A friend, Debi Beauregard, took this photograph of, well, is it a cross or is it a crucifix? Doesn’t matter.
I am always thrilled when my photography finds inspiration outside of photography. Then I know I am not mimicking the work of others. Call it cross pollination. Call it inspiration. Everwhat. This piece of art is truly as inspiring as it is beautiful; not that I wish to try to duplicate it photographically but that I wish to be able to absorb it’s context because that is what I feel is so important to do with personal photography. It is what is important to do with art.
There are a number of churches in Houston that attempt to tie art in with their spiritual message. This photograph was taken at one such church, Ecclesia Houston, located on Elder Street across from the old Jeff Davis Hospital. I became aware of Ecclesia several years ago when they were located on Taft Street in the Montrose area. At that time their sanctuary was connected to an art gallery/coffee shop. Janet and I would frequently go over to see what was new and enjoy a coffee. Since they moved to Elder it does not appear that there is a gallery so I have not been in even though I have photographed around the church a number of times.
In my five tenants of photography that I penned back around 2002 is one that I often have difficulty explaining: “the subject of the photograph is not the object shown in the photograph”. What I mean by that is that the subject matter is like the technique used in executing the photograph—it is a “means”, that is used to achieve the meaning, the “end”, which is conveyed in the photograph. I have used dead fish to talk about our last gasp of breath in this life; parking area lighting to talk about totems; minutia from my garage to talk about the pivotal moments we experience that changes life irrevocably.
You can call it context, meaning, story. I think of it as metaphor. This object of art is full of metaphor—the kind of metaphor that I want to achieve in my photography.
I cannot tell you what the artist wants me to understand or feel from this object. I can only tell you what I ‘get’ from the piece.
Being a Baptist, a protestant, my church dogma replaces the crucifix with the cross. I have heard varying explanations for that but in truth, I think it has more to do with a rejection of or setting apart from Catholicism than anything else, and that is okay. When I do photographs about my faith I do turn to the crucifix because I want to examine the suffering of Christ on the cross for my sins. I do not get that same human connection from the cross alone.
In this piece, Christ and the cross have become one. Eli Siegel’s Aesthetic Realism explains that “Beauty is the making one of opposites” Here we have animate and inanimate, the living Christ and lifeless wood becoming one.
Without going too deeply into the subject, what is the artist saying? Is it about Christ becoming the cross, the cross taking on the meaning of the crucifixion—more in line with the Protestant point of view? Is it about Christ reaching out from the cross to the believers or welcoming the non-believers? There does not appear to be any scars from the nails in the hands so this is a plausible reading. Truthfully, I can read it either way. Conversely it could be about the living Christ being forced into the inanimate cross by the act of the crucifixion.
To me it doesn’t matter. It is a thought provoking piece of art. It has context that goes well beyond the object or objects used in its creation. It goes well beyond simply the acceptance of or creation of an object of beauty. As such, it speaks about what I wish to achieve with my photography.