Methodist Seminary Hosts Art Exhibit Linking Syrian Refugees to Shroud of Turin Image

(Photo: Courtesy Wesley Theological Seminary)The new media art piece "Lamentation for the Forsaken" by Michael Takeo Magruder, as displayed at the Oxnam Chapel at Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, DC from May 1-19, 2017.

A Methodist school in Washington, D.C., has put on display a piece of modern art that couples images of Syrian refugees with the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.

Wesley Theological Seminary put Michael Takeo Magruder's new media art piece "Lamentation for the Forsaken" on display at their campus chapel on May 1. The exhibit concludes on Friday.

"Lamentation for the Forsaken" involves a row of screens that "juxtaposes Christ's suffering and journey to the cross with the anguish and plight of refugees fleeing the Syrian Civil War," according to the artist's explanation.

"The artwork is composed of two distinct visual elements. The first is a photographic negative of the Shroud of Turin that has been aesthetically transformed with the names and details of individuals who have died in the conflict. The second is an underlying video stream created from sets of curated news media photographs that portray the lives and hardships of the Syrian people."

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(Photo: Kiki McGrath)Visitors look at the new media art work "Lamentation for the Forsaken" by Michael Takeo Magruder, which went on display at the Oxnam Chapel at Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, DC from May 1-19, 2017.

Kiki McGrath, curator of the Dadian Art Gallery at the seminary, told The Christian Post that displaying the piece fit the goal of the school's Center for the Arts and Religion "to promote dialogue between artists and theologians, and to foster inspired creativity in all forms of ministry."

"We host exhibitions in the Dadian Gallery and in public spaces on campus, including the chapel where Michael Takeo Magruder's work is on view," explained McGrath.

"His piece is a contemporary visual expression of lament; it raises questions on the intersections between the Syrian crisis, refugees, and the Body of Christ. These are relevant concerns for a seminary community, and visitors are welcome to come into the chapel and see it as well."

Regarding its time at the seminary, McGrath told CP that the reaction to the "Lamentation of the Forsaken" display has been largely positive in nature.

"The response has been positive. Students enrolled in the course 'Suffering, Spirituality and Meaning' discussed the piece during their class," continued McGrath.

"One visitor told me that the digital images flash and disappear, and that made her think of the ephemeral nature of life."

The chapel display comes at a time when much debate exists over the extent to which the United States and Western Europe should allow refugees from the Middle East to enter their countries.

Due to civil war and the rise of the Islamic State, a large influx of refugees from Syria have journeyed into Europe and the United States in an attempt to get asylum.

Accepting Syrian refugees has become a political debate, with critics arguing that there is no way to properly vet those coming in, thus putting the nation at risk of a terrorist attack.

Soon after being sworn in as president, Donald Trump signed an executive order temporarily suspending refugee resettlement from seven Muslim-majority nations, including Syria.

The executive order was blocked by a federal judge. Meanwhile, multiple faith-based aid groups were compelled to cut staff over decreased federal support.

When asked by CP what she hoped visitors took away from the "Lamentation of the Forsaken" display, McGrath replied that she hoped "to offer not a message but a space for reflection on the relationship of art and faith, and the larger questions surrounding these images."

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