Upcoming Exhibit on Religion & Politics

I’m very excited to be curating an exhibition titled Don’t Talk About Religion or Politics. Scheduled to open in January 2006 at Avenue 50 Studio in Los Angeles, the show will present paintings by Sergio Hernandez, Gwyneth Leech, Poli Marichal, John Paul Thornton, and myself. I wrote the exhibit’s mission statement, which should give you a better idea of what to expect from this upcoming show;

“Someone famous once said ‘Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions.’ Those words certainly ring true in our own time, as countless individuals turn towards spiritualism for answers to life’s great mysteries – their faith sheltering them from a pitilessly indifferent world. Yet at the same time societies everywhere are also being fractured by religious zealotry, bigotry and persecution – with religion itself seemingly a driving force behind war. The exhibition, Don’t Talk About Religion or Politics, attempts a meaningful exploration of these contradictions and their political ramifications.

Don’t Talk About Religion or Politics is also an age-old American axiom, an adage the participating artists of this exhibit clearly intend to ignore as they carefully examine the blurring between the sacred and profane. To celebrate the importance of spirituality in our lives and collective consciousness, the participating artists of this exhibition have come together to offer genuine visions of piety and devotion. But they are also unafraid to offer honest critiques of religion’s darker side. It is to this duality of purpose that we dedicate the exhibition, Don’t Talk About Religion or Politics.”

All of the artists in this show posses extraordinary talents, with each offering different perspectives on the subject. In due time I’ll be writing about them all, but for now I’d like to focus on New York City artist, Gwyneth Leech.

Some time ago Leech sent me a press release informing me about her project, The Way Of The Cross. She was commissioned in March 2004 by St. Paul’s Church on the Green in Norwalk, Connecticut, to paint 14 panels depicting the Stations of the Cross. In the great tradition of Christian sacred art, Leech handled the story of Christ’s suffering in a contemporaneous way, placing the actors in modern settings and clothing. There are visual references to Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay, and instead of brutal Roman soldiers there are military men in American uniforms with snarling German Shepard dogs. Leech also based her depictions of the grief-stricken followers of Christ upon news photos of people tormented in Darfur, Sudan – Beslan, Russia – Baghdad, Iraq and in Israel/Palestine.

Stripped of His Garments - Painting by Gwyneth Leech

[ Stripped of His Garments – Painting by Gwyneth Leech ]

It’s not surprising that some would be upset with this retelling of Christ’s crucifixion, but St. Paul’s Church on the Green has stood its ground. Its rector, Rev. Nicholas Lang, said of Leech’s paintings, “They are not a political statement, but a theological statement about suffering in the world. The reality is that war, no matter why it is being fought, has got to be viewed as tragic.” I’m pleased that all 14 oil on paper studies for the Station of the Cross series will be on display at Ave. 50 Studio, and that Gwyneth Leech herself will be flying to L.A. from New York to attend the opening.

A People Under Command - Detail of a painting by Mark Vallen

[ A People Under Command – Detail of a painting by Mark Vallen ]

As for my own works, I’ll be showing a mix of old and new – including A People Under Command, a large painting done in 1985 that warned of the intermingling of militarism with religious fundamentalism. I’m currently furiously working away at my easel, painting two original works to be unveiled at the exhibit. You’ll just have to wait to see what I’ve come up with. The show opens in January 2006 and runs until the end of February 2006. For more information on this upcoming exhibition, including previews of artworks and details about the participating artists, visit:

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