Ecclesia Church in Houston, Texas, whose website describes the church as a “holistic missional Christian community,” invited local artists to submit original artwork depicting each of the Stations of the Cross.
Young 10-year old artist Jackson Potts II, who has been studying photography with his photographer father for several years, was given the commission to produce a photograph showing Station #7, Jesus Falls For the Second Time.
Young Potts chose to interpret the scene by replacing the Roman soldier with a contemporary police officer, and he depicted the innocence of Jesus using a child, his own brother, to portray the fallen Christ.
The church was offended by the photograph, according to ABC News, and would not display the photograph in the church art gallery, Xnihilo. The decision by church officials has led two gallery directors to resign, but the church did create a blog about the whole incident. You can follow all the links in the curator’s blog for further information, including links to local media coverage.
The church gave a variety of reasons for rejecting the photograph ranging from “the photograph would scare young children who trust and respect police officers” to “we felt it was provocative in the wrong way” to “[it] did not draw people closer to the risen Christ.“
Which brings me to my questions:
- If this were your church, would you have allowed the photograph to be viewed? If not, why?
- Is the purpose of art to convey the church’s message or the artist’s message?
- When a church engages artists to produce artwork, should there be any restrictions on what they produce? If so, what?
These are pertinent questions as increasing numbers of churches engage artists in producing artwork to be shown for church purposes. Are we returning to “church art” of the Medieval period where the church was both patron and censor, or are churches genuinely interested in hearing what artists have to say? What do you think, and more importantly, what would you have done in this situation? Fire away in the comment section.