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Stations of the Cross take on new meaning on Whidbey Island
The Stations of the Cross are century-old images, but artists of the Christian Artist Group of Whidbey Island are painting new meaning into those images and the Easter season. Their art exhibit is more than art; it’s an experience of worship, acceptance and togetherness.
View the art at the second annual Stations of the Cross exhibit. It opened Tuesday and continues daily through Easter Sunday, April 8, at the Pacific Rim Institute south of Coupeville.
Join the artists for coffee and conversation from 4 to 5:30 p.m. Saturday, April 7.
“The Stations of the Cross is a tradition that has gone on for hundreds of years,” said poet and installation artist Gina Mammano Vander Kam. The Stations of the Cross depict scenes from Jesus’ final week before crucifixion.
But what these six artists are trying to do is make those stations contemporary.
The artists used fabric, paint and more to bring the scenes to life in new, modern ways.
“Our idea behind doing that is making them contemporary and more accessible to people. Our hope is as people come through the exhibit, they’ll be able to feel the emotions and relate to it,” Vander Kam said.
The Stations of the Cross date back to the 12th century and were originally meant to tell the story of the Passion of Christ to people who couldn’t read.
“Because we have so much to read, I think the visual art nowadays brings back the meaning,” Vander Kam said.
“It’s meant to be a dialogue,” added Rick Vander Kam, another participating artist. “Where most preaching tends to be mono-directional, this art invites conversation.”
When Lynnette Wineman paints, she uses no external images and instead asks God what he wants to show her. One of her pieces of artwork is a painting of Jesus’ face.
“For me personally, all my paintings are like downloads from God,” Wineman said. “It’s really kind of an extension of worship for me.”
She said she hopes her art gets people conversing, both with each other and internally, and that it’s a privilege to be able to share art that’s so personal to her.
“I so deeply want people to feel loved and accepted,” Gina Vander Kam gave as her reason for creating this art. One of her installation pieces depicts plates from the Last Supper. Each portrays a different emotion: betrayal, lost, alone. But Jesus’ plate offers acceptance.
“With the installations, I hope people can find emotions they can relate to and a place of welcome and acceptance,” Gina Vander Kam said.
She also writes poetry about what Jesus could have said about his life.
“We can relate to him because he experienced the same emotions we do,” Gina Vander Kam said.
Rick Vander Kam’s art brings the messages of the scripture to life in a contemporary way with images of foreclosure and fractured families.
“We each follow his way of pain,” Rick Vander Kam said, pointing out his image of a woman bearing the figurative cross of lost innocence following a literal cross bearer in Jerusalem.
“We’re not just left with our burdens. We have others who can help with our burdens,” he added.
An especially meaningful piece accompanies the station “Simon carries the cross of Jesus.” Viewers are asked to write their burdens on paper and attach them to a cross. Then they may read the other papers as a way to carry each others’ burdens.
At last year’s event, there were nearly 100 papers.
“Life is full of burdens that are imposed on us that we need help carrying,” Rick Vander Kam said.
Easter is an important season to take time to focus on spirituality, Gina Vander Kam said.
“It’s an important luxury. We don’t take that time very often, so our hope for the community is they’ll take that time. Take time for themselves and slow down,” she said.
Wineman described the art show and season as an invitation “to reflect and consider.”
“We don’t give ourselves the opportunity to do that enough, I think,” Gina Vander Kam added.
Rick Vander Kam said that’s an art that’s been lost among much of Christianity today. No one should forget the importance of Jesus’ resurrection.
“If Jesus had stayed dead, it would have just meant a lot of nice words and good ideas. But his resurrection means this is accessible to everyone,” Rick Vander Kam said.
Discuss the artists’ works at a coffee and conversation event April 7.
Other artists participating in the exhibit are Woody DeShong, Carol Snobel and Shawn M. Agosta.
“We want to involve the community,” Wineman said.
There’s an open invitation for artists to join in next year. The group offers a place for Christian artists to spend time together.
“We feel like God has done a neat thing putting this group together and we want to expand it,” Wineman said.