Gwyneth Leech
By Lois Goglia
Art New England
October/November 2005

New York City artist Gwyneth Leech spent 2004 creating fourteen 18-inch-by-21-inch paintings on wood of the Stations of the Cross. These works were commissioned in March 2004 and are now permanently hung on the walls of St. Paul's Church on the Green in Norwalk, Connecticut.

Leech admits that she was dubious about accepting the commission, for she knew little about the Stations of the Cross. In order to understand the crucifixion iconography, Leech studied renditions of Christ's suffering at the Metropolitan Museum. She began to draw connections between the traditional paintings of the fourteen Stations and the gestures and expressions of suffering depicted in the press from Iraq, the United States, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Israel and the Gaza Strip.

In a bold and compelling manner that has offended some, Leech contemporized her Stations of the Cross by integrating images from these current areas of conflict into the traditional Stations of the Cross settings. Specific references to Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay are easily recognizable. Although Leech's paintings depict each of the Stations of the Cross step by step, her images are unorthodox: She sets her paintings in the desert landscape of the Middle East. Christ's ethnicity changes through the series. Usually he wears contemporary red Muslim robe; but in Station Ten, to some viewers' shock and displeasure, Christ is stark naked. In some settings, soldiers wear Italian military uniforms from World War II; in others, soldiers carrying rifles wear American uniforms.

Leech's version of the fourteen Stations is a startling recapitulation of the tale of Christ's suffering: a metaphor for the suffering in today's frightening world of war, violence and terrorism.

Lois Goglia