Christa returns to Cathedral of St John the Divine

Controversial sculpture of a female crucified Christ returns to Manhattan cathedral

Join us for the opening of our newest art exhibition, The Christa Project: Manifesting Divine Bodies. The exhibition consists of pieces by 22 contemporary artists and explores the language, symbol, art and ritual associated with the historic concept of the Christ image, and the ways the divine is manifested in every person, across every gender, race, ethnicity and sexual orientation.

The exhibition will also feature a selection of pieces from the James Parks Morton Interfaith Art Collection, as well as selections from the Cathedral’s art treasury.

During Holy Week of 1984, Edwina Sandys’ Christa was displayed in the Cathedral as part of a small exhibition on the feminine divine. The general reception was positive, but a particularly vocal minority condemned the piece and its placement in a house of worship through ecclesiastical denunciations and a plethora of hate mail that attacked the “blasphemy” of changing the symbol of Christ. These dissenters highlighted how the sculpture’s allegedly sexualized (i.e. female) figure brought attention to Christ’s human body, which was “blasphemous, shocking, and inappropriate.”

Conversations about the politics of identity have changed tremendously since the 1980s. Christa’s essential statement, however, remains vital to our world today: people are hungry to see themselves and each other fully represented in society, especially in its most powerful and iconic institutions. In turn, the Cathedral is thrilled to display Christa once again, alongside works by 21 other contemporary artists, all exploring the language, symbolism, art, and ritual associated with the historic concept of the Christ image and the divine as manifested in every person—across all genders, races, ethnicities, sexual orientations, and abilities.

Eiko Otake, of the acclaimed performance artists Eiko & Koma, has been appointed Artist in Residence and co-curator. Eiko will choreograph a series of performances, sometimes in collaboration with poets and musicians. This series of events will explore in movement, word, and music the urgent themes underlying the exhibition. Hannah Wolfe Eisner, a student at Wesleyan University who joined the Cathedral as an intern in 2015 and devoted her intellect, time and passion to the exhibition, is the in-house co-curator.

The Christa Project: Manifesting Divine Bodies will be on view at the Cathedral from October 6, 2016–March 12, 2017.

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