Why a Wheaton College Professor Smeared Jesus in Human Dirt
As you covered the corpus in dirt, was there a part of Jesus' body that struck you anew?
Yes, definitely. The most powerful moments for me have come while working on the feet and the sides of the torso. Hard to explain why those places stand out in particular, maybe because both are such sensitive and vulnerable parts of the body. Also the inner arms. The piece being so close to life-size makes those volumes seem very real.
Once when I was working on the feet, I had a flashback to the story from Luke of the woman anointing Jesus' feet with oil. I had to stop and think about that for a while.
How do you respond to comparisons of Corpus to other artwork that combine religious imagery with the profane—most famously Andres Serrano's Piss Christand Chris Ofili's The Holy Virgin Mary, which depicted Mary using elephant dung and images from pornography? In what ways does Corpus fit and not fit such comparisons?
That is a great and a tough question. Certainly I see Corpus in dialogue with those pieces. But I also see it in dialogue with other contemporary artworks that combine religious imagery with the profane, or the mundane, in a more positive way. Can't we include in that dialog Anish Kapoor's Ascension, or Hawkinson'sPentecost, or even Laib's recent Pollen from Hazelnut? Ultimately I hope the piece will have a kind of redemptive quality that will keep it from being read as sarcastic or sacrilegious. I see it as redemptive. My intent is for the piece to be redemptive. I have to trust that.
How does Corpus speak to the dynamics at Wheaton specifically, being a Christian college in the Midwest, and the surrounding Wheaton suburb?
I guess the obvious answer to that is related to the dirt, which is specifically taken from the Wheaton College community. I really hope that the piece will be a real, tangible way to see how our community participates in both the death and resurrection of Christ. Tangible might be the key word here. While I love the college, I feel at times that things become very "heady" and abstract. While I love that, I don't want us to miss the very personal and real substance of the gospel. While I can't say I fully understand how real that substance is, I feel like sculpture is a good way to explore that notion.
Corpus was commissioned not by the art department in which you work, but rather the biblical and theological studies department. Why?
Really, PAC officially commissioned me. PAC is the President's Art Commission, a new committee that facilitates collecting and displaying art on campus. PAC got me in touch with Jeffrey Greenman, associate dean of the BiTh department. Jeff wanted new work for the new space BiTh was moving into, and he approached three of us from the art department.