Artists interpret the crucifix
by Andrew Shilling
Mar 13, 2013 | 4251 views | 2 2 comments | 82 82 recommendations | email to a friend | print
"Defining Moment – The Crucifix" by Christopher Rini
"Defining Moment – The Crucifix" by Christopher Rini
slideshow
"Oil Park" by Janet Culbertso
"Oil Park" by Janet Culbertso
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"Blue Boy I: Down the Wound Well" by Ari Dallas
"Blue Boy I: Down the Wound Well" by Ari Dallas
slideshow
In the midst of a vast cultural melting pot in Williamsburg, a pastor is seeking a way to break down barriers and invite a search for commonality through art.

The ¡Crucificado! Art Show at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church on Rodney and South Fifth Street in South Williamsburg invites artists and enthusiasts of all backgrounds to discover and interpret how the image of the crucifix has evolved through the generations.

St. Paul’s Rev. Benjamin McKelahan has always sought ways of bridging the gap between art and Christ, and this show is just one example from a series of art shows he has arranged called Parables, an ongoing ministry at the church to welcome art in the neighborhood.

“The basic idea is to get artists from New York, specifically Brooklyn, to ask the question – who is crucified today?” McKelahan explained of the show. “Instead of having me as a pastor asking what the crucifix means, we are asking members of the community what it means through art.”

There will be art on display by students from El Puente Arts and The New School for Design, along with nearly 40 artists throughout the community, who are Christian, Jewish, and even agnostic.

In Christopher Rini’s artistic interpretation of the crucifix, Defining Moment – The Crucifix, he looks to Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) fighter, Gary Coodridge, for inspiration.

Just one year before the 1997 UFC ban in New York, arm wrestling champion Coodridge matched up against karate fighter Paul Herrera at UFC 8 in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Coodridge sprawled into what Rini described as one of the most devastating holds in MMA, the crucifix. The single-leg, fireman’s carry grappling move shocked his opponent as the fighter proceeded to send elbow blows to his face, ending the match.

“It’s such a position of extreme vulnerability and really shows how this concept, referencing something that’s 2,000 years old, that there is just simply no solution,” Rini explained of the crucifix’s relevance to the one depicted in the bible. “Once you’re in that, you’re completely vulnerable.”

Rini has burned a series of images from this legendary match into the side of two wooden 8-by-10 blocks for his interpretation of the crucifix at ¡Crucificado!.

“The reason I did the piece in the first place, is even though I’m a martial arts fan and I enjoy violence, this particular fight even I have a hard time watching,” he said. “I wanted to show the risk people take, and that position people get put in.

Marie Stile has participated in other events organized by Rev. McKelahan and recently submitted her new work, “Big Chief Bluebird” to ¡Crucificado!.

Depicting the crucifixion of Native American culture, her painting illustrates generations of Indians, standing at the edge of a cliff and looking out into the foothills of a mountain toward a herd of horses being chased by a helicopter.

“The Indians are sitting on the edge of the cliff, watching their life as the way it used to be, now coming to an end,” Stile explained. “The theme is kind of vague and is left up to their own interpretation, as the crucifix can relate to Christ itself. I am looking to it as a cultural thing.”

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Marie Stile
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March 15, 2013
Thank you for including me in your article! My last name however, is Stile and the title of the piece is 'Big Chief Bluebird'.
Ben McKelahan
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March 14, 2013
Thanks for the article! One correction, the church is located on S. 5th St. and Rodney St.