Around the time Microaggressions in Ministry: Confronting the Violence of Everyday Church was published, I was under contract and furiously trying to finish yet another book project, a coloring book of all things. On the heels of such imperative justice work as microaggressions, why on earth was creating a coloring book on my radar? Feminist academic-activists don’t dabble in such seemingly insignificant projects as coloring books, do they? As I wrote about my potential coloring book for the first time with FAR, I realized the time is ripe for such work—a coloring book that fuses feminism, arts, and spirituality—so I graciously took the feedback offered here and shared them with my publisher.
Coloring is a fast growing trend among over-stressed adults. “Soothing coloring pages” is a top Google search item. Amazon.com lists over 3,000 adult coloring books, some even featured on their bestsellers list.
Articles—popular and academic—whose authors range from psychologist to spiritual director purport the power of coloring to calm anxiety, relieve stress, and provide a creative and spiritual outlet. Is this a feminist issue? I’d say so. In fact, part of the problem of microaggressions is the difficulty in coping with the stress, depression, and anxiety caused by them. Hear me clearly, I’m not saying that coloring in my coloring book will rid the world of microaggressions and usher in a utopian paradise where every person is treated equally and justly. What I am saying is that, since studies have proven that coloring is a valid mode of relieving stress and anxiety and microaggressions create stress and anxiety, coloring pages filled with bold, revolutionary women, many of whom are women of color and/or queer, can provide a balm, a method of empowerment, a window into what that utopian world could be.
Because in the Holy Women Icons Project I lift up the stories of revolutionary women who are too often overlooked in society or in religious spheres. I draw inspiration from the lives of these women as I canonize them into the sainthood of Holy Women Icons because it is important for women to see themselves as holy, to see icons who reflect their identity. In painting their images, I give iconography a folk feminist twist.
For years I have researched and painted these women. In 2014 I compiled my research and paintings into a book: Holy Women Icons. Soon after came greeting cards and prints. Currently, several of the paintings are on “tour” throughout the United States, though there are now only six originals left in the collection (which are all 30% off by the way). Now I am thrilled that the Holy Women Icons Contemplative Coloring Book is complete.
A brief description of each holy woman, along with a small image of her painting, is found at the back of the coloring book for those coloring to use as a reference. I would invite FAR readers, in particular, to note that the majority many of the icons are women of color and I think it’s important that our coloring reflect this. For far too long “flesh” has been one particular color in the crayon box—reflecting only a white shade of skin—and this is most often reflected in the way we color people in coloring books. Of course I encourage everyone to add their own interpretive twists to each coloring page, but please do not contribute to the white washing of the revolutionary sisters whose stories are most often untold by coloring their flesh peachy-white. This is one of the myriad important reasons I’ve included the reference guide at the back: so that you may know part of the powerful story of the woman you are coloring.
And with that, I offer you a glimpse at two of the revolutionary women who fill the coloring book: Perpetua and Felicity. After reading the brief description found at the back of the coloring book (found below) and glimpsing their original painting, I invite you print out their coloring page and color for yourself…
Perpetua and Felicity were early Christian martyrs in Africa. In the moments before death, they kissed and embraced. This daring act, combined with a diary that never spoke of her husband, earned them the title “Patron Saint of Same-Sex Couples” by many in the LGBTQ community.
Perpetua and Felicity are joined by 37 other Holy Women Icons in the Holy Women Icons Contemplative Coloring Book. As much as it is possible, I ask you to help spread the good news of the Holy Women Icons Project, and particularly of this much-needed coloring book. Parson’s Porch Publishing is a fabulous little publishing company, a non-profit whose motto—“books into bread”—resonates with the work of so many women featured in my coloring book. Because all of their profits after small author royalties go to feed hungry families, this publishing company doesn’t have the money for fancy marketing. So, help spread the word of this coloring book however you know how: ordering a copy, sharing about it on social media, downloading a copy and printing it, writing amazon reviews, tweeting pictures of what you have colored, writing Oprah (seriously…she loves empowering women!). In doing so, not only do women have access to Holy Women Icons Contemplative Coloring Book, but bellies are filled.
Above all, may these holy women inspire and empower you. May coloring their images embolden you. May you discover something new about spirituality, history, and yourself. Happy coloring!
Rev. Dr. Angela Yarber has a PhD in Art and Religion from the Graduate Theological Union at UC Berkeley and is author of Embodying the Feminine in the Dances of the World’s Religions, The Gendered Pulpit: Sex, Body, and Desire in Preaching and Worship, Dance in Scripture: How Biblical Dancers can Revolutionize Worship Today, Holy Women Icons, Tearing Open the Heavens: Selected Sermons from Year B, Microaggressions in Ministry: Confronting the Violence of Everyday Church, and Holy Women Icons Contemplative Coloring Book. She has been a clergywoman and professional dancer and artist since 1999. For more on her research, ministry, dance, or to purchase one of her icons, visit: www.angelayarber.com