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Tree of Life – the crucifix, embodiment, and material culture

Tree of Life exhibit will run at Blackfriars Gallery (DSPT) from January 31, 2024 to May 20, 2024.

Join us for an Easter Reflection

Tuesday, April 16th, noon to 12:40

Tree of Life – the crucifix, embodiment, and material culture

The choice to curate an exhibition of crucifixes from the Blackfriars Gallery art collection began with a desire to explore this central symbol as an expression of Christian culture. Over time, a deeper desire emerged to present these items not only as objects of history and material culture, but also as icons of hope and healing.

The cross has been used throughout millennia as an expression of important cultural concepts such as the cosmos or eternal life. But, the cross of Jesus Christ, that is to say, the crucifix, is uniquely identified with Christianity, and even more specifically within Catholic and Orthodox traditions.

The crucifix holds authority not for any cultural aesthetic reasons, but because of its ability to present a distilled narrative of Divine healing (salvation). As indicated in the exhibition title, the redemptive suffering of Jesus Christ transforms the crucifix from an instrument of torture into the Tree of Life.

Drawing almost exclusively from objects in the Blackfriars Gallery collection, this exhibition explores the cultural expression of this transformative truth. While a simple motif, a cross with a body (corpus), the crucifix has been adopted in dramatically different ways across the centuries. Often quite visceral, these embodied expressions allow the believer to connect their own sufferings with the Suffering Christ in a manner that brings hope in the promise of Eternal Life.

Justyn Michael Zolli, DSPT Student and artist

C. J. Renz, OP

Explore the collection

Items in this exhibition come from the Blackfriars Gallery art collection. Developed by Fr. Blase Schauer, OP and Michael Morris, OP the collections introduce students to the dynamic relationship between art, religion, and culture. The Gallery hosts three permanent collections:  vintage, first-edition Biblical movie posters; fine handpress prints from the Guild of St. Joseph and St. Dominic, and artwork from Liturgy in Santa Fe, including pieces by George Lopez, Meinrad Craighead, and Giotto Moots, OP.

To explore the entire list in this collection type “Ditchling” into the Subject search of the book catalog.

Search the Art Catalog