stations of the cross: station 7 by jackson potts

| 2 Comments

i mention the potts often in my blog, because they are close friends and i hang out with them quite a bit. it's not often i get to create links to something about them in the news. (okay, maybe ever, actually.)

jackson (the oldest son, 10 years old), a budding photographer -- following in the footsteps of his old man -- did an art piece for a stations of the cross installation for the xnihilo gallery (which is directly connected to the ecclesia church). they really got more than they bargained for, and the image has actually created some controversy. the houston chronicle ran an article about it today (monday): friction over young photography whiz's art, plus the gallery has set up a blog about it: station 7 by jackson potts (the blog version has a bigger image, plus jackson's explanation of why he chose what he did and what things represent)

i've discussed it with several friends and a number of them seemed unfavorable toward the content and intent, but i really think it has value as an artistic piece. plus it brings up a number of big questions about any number of things, which is really one aspect of what "good" art can/should do. instead of rewriting things, i'll just repost my comment i left on the article on the chronicle website (which i doubt will win me many new friends, since as is my wont i tend to piss off everyone at some point while meandering longwindedly through all of the points i want to make...but i'm used to that, so oh well):

----------< my chron.com comment >----------

phliKtid wrote:

(disclaimers first: i am a close friend of the potts family, and have been good friends since before jackson was born. that said, i do not unilaterally support people just because they are my friends. believe me, my friends will vouch for that.)

outside of whether this is an appropriate piece for the specific church and their purpose and desires (disclaimer: i have no love loss for ecclesia, but it's their bag), i want to talk about this as an art piece depicting a station of the cross in and of itself (which is what many people here seem to be commenting on, not its value specifically to the church's context.)

the fact is, it makes a lot of sense as a modernization of the most basic theme of that station of the cross: an authority figure beating an innocent as a crowd passively watches. the process of logic is completely there. stripped of that context, as some people here seem to be doing (perhaps they have no clue what the stations of the cross are, or what that means for the purpose of the art pieces), it's a cop beating a child. they don't see the art, or the metaphors, or the symbolism -- they see their own issues and fears and prejudices in the piece, and they knee-jerk react before they have time to process it in context it was created.

of course, isn't that sort of one of the purposes of art? to confront and provoke thought? (although i do believe confrontational/offensive art without a good purpose is not good art. and i don't think all art is all-ages appropriate.) otherwise it's just thomas kincaid paintings and precious moments figures -- cute pablum fluff saying nothing but "how cute/pretty/precious". to me that doesn't seem exactly accurate for pieces that are supposed to blatantly and specifically represent the story of the beating and crucifixion of christ.

perhaps for those people taking affront, jackson could take a picture of a naked, beaten, adult jewish man with a crown of thorns smiling, holding hands, and dancing with an easter bunny in a roman military uniform. that way they could have the station aspect *and* the happiness that is the true point of lent and easter. plus they could keep the event at a detached cultural reference point instead of having to confront it in a context that their minds can immediately relate to. (seriously...have these people seen some of the traditional stations of the crosses pieces)?

yeah, i'm kidding, i know they'd be pissed about that too. but it sort of makes a counterpoint to their reaction to this piece. how should one go about creating a modern interpretation of the stations of the cross? creating post-modern abstract "meditative" pieces is neato and all, but the stations of the cross sort of have a cultural and historical weight to them that really should be considered to, it seems to me.

to be honest though, the picture is somewhat inaccurately modernized. a roman guard would have been more of a military figure than a cop. and the romans were an outsider occupying the middle east. so, really, the figure doing the beating should have been in a u.s. military outfit -- and the innocent christ figure should have been jewish / middle eastern. yes, that would have gone over *much* better. :)

better to just take a pic of black shadows and some red paint splatter and maybe a piece of some gold roman-ish looking helmet, tack on some lacquered text...maybe bible passages, or burned/manipulated pics of the traditional station of the cross imagery to the point they can't really be made out, throw in some grape leaves and/or vines (for the symbolism), and the topper...a barely visible shadowy face of a haggard, bearded, homeless-looking man who looks sad which you can only see if you really look. oh, and a dove feather. perfecto! now let's all meditate on christ being beaten by a military authority while a crowd watched. can't you almost imagine the scene? (heh.)

2 Comments

Art that makes a statement will certainly offend someone. That makes sense to me...

I've been a High School art teacher for ten years. I think Jackson's art is spot on in terms of metaphor and emotional impact. I also find it to be a metaphor for his own situation - public figures that are perceived by most as trustworthy damaging him at a particularly vulnerable moment, yet those not allowed to enjoy his thoughts are rising up to support him. This photograph is very moving emotionally - on several levels. After viewing it I find myself thinking about the parallels between all three situations.

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