Recently, for a theology class, I created a crucifix that artistically points to the themes of life and death.
Since Christ’s execution, the cross has always had a double meaning. On the one hand the cross represents the barbarity of the Roman Empire and its oppressive occupation of an oppressed people, the Jews. On the other hand, Christ’s sacrifice completely disarms powers, empires and the narratives of death. It is a deep mystery, but somehow the cross points to oppression and liberation all at the same time (Mt. 10:34-39; Lk 14:25-33).
The inspiration for this project was my own neighborhood. Lawndale, and neighborhoods like Lawndale, were created by the US government to perpetuate white supremacy. The two pieces of wood that create the crux of the piece are from a lot in Lawndale. While the pieces are worn and rugged it is important to note the unusual strength of the wood, which represents the inspiring strength of people in the neighborhood. The hangman’s noose on the arm of the cross symbolizes the nexus between “The Cross and the Lynching Tree” (James Cone). Whether it’s the literal noose one associates with lynching black people or the subtler “noose” of exclusionary policies in the U.S., black death has been very beneficial for the American Empire. Despite this reality, black life has subversively continued to assert that it does indeed matter. Finally the “loop” on the top of the cross is made of a metal bar. Many people in Lawndale have either been behind bars or have a family member who is currently behind bars. Mass incarceration is the New Jim Crow (Michelle Alexander). And yet the “loop” also mimics the Ankh Cross seen in many Egyptian Coptic churches where it signifies life.