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The first believers in Christ were reluctant to create images that overtly depicted the cross. For our ancestors in the faith, the cross was essentially absent from their homes, their ritual gathering spaces, and their tombs; it was an image that (unlike today) would be an unthinkable representation of something both too shocking and too mysterious to visually articulate. Whereas the cross is foundational (essential) to the theological and spiritual foundation of Christianity, it was conspicuously absent in the life, art, and architecture of the early Church. Images of both "traditional" and contemporary Stations of the Cross will be presented, revealing the evolution of the Christian imagination and the belief that Christian art is an irreplaceable way of understanding and expressing deep and abiding faith in Christ. This presentation will seek out resemblances, similarities, and overlapping truths between the sign and symbol of Christ's passion and death and contemporary Catholicism and culture.
Fr. James Neilson, O. Praem. is a Norbertine priest of St. Norbert Abbey in De Pere, WI. Fr. Neilson has studied art at The School of the Art Institute in Chicago, Notre Dame University and The Vermont Studio School where he earned an MFA in three-dimensional mixed media sculpture. He is presently an assistant professor of art (History of Art, History of Modern Art, Christian Symbolism in Art, and Studio Oil Painting) at St. Norbert College and received the Leonard Levina Educator of the Year Award in 2005. Fr. Neilson lectures across the country on topics related to art and faith. Fr. Neilson was "Artist in Residence" at Luther College, Decorah, Iowa, in spring, 2002 and was a visiting lecturer at Barry University in Miami, Florida in spring, 2006 and 2007. Fr. Neilson's own artwork was on view at the Neville Public Museum where he took the first place award at the 66nd Annual Art Exhibition (2010).
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