Artist Paul Fryer’s piece “Pieta” was recently put on display in a cathedral in Gap, France. Although it is certainly not unusual to see a bloodied representation of Christ, it is unusual to see him upon an electric chair.

I have often wondered how Christ would have been executed if his passion were to have taken place in modern times. Would he have died under the needle? Or perhaps dropped to his death with a rope around his neck? No matter the modern form of execution, none compare to crucifixion on the cross. As painful as death by electrocution, hanging, injection, or rifle must be it is over in an instant, modern methods seeking to be as “humane” as possible. The cross was designed for a long and violent death as the victim bled, choked, and asphyxiated to death. In fact, people were surprised that Jesus died as fast as he did.

I would be interested to hear what your initial reactions are to the piece. I appreciate the work for its craftsmanship. Works of wax have become eerily life like and an effective medium for portraying humanity. As for the chair, I do not find it to be as scandalous or shocking as it is described, but merely a modern viewpoint of the crucifixion; helping us realize that Christ was indeed executed by both religious and political authorities, institutions of men, rather than suffering an ethereal or metaphorical death.

What made me interested enough to post on the piece is where it was being displayed: a church. If “Pieta” was merely on display in a gallery it could be approached from a distance. It could be found interesting or provocative, perhaps arousing a curiosity as to the artist’s perception of Jesus and Christianity, but would remain distant or merely cerebral. However, within the Church, where Christ is the center and the cause for gathering in the first place, one is forced to grapple with their understanding who Christ is and what this image has to offer that understanding.

I commend this church for its willingness to present Christ to the people in this manner. People will be blessed.

16 thoughts on “Pieta

  1. michael lee

    Jameson, welcome to the Roadhouse.

    Jameson is a graduating senior from APU, with a degree in Tuba Performance. He’s good.

    He’s also articulate and thoughtful, with interests in modern art, philosophy, and other generally useless topics that seem to spring up here frequently. He sent the link to this piece to me in an email, and I asked him if he would make it his first official author post at Addison Road.

    Welcome, Jameson, and I look forward to good conversations to come.

  2. Chad

    I think the piece is kinda beautiful and haunting. I’m normally not into dead Jesus art, but this one is pretty cool.

    I’m certain that there’s a political statement being made, and that doesn’t interest me.

    On another note… tuba performance? Dude… if you can support yourself and a spouse and perhaps even offspring with that degree, my hat will be forever off to you. Best of luck!

  3. JamesonBratcher

    Thank you for the kind words. I look forward to being a part of Roadhouse.

    I was curious about the political statement as well. When I first saw the piece it never crossed my mind, but a few others have commented on it as well. I am not sure the European thought on capital punishment so it is hard to judge the angle of the work. Nonetheless it is certainly interesting that legal systems are so powerful that they can justify the slaying of the Savior of the world. Certainly legal system should measure the weight that every judiciary move contains.

    As for support a wife and kids as a tubist… Prayers are certainly appreciated (as well as donations).

  4. michael lee

    I wonder how many people return to this piece for multiple viewings? It’s hard to judge from a photo, but I think that my response would be, “Huh. Ok. I get it.”

    Once the statement is made, does the work retain any artistic or aesthetic value? Does it invite the viewer in to prolonged and subtle contemplation? Does it awaken the soul, even after you’ve seen it 20, 30, 100 times? If not, then it seems more like a pamphlet than a work of art.

    I’m probably overstating things, but I have a hard time with works of art that hinge on making statements (political, religious, whatever). They seem to be made smaller by the shouting of the artist.

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  6. june

    I’ve been thinking about this piece and this conversation since I first saw and read it shortly after it was first posted. My response falls somewhere between Jameson’s and Mike’s, which makes me feel a little wishy-washy and may also have something to do with the fact that even now, as I attempt to write this, small, short, needy people are upon me. Jameson, as a Christian, an artist, and someone who is all growed up, I was a bit surprised to realize that unlike yourself, I have not often wondered how Christ would have been executed if his passion were to have taken place in modern times. Hmmm. I wonder why I haven’t. It seems a bit of an obvious kind of wondering to have. So, I’ve been mulling on that.

    As far as my initial reaction goes, I too can appreciate this piece for it’s craftsmanship. And, I don’t find the electric chair scandalous. It was a bit shocking at first, but only briefly and in the best of ways in that it forced me think about why the artist made that choice and what his/her intent might be. For me, it promoted exactly the kind of thinking that you described and after a few viewings (yep, I returned to look at it here several times) and intermittent thought (kiddos and their kiddo needs) I found myself being moved, as I have many times in life, by the reality that the deity of Jesus became human and lived amongst men, as a man, and died as a man at the hands of men. But, when I first read your post (quickly and while being interrupted) my reaction was a lot closer to “Yep, I get it.” I guess it was through the repeated viewings and reading the comments here that I came to feel, as you said, blessed by it. I’ve been wondering if I would have had the same thought process if I’d encountered this piece in person.

    The only thing that I’m wondering about are the nail holes in Jesus’ feet and I’m assuming his hands as well. Perhaps I should take a moment to look up this artist and read about this piece.

    Mike, I can understand the general unappeal of any art that smacks of making a statement but I guess my very unthinky take on that is that the experience of the awakening of a soul via a visual is intensely subjective and somewhat unpredictable. It’s also quite changeable in that how people react to art at the time of it’s creation is strikingly (and consistently) different from how people react to it 50…100…300… years later. Maybe it’s that historical backdrop that makes me more ok with it? I don’t know. I wish I had time to figure it out. Right now I need to get someone a graham cracker.

    Thanks Jameson…keep the thoughtful, artsy posts coming!

  7. sharolyn

    The first time this idea was presented to me, I was in college. A guest to APU did a one-man, one-act play. In it, he asked, “If Christ had died by electrocution, would we wear electric chairs on chains around our necks?” The idea was revolutionary to me; I had never heard anything like it. It caused me to pause and be grateful (in a new way) for what Jesus did for me. With that in mind, I am for this art piece.

    I think it was Doris Kearns Goodwin on Charlie Rose who said a good historian tells the story as if they don’t know the ending. (That is one reason I enjoyed studying Esther this Spring – I genuinely couldn’t remember how it was going to end.) Many of us have been told since before we could talk that Jesus died on the cross for our sins. We knew the end of the story before we understood what the story was about. This painting gives full meaning to the end of one story (death) Changing the means of death wakes me up a little.

    And, thankfully, the story is not over yet. :)

  8. Lou

    Wow, I have always wondered why he was crucified in Israel and not by any other means. Why do Christians were crosses on their necks, and not electric chairs or ropes?
    The answer came when listening to David Nash talk about his charred crosses that he likes to make. He is trying to reclaim the mundane mathematical cross from the religion of Christianity.
    He explained that a cross represents a small point in time that you wouldn’t even see unless you used the coordinates of the x and y axis to highlight it. Now we use crosses to mark churches and ourselves, reminding us of that date, time and place when God became one of us.

  9. alice

    the point is, its not about how how died but that he died. yes i know he suffered and i can only thus far imagine what that was like but hes alive again, thats why this piece fails for me because it ends short of the statement.

  10. AG

    It just seems to be more of a modern day version of the idea of a crucified individual. I don’t feel like it fails in conceptual power. It causes you to think instead of just being what you would normally connect with… via the cross. These days we don’t crucify people on the cross at least in the U.S., we kill via electric chair and lethal injection “the lawful way of crucifying Humanity.”
    Well Done. A masterpiece.

    Thank you for you time,



  11. Jerry

    So…do we wear little electric chairs around our necks and sing “The Old Rugged Electric Chair” as Lenny Bruce once suggested?

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