It was a religious-themed art exhibit, but one that transcended all religious boundaries.
Which is just what Pastor Amy Kienzle, of Russell Street’s Lutheran Church of the Messiah, wanted it to be, when she opened the church’s doors to a “sacred art exhibit,” Via Delarosa: Meditation on Morality.
The Church invited local artists both religious and non-religious to create paintings, sculpture, and multimedia artwork inspired by The Stations of the Cross – a series of artistic representations depicting Jesus Christ carrying the cross to his crucifixion.
“We wanted artists to imagine these scenes through different traditions and backgrounds,” said pastor Kienzle. “It is not a literal interpretation, but really a way to think about the theme of mortality. It is a way to think about the fact that we all face questions of life and death.”
Kienzle timed Via Delarosa’s opening with the start of Lent on Ash Wednesday, and will continue the exhibit until Easter. Her hope, she said, was that the exhibit would open viewers up to the ideas of self-reflection and spiritual discipline – themes central to the observation of Lent.
The artwork, set up as an interactive space, lined the walls of the church hall. Benches were placed in front of art pieces and prayers were tacked along the walls next to each piece. Viewers spent a few minutes at each of the 14 resting stops, reading the prayers if they wished, and touched art installations made for physical interaction.
One such piece was a wooden reliquary containing the carcass of a dead pigeon found at the church. Titled St. Pilate’s Dove, and constructed by artist Barton Alexander, who, in part, created the concept of the show, the piece was the fifth stop along the exhibit.
Observers were invited to recite a Hail Mary before opening the reliquary to view the dead bird representing the holy dove of Pontius Pilate, which he released to call for Jesus’ life to be spared. Alexander wanted to juxtapose the idea of the symbol of peace with that of the grim reality inside the box.
At the eighth stop – where Christ meets the women of Jerusalem, Andrew Jordan displayed Invocation (Venus Chrysalis) – a female figure created with plastic and packing tape placed on a cardboard with a light bulb that made the sculpture glow from within. The figure symbolized a “primal female essence,” Jordan said, and the images were akin to earliest depictions of the female form from the Paleolithic age.
The exhibit concludes with Jesus Laid in the Tomb created by visual artist Rochelle Voyles. The series of glass bottles floating on a felted cloth, signifies the final resting spot of Christ. Voyles said she filled the bottles with pieces of paper that had her prayers and intentions written on them.
“To me it is the culmination of a spiritual voyage,” she said.
A similar exhibit is also taking place at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in conjunction with the one at Messiah.
Kienzle said that over the last few years the Church had become disconnected from the neighborhood especially with a new flock of people moving in. For the Church, the exhibit is a way to appeal to the creative population that makes up a large part of the neighborhood. The Church is also home to the McGolrick Park Farmer’s Market during the cold winter months.
“You don’t necessarily have to come and worship,” said Kienzle. “Our faith tells us that we should do things that are both positive and healthy for the community. The arts and farmers markets are just some of the ways of meeting the needs of the community.”
Exhibits at Messiah and St. Paul run until April 18. The exhibit can be seen at Messiah Wed. 6-8 p.m., and Sun 11 a.m. – 2 p.m., and at St. Paul’s Tue 1-5 p.m., and Sat 1-4 p.m.