Noted English artist Edwina Sandys’ sculpture, ‘Christa,’ is the centerpiece of an art installation at the Cathedral of St John the Divine in New York City. The sculpture shows a nude woman with a crown of thorns, in bronze, affixed, to a translucent cross. The work was first exhibited in London in 1975 and in the intervening years has been shown in galleries and churches around the world.
However, this is not the first time the work has been on display at St John the Divine. It was first exhibited there during Holy Week in 1984, but was abruptly removed at the direction of the then Suffragan Bishop of New York, Bishop Walter Dennis. Bishop Dennis told the Dean at that time, James Park Morton, that the sculpture was “theologically and historically indefensible” and that it was “desecrating our symbols.”
“This time, it is being installed on the altar in the Chapel of St. Saviour as the centerpiece of “The Christa Project: Manifesting Divine Bodies,” an exhibition of more than 50 contemporary works that interpret — or reinterpret — the symbolism associated with the image of Jesus.
Times have changed, Ms. Sandys said on Monday as the statue arrived at the cathedral, swaddled in the kind of dark gray blankets that movers wrap around furniture.
“It was startling then,” said Ms. Sandys, who is a granddaughter of Winston Churchill and whose name is pronounced “sands.” “Now? Well, we have women bishops now.”
The current dean of the cathedral, the Very Rev. James A. Kowalski, saw the return of the statue as “an opportunity to reframe the conversation and, frankly, do a better job than the first time.”