From today’s Writer’s Almanac:

Sr. WendyIt’s the birthday of English art critic and nun Sister Wendy Beckett, born in South Africa (1930) and raised in Edinburgh, Scotland. She’s been a nun for more than 60 years, an art critic for more than 20. She’s famous for books on art and her television shows on the BBC and PBS where she talks about art in museums around the world in plain, understandable language.

Sister Wendy said, “Many people feel I am not really equipped to understand art, that I am not educated enough to speak to people in elitist languages, but don’t you see — that’s the point!” Her first book was Contemporary Women Artists (1988).

Sister Wendy surprises her audience with the way she openly talks about sex and nudity in paintings without any embarrassment. She says, “I use the words that come naturally…I’m absolutely astonished and bewildered to find people commenting on my delight in a naked body. Never, ever, has anyone suggested that parts of the body were not quite right, that God made a mistake, that they should be passed over. It’s appropriate to comment on everything in the painting. I’m not going to deny God’s glory by pandering to narrow-mindedness.”

Sister Wendy negotiated in her contract that no matter where she is filming, she must go to mass every day. When not filming, she lives in solitude and prayer in a trailer on the property of the convent. All the money she makes from her book sales and her shows go to the Carmelite convent and its hospice for children. Sister Wendy says, “When you are talking about art, you are talking about God indirectly; all experience of art is an indirect experience of God.”