIEF SELF-DECRIPTION: In honor of the Pope’s upcoming visit, artists offer offbeat, humorous and maybe even sacrilegious interpretations of all things “Popish.” Handling religion isn’t for the faint of heart – these artists spare no brushstroke, chisel, or technology as they skewer, applaud, and perhaps make us question, what we believe in.
WE THINK: In an old yarn dyeing factory converted to a venue for creative place-making just a few miles outside of Center City, is one of the hidden gems of this year’s Fringe Festival. Pope Up, the Philadelphia Sculptors artistic contribution to Fringe this year, is the only pope-related show in the festival.
“There are twenty six artists, and some artists contributed a few pieces each,” said Philadelphia Sculptors President Leslie Kaufman.
Among the Pope-themed pieces, Joan Menapace’s “Tend Your Flock”, is a standout. Inspired by and in collaboration with her 50 year-old transgender daughter, the crocheted Pope miter in bright pink, white and blue and painted wood sculpture in the colors of the transgender flag are an attention grabber. Suicide is a big issue in the transgender community, and Menapace includes this startling statistic in her artistic statement: 41% of transgender Catholics are at risk or may have attempted suicide. That’s 128, 248 people, according to her calculations. Who is tending this flock?
Humor has a place at the altar too, as Stephanie Kirk’s “Church Sign Project” provides a visually impactful outlet for her fear of church signs. A wall of over 70 photographs of church signs include messages like: “God Wants Full Custody, Not A Weekend Visit” and “And You Think It’s Hot Here!” Simone Spicer has transformed dozens of plastic gallon milk jugs into eerie nun faces for “The Sisters”. Holy Smith’s “Nun of Your Business” is a wooden sculpture of a sister with binoculars. You get the picture, so go see it with your own eyes.