Iraq War Stations of the Cross to Go on View in L.A.

On January 7th, The Avenue 50 Studio in Los Angeles will open an art exhibition focusing on questions of religion and politics. The show features artists Sergio Hernandez, Poli Marichal, John Paul Thornton, Mark Vallen and Gwyneth Leech, whose controversial Stations of the Cross paintings for a Connecticut church have created an heated debate over her mixing of Christianity and politics.

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Los Angeles (PRWEB) December 20, 2005

Gwyneth Leech, the painter of controversial stations of the cross set in the midst of the Iraq war, will be exhibiting in Don't Talk About Religion or Politics, a group show at Avenue 50 Studio in Highland Park, Los Angeles. Running from January 7th to February 6th, 2006, the exhibit will present artworks with controversial spiritual and political themes. Artists Mark Vallen, Poli Marichal, Sergio Hernandez and John Paul Thornton will also be offering their painterly visions.

Someone famous once said, "Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions." Those words certainly ring true in our own time, as countless individuals turn towards spiritualism for answers to life’s great mysteries - their faith sheltering them from a pitilessly indifferent world. Yet at the same time societies everywhere are also being fractured by religious zealotry, bigotry and persecution - with religion itself seemingly a driving force behind war. The exhibition, Don’t Talk About Religion or Politics, attempts a meaningful exploration of these contradictions and their political ramifications.

Don’t Talk About Religion or Politics is also an age-old American axiom, an adage the participating artists of this exhibit clearly intend to ignore as they carefully examine the blurring between the sacred and profane. To celebrate the importance of spirituality in our lives and collective consciousness, the participating artists of this exhibition have come together to offer genuine visions of piety and devotion. But they are also unafraid to offer honest critiques of religion’s darker side. It is to this duality of purpose that we dedicate the exhibition, Don’t Talk About Religion or Politics.

The Artist's Reception takes place on Saturday, January 7th, from 7 - 9 pm. An artists forum will be held on Thursday, January 12th, from 7 - to 9 pm.

Avenue 50 Studio is located at 131 N. Avenue 50, Highland Park, Los Angeles, 90042.

About Gwyneth Leech's Stations of the Cross

New York Artist, Gwyneth Leech was commissioned in 2004 by Saint Paul's on the Green, an Epsicopal Church in Norwalk, Connecticut to paint stations of the cross that blend traditional Christian iconography with contemporary elements. She found a vivid way of depicting Christ's journey to the cross for modern viewers, by incorporating the suffering and grief of people around the world who are caught in the midst of armed conflict, especially the war in Iraq. Unveiled earlier this year, the paintings are now on permanent view in the church at 60 East Avenue, East Norwalk, CT 06851.

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Attachments

Station XIII - Jesus Is Placed in His Mother's Arms Station XIII - Jesus Is Placed in His Mother's Arms

Oil painting on wood, 19" x 21" by Gwyneth Leech. Inspired by Northern European sculptures of the Pièta. The Mary is the same Iraqi peasant woman from Station IV. Mary Magdalene kneels and holds Jesus' feet. Figures cluster around the foot of the cross. Barbed wire traces across the background.


Station X - Jesus Is Stripped of His Garments Station X - Jesus Is Stripped of His Garments

Oil painting on wood, 19" x 21" by Gwyneth Leech. Jesus is naked and stands with arms up, hands behind his head. He is threatened by dogs on leashes held by soldiers (based on an Abu Ghraib photo). A soldier with his back to Jesus looks down at the red robe in his hands. The cross is being fixed into the ground in the background.


Station IX - The Third Fall Station IX - The Third Fall

Oil painting on wood, 19" x 21" by Gwyneth Leech. The cross is now overwhelmingly heavy. The fallen Jesus and cross fill the frame.


Station XII - Death on the Cross Station XII - Death on the Cross

Oil painting on wood, 19" x 21" by Gwyneth Leech. Inspired by paintings of Gerard David (Flemish, 15th Century). Jesus’ head drops at the moment of death. Black sky fills the top half of the painting. At the foot of the cross are three grieving Mary's (based on a photo of women grieving a car bomb victim). Joseph of Arimathea and John support each other as they weep (based on a photo of an American father and son at the moment when they learn of the death of another son held in Iraq). A modern soldier looks up at the cross, representing the Centurion who recognized Jesus only at the moment of his death.


Station XI - Jesus is Nailed to the Cross Station XI - Jesus is Nailed to the Cross

Oil painting on wood, 19" x 21" by Gwyneth Leech. A contemporary reworking of a composition by Giovanni Baronzio (Italian, 14th Century) in which Jesus is made to climb the cross on a ladder. Soldiers stand at the bottom of two other ladders. At the top of these are two executioners, clad all in black, their faces covered. Dark clouds are beginning to move into the sky, a contemporary view of Jerusalem in the background.


Station VIII - Jesus Speaks to the Weeping Women Station VIII - Jesus Speaks to the Weeping Women

Oil painting on wood, 19" x 21" by Gwyneth Leech. Jesus turns to the weeping women that follow him on the road to Calvary with an expression of concern and sadness. Here they are depicted as refugee women of Darfur, Sudan hemmed in by a white thorn fence.


Station VII - The Second Fall Station VII - The Second Fall

Oil painting on wood, 19" x 21" by Gwyneth Leech. The cross is heavier and darker than the first time. The fall more jarring. There is a jostling crowd in the background, a pushing and shoving between angry men and soldiers.


Station VI - Veronica Wipes the Face of Jesus Station VI - Veronica Wipes the Face of Jesus

Oil painting on wood, 19" x 21" by Gwyneth Leech. Jesus carries the cross towards the viewer, almost filling the frame. A young woman in Muslim dress stands half turned towards Jesus. She has unwrapped the veil from her head and reaches up with it to wipe Jesus’ face. In the background are smoking, skeletal ruins of buildings.


Station V - Simon of Cyrene Helps Carry the Cross Station V - Simon of Cyrene Helps Carry the Cross

Oil painting on wood, 19" x 21" by Gwyneth Leech. Mary is a peasant woman with dark robes pulled around her head (based on a photo of a mother standing vigil outside Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq). In the background a file of refugees walk along the horizon, carrying children and belongings.


Station IV - Jesus Meets His Mother Station IV - Jesus Meets His Mother

Oil painting on wood, 19" x 21" by Gwyneth Leech. Mary is a peasant woman with dark robes pulled around her head (based on a photo of a mother standing vigil outside Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq). In the background a file of refugees walk along the horizon, carrying children and belongings.


Station III - Jesus Falls for the First Time Station III - Jesus Falls for the First Time

Oil painting on wood, 19" x 21" by Gwyneth Leech. A soldier prods him with the butt of his rifle to get up. In the background figures watch from behind barriers guarded by armed soldiers.


Station I - Jesus is Condemned to Death Station I - Jesus is Condemned to Death

Oil painting on wood, 19" x 21" by Gwyneth Leech. Pilate is seen washing his hands, his wife stands behind. Jesus is a prisoner held between two soldiers in a manner inconsistent with the physical threat he represents (based on photos from Guantanamo detention camp). The main action is set in a clear space surrounded by bales of barbed wire. An angry gesticulating crowd presses around the fence.


Station II - Jesus Takes Up His Cross Station II - Jesus Takes Up His Cross

Oil painting on wood, 19" x 21" by Gwyneth Leech. In a city street, Jesus struggles to lift the cross onto his shoulders. Two soldiers holding rifles stand guard. In the background a crowd jostles behind barriers.


Station XIV- Jesus Is Laid in the Tomb Station XIV- Jesus Is Laid in the Tomb

Oil painting on wood, 19" x 21" by Gwyneth Leech. Inspired by a 16th Century Flemish painting by Petrus Christus, Jesus' dead body fills the foreground about to be wrapped for burial. In the center, Mary reaches out to gently touch his shoulder as if he were asleep (based on a photo of a mother grieving her dead child from Beslan in Russia). Behind is the open mouth of the tomb with the wheel of stone waiting to be rolled into place.


Interior View of Saint Paul's Interior View of Saint Paul's

Looking along the North aisle of the church, stations 2, 3, 4, and 5 are visible.


Interior View, South aisle Interior View, South aisle

A detail of the South aisle view showing station 13 in situ.