DSPT Events

Evidence for Peace – Four Interpretations of the Stations of the Cross

Spring 2014


Paintings and reflection by DSPT Alumnus, Lam Khong

In this art exhibition at Blackfriars Gallery, I present four series of paintings and drawings. Each contains fifteen pieces which depict the fourteen Stations of the Cross, plus the Resurrection of Christ. Using traditional materials such as oil, graphite, wood or paper, each series is executed in a different expression and subject matter, from minimal abstractions to representational landscapes.
DSPT Blackfriars Gallery Exhibit: Evidence of Peace. Station 3, Jesus Falls the First Time - Lam Khong
Station 3, Jesus Falls the First Time
[from Series 1: Evidence, watercolor pencil on wood, 2013; 11 x 17 inches]

Traditionally, the Stations of the Cross (or Way of the Cross) is a series of artistic meditations of Christ carrying the cross to his crucifixion. The meditation arose from early pilgrimages to Jerusalem, wherein travelers would stop at appointed station churches or chapels, such as Pilate’s judgment hall in the Fortress Antonia. As early as the fourth century this prayerful journey gained acceptance as the path along which Jesus carried the cross to his death — the Via Dolorosa. As few as seven and as many as thirty-seven, the number of the Stations was fixed at fourteen in 1731 by Pope Clement XII, who encouraged their display in churches.

Artists throughout history have depicted the Stations of the Cross mainly in a narrative form. Some modern and contemporary artists have expressed more challenging interpretations such as the black color-field paintings by Ad Reinhardt and Barnett Newman.

I first learned and prayed with the Stations as a child. The violent and sorrowful theme did not captivate me as much as the sacrifice that Jesus made for us. It was not by intellect that I came to believe in God, but by this extraordinary manifestation of love. The meditative quality of the Stations comforts the soul and has inspired into life many ideas and revelations.

DSPT Blackfriars Gallery Exhibit: Evidence of Peace. Station 4, Jesus meets his mother - Lam Khong
Station 4, Jesus Meets His Mother
[from Series 1: Evidence, watercolor pencil on wood, 2013; 11 x 17 inches]

The Stations of the Cross captivate me for many reasons, but two are most personal. I was born and raised in Vietnam during the war. My father was in the military, trained in America, and became a high-ranked officer. When the war ended, he was sent to a concentration camp. Wanting a better life for her nine children, my mother smuggled us out of the country one by one. My father was released from prison after six years. We children in the States sponsored our parents along with two younger sisters to come to America. In the Stations, I confront characters and conflicts that display the bonds between family and friends. I identify the Stations with the separation and reunion of my family.

Hidden within the violence and sorrow of the crucifixion is a peaceful Jesus. In college, I read Being Peace by Thich Nhut Hanh. Speaking about the peril of the Vietnamese boat people, he expresses how one person being at peace can calm a boat full of people from sinking into the sea. Hanh’s message filled me with gratitude and gladness for the survival of my whole family. Reflecting on how one person at peace can save lives, I focus on Jesus as the savior of the world. I rely on the Stations to help me in my own practice of being peace.

DSPT Blackfriars Gallery Exhibit: Evidence of Peace. Station 5, Simon of Cyrene helps Jesus carry hiscross- Lam Khong
Station 5, Simon of Cyrene Helps Jesus Carry His Cross
[from Series 1: Evidence, watercolor pencil on wood, 2013; 11 x17 inches]

Throughout my thirty-year art career, I have executed the Stations at least fifty times using different media, subjects, and expressions. By painting the Stations in different interpretations I hope to show that God is not restricted in a time or place, but rather resides in all things, peoples, and cultures.

The four series in this exhibition contain elements of nature, which I believe is one of the most prominent manifestations for the evidence of the love of God. I look at the landscape and the sky throughout the day—the gradual change from light to dark—and imagine a crucifixion scene from the point of view of Jesus in his last hours. What I hope to achieve in these paintings is a quality of peace because what Jesus sees is peace.

The Stations of the Cross

1. Jesus is condemned to die. 8. Jesus consoles the women of Jerusalem.
2. Jesus carries his cross. 9. Jesus falls the third time.
3. Jesus falls the first time. 10. Jesus is stripped of his garment.
4. Jesus meets his mother. 11. Jesus is nailed to the cross.
5. Simon of Cyrene helps Jesus carry the cross. 12. Jesus dies on the cross.
6. Veronica wipes the face of Jesus. 13. Jesus is taken down from the cross.
7. Jesus falls the second time. 14. Jesus is laid in the tomb.

15. The Resurrection of Jesus.

DSPT Blackfriars Gallery Exhibit: Evidence of Peace. Station 6, Veronica wipes the face of Jesus - Lam Khong
Station 6, Veronica Wipes the Face of Jesus
[from Series 1: Evidence, watercolor pencil on wood, 2013; 11 x 17inches]

About the artist - Lam Khong

Artist & DSPT Alumnus - Lam Khong Lam Khong was born in Saigon, Vietnam in 1972, and came to the United States at age 8. “When I arrived,” says Lam, “I didn’t speak English well. So I drew to communicate with other children at school. Art became my silent friend.”

With recognition and encouragement from teachers and universities, he was invited to travel to paint murals or work on art projects. At age 14, he volunteered to revitalize a small town in southern Colorado where he met Fr. Pat Valdez of the Theatine Order who spearheaded the program. One of his projects was a large shrine of life-size bronze sculptures dedicated to the Stations of the Cross. That experience intensified his interest in religious art and in particular in the Stations of the Cross.

After receiving a BFA degree from the College of Santa Fe in 1993, Lam worked and lived in New York City for eight years. Some of his work there included the Whitney Museum of American Art and Kent Gallery with Barbara Haskell, and solo and group exhibitions in galleries and universities in New York, Colorado and Florida.

His desire to focus on religious art took Lam to Italy to study the old masters. He was invited by the Theatines to paint at their main church in Rome, San Andrea Della Valle. In 2005, he received a MFA degree from American University (Rome Program). Feeling called to consider the priesthood, Lam joined the Theatine Order, which then sent him to study philosophy here at DSPT. After several years, he decided to leave the Theatines and resume his artwork. Since that time he has continued to travel and paint.

“There is an Italian tradition,” Lam reflects, “for pilgrims to touch the tombs of saints with their handkerchief so that they might absorb a bit of their holiness. The paintings of Fra Angelico have always centered my mind and heart on God. While living in Rome, whenever I felt sad or discouraged I would sit by the tomb of Fra Angelico in Santa Maria Sopra Minerva. There, next to his tomb, I always found solace. Today, I continue to return to his paintings for inspiration. In the presence of a Fra Angelico painting I can feel the whole universe singing. Given the choice to paint anything … I would also choose everything.”

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