Outside the Studio: Stations of the Cross art

I recently created art for an exhibit of the Stations of the Cross. The focus was to see the traditional station scripture through the lens of the criminal Jesus. What follows explains my process. The techniques and process were very similar to what happens when a stole is created.

I was assigned Station 12 with the scripture being —

Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopus, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciples whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, “Dear woman, here is your son,” and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” From that time on, this disciple took her into his home. -John 19:25-27 (NIV)

After reading the scripture in many different translations I turned to books from my own library. These included Jan Richardson’s Garden of Hollow, Christopher Seitz’, Seven Lasting Words, and Listening to Golgotha by Peter Strong.

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I also researched Christian symbols. I was drawn to the anchor cross, the pomegranate, and the thought of Mary as a vessel but in the end none of those ideas made the cut. That’s the way it goes sometimes!

I had a few days in the depths of a Michigan winter to spend on the beach. Times can surrounded by nature allow ideas to percolate. This combined with reading Becoming Gertrude by Janice Peterson revealed thoughts about the word BEHOLD that is found in many translations of this scripture. This book about friendship emphasized the thought of caring being equal to choosing to see someone. This was in line with the thinking about this scripture in conjunction with the criminal justice system today. I was soon seeing imagery that would become details in my art. The Spirit seemed to be at work.

The last bit of research was to be inspired by other artists. I looked at the above. Clockwise—

  • Sorrowful Mother, James Tissot

  • Crucifixion With A Dominican Friar, Hermann Schadeberg

  • Pieta, Michelangelo

  • A Mother’s Lament, Jan Richardson

  • Jesus Meets His Mother, Jen Norton

Next up was sketching, sketching and more sketching. It’s a process!

Fabrics were auditioned.

Some unsophisticated tools were used. (grin)

But we didn’t neglect the fancier tools!

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Embellishments were added.

And bit by bit the finished work came into being!

Above is the completed work and what follows is part of the artist’s statement to connect you to my thoughts on the symbolism…

Contemplating John 19:25-27 through the lens of a criminal Jesus allowed me to consider sorrow, God’s love, the word ‘behold’ and who family is. I wrestled with the following questions: 

  • When have I been overwhelmed with sorrow and brokenness? If my son was accused of a wrong doing how would I react?

  • Who is around me that Jesus wants me to stop and look at as family?

  • Do I allow Jesus to reframe how I see others that have been or are criminals?

The symbolic aspect of my art may at times be obvious but it is also open to allowing the viewer to relate their own faith, background and life experience. The details of these three panels include the subtle colors and texture that remind us of Lent; the patterning represents Mary (roses) and John (fish nets); and tears of sorrow are represented in the torn fabric. Notice the mirrored squares. My intention was for them to symbolize God’s reflected love but ironically when I sewed them on they also became prison windows. The middle panel represents the need to ‘behold’ or to pay attention. Lastly, find the triangles that represent those that stood at the cross. The triangles turn into flying geese formations which epitomize the reality of how these creatures take care of each other as a group or ‘family’ as they migrate.

Lastly — a bit of a P.S. — In 2009 I created a full set of stations art. They now reside in a church in Adelaide, South Australia. Here is the post about the piece from 2009 that corresponds with the one that has just been created.