I made these photographs in response to a common liturgy, The Way of The Cross. One image that inspired me was Michelangelo’s Deposition, from 1550. In the sculpture Michelangelo cast himself as Nicodemus, or Joseph of Arimathea, lifting the dead body of Jesus from the cross. The image is vulnerable, sublimely beautiful, and overwhelmed with grief. At one point Michelangelo, in a rage, tried to destroy the carving. The resulting damage and the subsequent repairs are meaningful to me. The image marks Michelangelo’s despair over the Reformation and the breakdown of his beloved Roman Catholic Church, a personal response to the earth shattering events of his time.
I started the project just after my students and I began working with torture survivors at the Heartland Alliance Marjorie Kovler Center in Chicago. The survivors arrive from countries around the world, many times without documentation or resources, carrying profound physical and psychological wounds. Their lives are left behind: employment, families, and communities. I admire their courage and tenacity.
During Lent that year I saw their faces as I walked through the passion liturgies; I saw Jesus suffering in solidarity with everyone who suffers.That vision helped me conceive the images.
I once heard a preacher say it was inconceivable that the Messiah would come from a no name town like Nazareth, in an obscure province on the outskirts of the Roman Empire. To us in the United States, it would be like Jesus coming from a tiny village in a country like Guatemala.
The analogy was poignant for me; we adopted our children from Guatemala. The idea that Jesus came to carry his cross, even as a child, helps me see his fate in all children. So I gave my son Teo the cross for one photograph. The rest of our family appears in other images.
Finally, when I finished the photographs, I found the ‘afflicted’ characters to be overly male. The journey felt unbalanced and incomplete. Our world is punctuated on a daily basis by brutal violence waged against innocent women almost everywhere. While Jesus of Nazareth was a man, I am always impacted by his overt inclusion of women, his feminism, especially since it wasn’t comfortable, clean, or accepted by the culture he lived in. He risked his cleanliness and his reputation by contact with those who were ethnically other, physically unclean, and who many times were of questionable repute. I re-cast some pictures and added a station to reflect that scandal.
Please watch the video at the end to see the titles, with abstract icons by Jeremy Botts. We both made the soundtrack. The voice is from a 1940’s recording by Clayton Halvorsen.
The prints are 17 x 17 inches; archival ink jet prints.