My 2021 version of the Stations of the Cross was influenced by an Eduardo Chillida piece entitled “Homenaje a San Juan de la Cruz” in the Church of St Peter, Cologne. The fourteen plastic panels, 14″w by 17″h each, were painted with acrylic.
I. Jesus is condemned to death
II. Jesus accepts his cross
III. Jesus falls for the first time
IV. Jesus meets his Mother
V. Simon of Cyrene helps Jesus carry the Cross
VI. Veronica wipes the face of Jesus
VII. Jesus falls for the second time
VIII. Jesus meets the women of Jerusalem
IX. Jesus falls for the third time
X. Jesus is stripped of his garments
XI. Jesus is nailed to the cross
XII. Jesus dies on the cross
XIII. Jesus is taken down from the cross
XIV. Jesus is laid in the tomb
Thinking About The Stations of the Cross
My parents named me Paul because I was born on the feast day of Saint Paul of the Cross (pictured at left). Saint Paul dedicated his life to the memory of the Crucifixion. He founded the Passionists who minister to the poor and marginalized, symbols of the crucified today.
In 1996, in the tradition of my patron saint, I started thinking about a re-telling of Christ’s crucifixtion, commonly depicted in most Catholic churches as the Stations of the Cross. I looked at Renaissance paintings of the crucifixtion and looked to popular sources for a modern-day Christ figure. I gathered classic depictions, my own drawings, holy cards, and source material from newspapers. I collected this all in a big sketchbook. Two Lenten seasons came and went while my sketchbook grew. Ted Kaczynski was a front page story on Good Friday, 1996 and then on Good Friday, 1997, the leader of the Heaven’s Gate cult was featured on the front pages.
I decided on a contemporary route for the crucifixion. Jesus would be sentenced at East High near our home. He gets his cross across the street at Carroll’s or in McDonalds’ parking lot, works his way down Main Street and gets crucified at the Liberty Pole in downtown Rochester. I took this route almost daily and was baptized at Corpus Christi Church (Station #7). I also took some photos of the locations, one roll of slide film, and I chose settings for the fourteen Stations from those.
Lent, 1998 rolled around and I was overwhelmed with source material. I assembled the key elements in fourteen digital files and printed 21″ x 28″ digital prints on watercolor paper at Scale 2. I called them “Passion Play” and showed them at the Bug Jar during Lent 1998. I entered them in the 1999 Rochester Finger Lakes exhibition and they won both The Averill Council of the Memorial Art Gallery Award and the Harris Popular Vote Award.
Passion Play 1998
Source Photos for Passion Play
In 1996 I took a role of 36 slides as location source material and used the images in the digital collages that became “Passion Play 1998.” I planned to retell the story of the crucifixion by having a contempory Christ sentenced at East High, near where we lived, and crucified downtown at the Liberty Pole. I travelled this route to work everyday on my bike. So many of the businesses and even some of the buildings are now gone. The photos become more interesting over time.
While I was taking the photo of East High a security guard came out and told me “You can’t photograph the school.” East High became a perfect location for Jesus to get sentenced. Across the street, Carroll’s Irish bar, with a Kali Poulton poster in the window, would make a good spot for Jesus to get his cross or maybe the McDonald’s at Main and Culver. The cops hang out there. Effinger’s German Restaurant was in the brick building on East Main for the longest time before going Irish. It is really hard to believe but Fam’s Party House was hot during the Disco Days. Jimmy’s Short Order (what exactly is a short order anyway?) and El Palladium (a Puerto Rican dance club) are both gone now, like completely gone. The buildings were leveled. The city leveled a a whole block of run-down houses to build this bus station. I feel sorry for Christ having to parade down East Main Street. It often feels so god-forsaken. I’m thinking he falls for the first time near here. He would probably be run over by a bus today. Jesus would meet his Mom near here. That could be her in front of the Thrift Store with the red babushka. My brother lived nearby on Garson Avenue, next door to a guy named “Fat Boy.” He made a small fortune selling cocaine. I’m sure there is no connection to “Fat Boys.”
I used to have to cash my paycheck in the bank at Main and Goodman. I would pass it through the bullet-proof glass and and then they’d say my signature didn’t match a previous signature. Arthur Shawcross, the infamous serial killer, worked at G&G Foods next door. I used to pass him on his bike while I was on mine. They tore that building down. They have torn down quite a few houses and buildings in this stretch.
Remember cigarette billboards? They are illegal now but the Black Velvet ladies are still working. Even the Adult Book Store has gone out of business. I remember driving by this place with with my mother-in-law and her saying “I don’t know what’s so adult about it.”
I loved buying wood at Otis lumberyard. And they had a great scrap heap for picking up odd pieces. Veronica will have to come forward to help Jesus at this point in the route. The old Armory building would make a great setting for an episode in this dramatic story. Slayer played here and Margaret Explosion. When Bob Dylan played the Auditorium Theater the crowd got out of control and actually took the stage with him. I was baptized at Corpus Christi Church in 1950. Father Jim Callan was pastor when I took this shot but he was kicked out by the bone-headed Church hierarchy for his Christ-like qualities.
Just over the tracks is Staub’s Cleaners. I was on a little league team in the Cobbs Hill league that was sponsored by Staub’s. I pictured the business as being a lot friendlier than this. My neighbor, Sparky, ate at the Penguin a lot. Last time we were in here there was bird flying around inside the restaurant. Hedges, the only funeral home on the route, would have to be where Jesus is laid in the tomb in Station Number 14. The 39 degrees display in front of WDKX is probably an average year round temperature in Rochester. KFC was just inside the old Inner Loop and almost downtown. I started picturing Christ as an African American.
If the City put benches near the sculpture where Muggs Up used to be it would just invite people and then they would have to arrest them for loitering. Jesus falls for the third time in front of the Cathay Pagoda. The small park in front of the Eastman Library atrium makes a perfect spot for Jesus to be stripped of his garments.
The parking lot in front of Snuffy’s is where a Rochester mobster was blown up about 25 years ago. I worked downtown at the time and I remember looking at the big pit in the pavement right behind where that red pick-up is. Christ gets crucified at the Liberty Pole. Christ dies on the cross while Midtown Plaza dies in the background. The Roman guard on the horse is ready for crowd control duties.I turned to get a good shot of the Liberty Pole and found I was out of film. I forced the last shot and ripped the film (see photo above) but got a nice double exposure for the dramatic thirteenth station.