[Art credit: Ana Maria Pacheco, Shadows of the Wanderer, 2008. Polychromed limewood, 260 × 390 × 605 cm. Installation view at Norwich Cathedral, 2010. Photo: Pratt Contemporary Art.]
Suffering plays heavily into the oeuvre of Brazilian-born artist Ana Maria Pacheco, whose paintings, prints, and sculptures often tell stories of fleeing or capture. Shadows of the Wanderer, for instance, shows ten darkly robed figures glimpsing up, down, and sideways in fear, while in their midst a young man struggles to carry an older man on his shoulders.
These two central figures, carved from a single piece of limewood, are a visual reference to an iconic scene from Virgil’s Aeneid, where the hero Aeneas carries his lame father out of the burning city of Troy; not only is his home destroyed, but he later finds out his wife was killed in the invasion. Virgil wrote this epic in the first century BC about a war fought many centuries earlier, but it spoke to the contemporary climate in Rome, which was wracked by civil war.
It seems that of war and political upheaval, violence and displacement, there is no end. Pacheco’s sculpture group urges us to consider the plight of modern-day refugees fleeing places of destruction, bearing enormous loss. The fact that it has been exhibited in churches, including Norwich and Chichester cathedrals, makes the challenge all the more pointed: Will the church be a light to the many displaced families who have arrived, or are trying to arrive, on our nation’s shores?
The Art Spotlights have been selected by Victoria Emily Jones, who blogs at ArtandTheology.org, seeking to connect Christians to the rich visual, literary, and musical artworks of the church’s past and present. She is currently working on a chapter for the forthcoming book Neo-Calvinism and the Visual Arts, and has just released a Stations of the Cross audio tour of works from the Smithsonian American Art Museum. Follow her on Twitter @artandtheology.