The Gymnastics of the Cross

Thanks to Catherine Czerw, I now have more information about the Station of the Cross artwork I posted two weeks ago.

Cedric Baxter (English Australian, 1930-), Jesus Striped and Stripped, 2011. Acrylic, collage, and pen on canvas, 91 x 91 cm. Collection of the Uniting Church in Australia.

Cedric Baxter (English Australian, 1930-), Jesus Striped and Stripped, 2011. Acrylic, collage, and pen on canvas, 91 x 91 cm. Collection of the Uniting Church in Australia.

Every year since 2008 (excepting last year, due to ministerial transitions), Czerw has curated a Lenten art exhibition on behalf of Wesley Uniting Church in Perth, Australia, called Stations of the Cross. She selects fifteen Australian artists to participate, each one choosing a different station to depict. Jesus Striped and Stripped was Cedric Baxter’s 2011 contribution for Station 10, traditionally articulated as “Jesus is stripped of his garments.”

In the exhibition catalog, Baxter invites viewers to look closely at the cross, which is composed of packed human figures. “This Cross that He carried was us,” he writes, “—the humanity He came to save, and for whom He suffered the ignominy and death two thousand years ago.”

As I alluded to before, the mood Baxter managed to achieve in this image is striking. That is, despite the sobering subject matter, the heavy cross, and the embodied God, there is a lightness about it, a sort of reverent playfulness. Even as Christ stumbles, he floats. Drops of blood fall from his leg in clots—or do they rise like bubbles? The lacerations on his back, though agonizing, are reminiscent of children’s scribbles; they extend beyond the boundaries of his body, hinting at the boundary-breaking nature of the act in progress.

Baxter’s tenth station captures Jesus mid-tumble, naked and abused and down on his way to death, but what Christians know and glory in, especially during the Easter season, is that he’s circling back. He’s turning a cartwheel! The upside downness of Jesus in this image challenges us to look at Passion Week with the right perspective: as a journey that brings Christ low only to raise him up.

To view more of Baxter’s artwork, visit Linton & Kay Galleries.

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2 Responses to The Gymnastics of the Cross

  1. Pingback: Help wanted: Who’s the artist? | The Jesus Question

  2. Pingback: Rowan Williams talks Jesus art | The Jesus Question

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