Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Way of the Cross-Interview with Anna Kocher Part 2

Jesus takes up His cross

The inclusion of text in these paintings is very powerful. How did you make that choice?

I first started using text in my work when I was involved in a Christian artistic collaborative. We would meet periodically to discuss and critique one another's work and encourage one another in both living out our faith through our work and in creating work that pushed the limits of our abilities and of tradition. The Church of the Good Samaritan, in another display of gracious and surprising support for the artists and for me in particular, agreed to allow us to do a show in a very large, central hall in the church. This was an even more generous gesture because my work was by far the most traditional of the group. We had artists working with found objects, creating installation pieces, and working in very abstract styles.

For the show we decided to all read one piece of literature and then do work inspired by the reading, hoping that it would give the show a sense of unity in spite of our styles being very disparate. We chose Notes from Underground by Dostoevsky. I found myself incorporating words from the book in my paintings and drawings. It was a nice connection for me because I have always been very drawn to literature but always saw it as something distinct from art. That project allowed me to see it as something that can enrich visual representation in the same way that graphic novels allow visual representation to enrich a story. The nice thing about postmodernism is that it allows you to have a much broader toolbox to draw from in attempting to express a concept. You're no longer limited to the narrow range of your particular discipline.
Another thing I thought a lot about in creating the paintings was Christ as "word made flesh." The body, or the flesh, is something that I'm irresistibly drawn to in my work and I am so excited by the idea that Jesus was a physical, bloody, dirty human body, but also the Word of God breathed into the history of humanity. I certainly believe there's power in the actual words of the Bible and so I wanted to include them in the paintings themselves.

Jesus falls

My husband thinks the artwork is very emotionally powerful due to the thick lines and hoped you'd talk about that...

I guess I tend to use thick lines. When I was a kid I would always look at my friends' coloring pages and be impressed and envious at how they could manage to color so lightly and consistently and to stay inside the lines. I would try to start out that way, but halfway through I would be pressing the crayon so hard and bursting outside the lines again. It was frustrating as a child, but I guess it's found its purpose.

I think the thick lines in the Stations were also a way of expressing the power of the subject. I have no patience for the effeminate, powerless images of Jesus you see so often. The bold lines, for me, were a way for me to drive home the violence and brutality of the story and the strength of the Character.

I also lean on the bold outlines much more in my "nouveau iconography" work than in my other work because they are a way of communicating that this is the way I envision the story, but that it's not actually "from life" in the way that a portrait or something might be. It somehow seems to me to be a way of reaffirming that the picture is a tool to direct the gaze to the truth of the story, but that the image is not, itself, true.

If you missed the introduction to the Way of the Cross and artist Anna Kocher, click here!

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