I was inspired by Andrei Rublev’s Trinity icon, reproduced here, when I made The American Trinity and the Cry of the Deer. I altered, and ‘inverted’ the icon to suggest a curse that was once the blessing from Genesis 18, under the Oaks at Mamre, that Rublev celebrates. My image is a triptych; there are three panels. The middle panel is the one copied from the Rublev icon.
A trinitarian collusion of forces executed Jesus: The Empire (Pontius Pilate), The Temple (institutional religion), and concerns that Capital, (the creation and flow of wealth) might be inhibited, especially as it concerned the temple system. When Jesus came to Jerusalem for Passover, he quite publicly overturned the tables of the moneychangers, the agents who managed the funds needed to purchase the sacrificial animals that supported the Temple and the priestly caste. Jesus was a tekton, a subsistence worker, a carpenter near the bottom caste. Most of the masses who were with him ranked similarly in status. That same week they gathered for the procession of palms to mark his triumphant entry into Jerusalem on a donkey. They were peasants, workers, fishermen, farmers, day laborers, tax collectors, women, mothers, children, prostitutes, the disabled, and the diseased. Many of them were unclean, but unable to afford the necessary sacrifice they needed to become whole again, as the Jewish Law required. Jesus would soon become that sacrifice. Jesus’ donkey ride was a parody of the intimidating imperial military parade that occurred when Pilate, the Roman procurator, riding a powerful war horse, led his occupying army into the city that week. Pilate wanted to show off his power to keep order during the Passover. In contrast, Jesus entry seemed a pathetic, foolish show of powerlessness. It was also a mockery of Pilate’s spectacle. And Jesus’ crowd was significant, exuberant, and joyous. They needed to be managed.
In my ‘icon’, I imagine those same forces, empire, institutional religion, and capital, interacting in American culture, under an oak tree at the Winfield Mounds, a Native American site close to my home. These forces collude to crucify Jesus again. They also destroy Shalom and meaningful community. All the figures wear suits, a convention that hides the body, and privileges cerebral work that is clean, separate from the earth and the body; the necktie cuts the head off from the rest of the body. Replacing the God of Creation, on the left, is the god of empire and nationalism, the figure wears a shocking pink tie, the color that represents the Creator in the Rublev icon. The middle figure, the ‘Christ’, wearing a purple tie, represents the institutional church. The third figure, wearing Rublev’s green of ‘renewal’,the color of the Holy Spirit, is really about the green of capitalism: money and greed. Money is the God that renews and sustains Empire. The rhetoric of North America, civil religion, sees little difference between the values of the state, the values of the church, and the importance of accumulating wealth. Moreover, the blessing of creation is seen as a resource to make money.
The eucharistic cup from the Rublev is reproduced on a daguerrotype photograph that is falling off the table. The symbolism of having the cup as an image means that it isn’t real; the appearance of the cup without the substance.
The side panels are inspired from “The Cry of the Deer” from St. Patrick’s Breastplate, a Trinitarian hymn.
The original print is 24” x 36”. The side prints are 17” x 17”