About the Art

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1

Jesus is Condemned

The Met Cloisters: The Treasury
Jean Pucelle, The Hours of Jeanne d’Evreux, Queen of France, Paris, ca. 1324–28
The Cloisters Apocalypse, Normandy, ca. 1330
The Limbourg Brothers, The Belles Heures of Jean de France, duc de Berry, Paris, ca 1405-1408/9
Simon Bening, Book of Hours, Bruges, ca. 1530-35
The Cloisters Collection, 54.1.2, 54.1.1, 68.174, 2015

The meditative itinerary known as the Stations of the Cross traditionally begins with the condemnation of Jesus by an angry mob. Our route through Manhattan begins with the baby Jesus’ narrow escape from Herod’s condemnation of the infant boys of Bethlehem. The Cloisters’ manuscripts emphasize different aspects of the Holy Family’s Flight to Egypt. In The Cloisters Apocalypse, the jealous king’s murderous rampage (Matthew 2:13-16) plays out in full color, whereas in a tiny Book of Hours by Simon Bening, the spotlight is on Joseph, clearly anxious about leaving his homeland and confronting danger along the road. The Hours of Jeanne d’Evreux and The Belles Heures convey the protective instincts of Jesus’ mother, as Mary envelops her infant in her cloak. Jesus and his parents knew well the fears of refugees and their bravery. The Belles Heures lends a hopeful note, with an angel directing the family’s path.

Photo credit: The Cloisters Collection, 1968
Podcast: Dr. Barbara Drake Boehm, Paul and Jill Ruddock Senior Curator for The Met Cloisters, the Metropolitan Museum of Art

2

Jesus Takes up the Cross

City College of New York
North Academic Center Plaza, Convent Avenue & West 138 Street
Aithan Shapira, Hope, 2012-2018
Sports Ground, Amsterdam Avenue & West 138 Street
Harlem Peace Wall, 2005. Made by the Community, designed by Peter Sis, sponsored by CITYarts.

City College of New York began 170 years ago with the radical idea that one’s origin need not define one’s destiny and one’s burden could become inspiration. This mission resonates with Aithan Shapira. After finding a decade worth of artwork destroyed in his flooded studio, he found solace in the laborious, repetitive act of casting concrete ‘flotation devices.’  Started as monuments of despondence, over time the artist began to see them as signs of renewal. In the Second Station, Jesus picks up the Cross. We might ask: will he carry this weight alone, or with help transform burden into inspiration?  CCNY students are from 160 countries.  For many, they or their families had to leave home in search of a new life. Here, they transform and thrive as immigrants. So we ask of these lives and symbols: will they submerge us in despair, or lift us with hope?

Photo Credit: Chai, 2015 Concrete and line. 72″ x 72″ x 24″-installation view, Aithan Shapira
Podcast: Dr. Glen Milstein, Associate Professor at CUNY

3

Jesus Falls

St. Mary’s Episcopal Church
Mark Dukes, Our Lady of Ferguson and All Those Killed by Gun Violence, 2016. The Collection of The Rev. Dr. Mark Bozzuti-Jones.

There is an epidemic of gun violence in America, from school shootings to domestic violence to disproportionate force by authorities.  In this icon, the Virgin Mary offers comfort to all those who have fallen to gun violence, and those who mourn their passing. The icon holds special significance for people of color unfairly targeted by law enforcement. The Madonna and Child raise their hands in a doubly significant gesture. It is both the orans posture of intercession in Christian worship and the sign “Don’t Shoot!” These words became a rallying cry for protestors in Ferguson, Missouri after the 2014 shooting of Michael Brown. This station commemorates the moment in which Jesus falls for the first time on his way to Golgotha. Crucially, Jesus gets back up, continuing his solemn march. For communities working to stem gun violence, the challenge is similar: how to get back on one’s feet, however daunting the struggle ahead.

Photo Credit: Leah Reddy
Podcast: The Rev. Dr. Mark Bozzuti-Jones, Trinity Church Wall Street

4

Jesus Meets His Mother

Cathedral Church of Saint John the Divine: Chapel of St. James
Dua Abbas, To Come, 2018

Dua Abbas is an important emerging artist based in Lahore, Pakistan. In this work, she draws upon European devotional art, especially medieval paintings in The Cloisters collection in New York. Her cut-out animation combines this iconography with original photographs of her family members observing mourning rites during the Islamic month of Muharram, including decorative materials used in the construction of a commemorative model, or Tazia. During Muharram, Shiite Muslims commemorate the seventh-century martyrdom of the Imam Husayn ibn Ali (grandson of the Prophet) at Karbala in modern-day Iraq. The artist comments: “I was interested in similarities between the figures of Mary (mother of Jesus) and Fatima (mother of Husayn) and the cultures of remembrance that have developed around the sufferings of their sons. I have tried to explore themes of maternal devotion, travel and transformation, and the fluidity of faith and its expression.”

Photo Credit: A still from the video Marsiya, Dua Abbas
Podcast: Dua Abbas, artist

5

Simon of Cyrene Helps Jesus Carry the Cross

Riverside Church: Christ Chapel
Siona Benjamin, Exodus: I See Myself in You, 2016

Siona Benjamin has closely followed the conflict in Syria for years, gathering images of refugees fleeing the conflict there. As she began drawing otherwise anonymous individuals, Benjamin found herself repeating the words: “I see myself in you.” As a Jew, Benjamin sees a contemporary Exodus unfolding in the Middle East. The cloud-blue skin of her angelic figures—reminiscent of Hindu and Buddhist deities—adds a further layer, evoking her upbringing in India. After immigrating to the States, Benjamin recalls keenly sensing her identity as a “Jewish woman of color.” Set in the context of the Stations of the Cross, this painting speaks to yet another journey. As Jesus stumbled along the via dolorosa, Simon of Cyrene came to his aid, carrying the heavy cross. Benjamin asks us to think from multiple vantage points about how we might see ourselves in others, shouldering their burdens as they grow weary.

Photo Credit: Image copyright and courtesy of Siona Benjamin
Podcast: Rev. Kaji Douša Senior Pastor, Park Avenue Christian Church

6

Veronica Wipes the Face of Jesus

Church of the Heavenly Rest
Michael Takeo Magruder, Lamentation for the Forsaken, 2016-18

Takeo offers a lamentation not only for the forsaken Jesus, but others who have felt the acute pain of abandonment, whether by God or fellow human beings. In particular, Takeo evokes the memory of hundreds of thousands of Syrians who have passed away in the present conflict, weaving their names and images into a contemporary Shroud of Turin; a relic famous for its image of Christ, believed to have been created without human intervention. Takeo’s sculpture also calls to mind another sacred image: Veronica’s veil. According to Christian tradition, Veronica offered a cloth to Jesus to mop the sweat and blood from his brow as he trudged along the via dolorosa. Miraculously, a vera ikon (literally: true image) was imprinted on the cloth. As staggering as such a claim is, the real miracle—Takeo’s work suggests—is not the image but the act behind it: compassion.

Photo Credit: Image copyright and courtesy of Michael Takeo Magruder
Podcast: Honey Al Sayed, Director of the Media and Arts for Peace Initiative at the Geneva Centre for Security Policy, Adjunct Professor at the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University

7

Jesus Falls for the Second Time

Church of St. Paul the Apostle: Left Aisle
Nicola Green, Day 6, Sacrifice/Embrace, 2010. Silkscreen print

Are we seeing this figure from the front or behind? Perhaps we have fallen—like Jesus on his way to Golgotha—and this figure is stretching out his arms to lift us up. Or perhaps it is we who are called upon to follow the figure’s lead, and reach out our own arms to help someone before us. Then again, maybe he is not reaching out in embrace, but instead offering his body in sacrifice, as if upon a cross. It is noteworthy that this image comes from a series, in which it is preceded by Fear and followed by Peace. This work was inspired by the artist’s travels alongside then-candidate Barack Obama in 2008. A decade later, in a time of deep misgiving for people of color in this country, this work seems to mirror our uncertainty. Whom will we embrace? Whom will we allow to be sacrificed?

Photo Credit: @The Studio of Nicola Green
Podcast: Father Frank Sabatté, Church of St. Paul the Apostle

8

Jesus Meets the Women of Jerusalem

Saint Peter’s Church: Erol Beker Chapel of the Good Shepherd
Louise Nevelson, Cross of the Resurrection (and other works), 1977

Louise Nevelson once declared: “Human beings are heir to every possibility within themselves…when you create the whole world, you are full.” The image is a canny one. The artist, famous for collecting and assembling discarded wood, was also a self-fashioner, cobbling together an image of herself from elements both remembered and imagined. Nevelson came to the United States as a child from a Jewish village in Eastern Europe, and a sense of religious and cultural difference persisted throughout her life. Her decision to create this chapel did not negate or diminish her sense of Jewishness. If anything, it shows the encompassing nature of her vision. She felt free to bring Jewish feelings and connections into a Christian space, because in her mind there was “no distinction between a church and a synagogue. If you go deep enough into any religion you arrive at the same point of harmony.”

Photo Credit: Aaron Rosen, courtesy of Saint Peter’s Church
Podcast: The Rev. Dr Ralph Peterson, former Senior Pastor of Saint Peter’s Church

9

Jesus Falls for the Third Time

Raoul Wallenberg Memorial, Across from United Nations Headquarters
Gustav Kraitz, Hope, 1998

In 1944, Raoul Wallenberg, a Swedish citizen who had studied and worked in the United States, was tasked by the U.S. War Refugee Board to go to Hungary under the auspices of the Swedish legation. His mission was to do what he could to rescue Hungary’s Jews who were being deported to concentration camps in the hundreds of thousands. Wallenberg issued passes and certified forged documents that gave Jews protected legal status, enabling close to 100,000 refugees to escape Nazi persecution and probable death. Many who fled eventually ended up in the United States. Wallenberg himself was taken prisoner by the Russians at the end of the war and died mysteriously in prison. This monument—by a Hungarian sculptor who later fled to Sweden—recognizes Wallenberg’s sacrifice with a bronze briefcase, symbolizing the modest bureaucratic tools he wielded so heroically on behalf of refugees.

Photo Credit: Photo by Ron Cogswell/CC/Flickr
Podcast: Sarah Weiss, Executive Director at the Center for Holocaust and Humanity Education

10

Jesus is Stripped of Garments

The General Theological Seminary: Chapel of the Good Shepherd
Diego Romero, Saints and Sinners, 2017. The Collection of Edward J. Guarino.

Diego Romero is a Cochiti Pueblo artist who works in multiple media, including drawing, printmaking, and ceramics. He has executed versions of Saints and Sinners in all three forms, combining images and techniques from sources ranging from Native American to Western European art, as well as comics and other popular materials. In this work an indigenous man kneels doubled over in the foreground, stripped of his garments. Even so, he possesses more dignity than his Christian tormentors. One of the soldiers wields a whip, recalling the Flagellation of Christ, a well-known scene in Christian art. Engrossed in their sadistic acts, the soldiers fail to realize that the wounds of their victims weep the same red as the Sacred Heart above. From the colonial past to the present day, there have been many efforts to strip indigenous peoples of territory, traditions, and basic rights. Art is one way of reclaiming what has been stolen.

Photo Credit: Diego Romero

11

Crucifixion

Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art: Small Gallery

Tommy Kha, Today was a good day, 2018

Jesus’s anguished cry from the cross—“Why have you forsaken me?”—echoed across the gay community in the eighties and early nineties. Physical agony was multiplied by isolation as politicians, clergy, doctors, friends, and even family members kept their distance or turned away from those with HIV/AIDS. In New York, artist-activists like David Wojnarowicz channeled holy rage, inciting people to action. For many living in the South, however, there seemed to be no one to hear their screams. Abandoned by their families, many couldn’t find familiar faces to visit them in the hospital, attend their funeral, or bury their body. Tommy Kha’s elegiac installation evokes the experience of these souls, interlacing bucolic slideshows from the South—where he grew up—with painful records of those who witnessed the trauma of the AIDS crisis at its worst. Bereft of refuge, only the bravest could still say: “Today was a good day.”

Podcast: Broderick Greer, Canon Precentor at Saint John’s Cathedral in Denver, Colorado

12

Jesus Dies on the Cross

African Burial Ground Visitor Center
Rodney Leon, African Burial National Monument, 2007

In the 1990s, construction of an office building in Lower Manhattan revealed a long-forgotten burial site for slaves and freed blacks living in colonial New York City. Archaeologists and anthropologists uncovered and studied 419 bodies. In some cases, the remains indicate cultural connections to West Africa, which seem to have survived despite brutal kidnapping and transportation to the Americas. Records reveal that several churches refused to let Africans be buried with whites, and thus what was termed the “Negros Burial Ground” was established on the then-perimeter of the city. There are likely thousands more people of African descent from this period buried across Manhattan. We might find a parallel in the hasty, unceremonious burial of Jesus, commemorated by the 12th station. As an outcast himself, Jesus was fortunate to be interred thanks to the intervention of a wealthy follower.

Photo Credit: Wally Gobetz/CC/Flickr

13

Jesus is Taken Down from the Cross

Trinity Church: South Churchyard
G. Roland Biermann, Stations, 2016-18

Sleek minimalism meets gritty reality in Biermann’s sculpture. Two guardrails slice through the air, forming a fallen cross. Jesus’ deposition finds a contemporary echo in the everyday tragedy of a car crash. Oil barrels suggest automobiles, but we might also think of olive oil, used in the Bible to anoint priests and cure the sick. Painted 14 shades of red—suggesting blood that runs, congeals, and quickens anew—the barrels evoke the Stations of the Cross as a whole. There might be consolation in the symbolism of Holy Blood and Holy Oil. Alternatively, we might think about the blood spilt in the pursuit of fossil fuels; our eagerness to import barrels of crude from the Middle East but unwillingness to accept refugees from the region. This sculpture is equal parts sacred and profane, ancient and contemporary.

Photo Credit: Stations – Barbican, London 2016 – 84 oil barrels on steel platform, 20 metres of guard rails, 620 x 650 x 830 cm (H x W x L), 2016; Ⓒ G Roland Biermann, 2016
Podcast: Winnie Varghese, Priest for Justice and Reconciliation at Trinity Church

14

Entombment

Reflecting Absence: National September 11 Memorial, 2011
Michael Arad and Peter Walker

This monument holds many different meanings for many different people. The final Station of the Cross marks the unceremonious burial of Jesus in a simple cave, by a small group of followers. It is a tragically fitting theme. For the nearly three thousand people of many nations and creeds who died on this site on the morning of September 11th, the World Trade Center became a grave. For those who come here today to mourn and pay tribute to the victims, the space is something of a holy sepulcher, hallowed by the tragedy that took place. The traditional Stations of the Cross intentionally ends in sorrow. It is important to take time to dwell in this moment, not to recoil too quickly from grief. But it is also important to reflect—as a religiously and culturally diverse community—about how to re-enter life, to find meaning again after suffering.

Photo Credit: Allan Leonard/CC/Flickr
Podcast: Rowan Williams, the 104th Archbishop of Canterbury