RICHMOND — St. Paul’s Episcopal Church announces the exhibition of the “Stations of St. Paul’s,” a commissioned series of 14 unique artworks by noted papercut artist Janelle Washington. Coinciding with the season of Lent, the installation will be on view within the church from March 2 through April 16.
The “Stations of St. Paul’s” liturgy and art installation mark the culmination of the church’s seven-year History and Reconciliation Initiative (HRI). Prompted by the murder of nine Black church members in Charleston, S.C., in 2015, St. Paul’s parishioners have since undertaken an intensive process to document and acknowledge the church’s history of complicity in slavery and systemic racism. The initiative’s mission “to repair, restore, and seek reconciliation with God, one another, and the broader community” is now an integral part of St. Paul’s ongoing faith and engagement endeavors.
The HRI endeavor, comprised of research, workshops, lectures, film, and pilgrimages to key African American history sites, featured a 2018 public forum, Bending Toward the Truth, at which The Most Reverend Michael Curry was an honored participant. The recovery of St. Paul’s racial history prompted the church’s removal of some plaques and the rededication of stained-glass windows that once memorialized Confederate leaders. This history and the HRI process is detailed in a forthcoming book by Christopher A. Graham, Blind Spots: The Racial Reckoning of a Southern Church (University of Virginia Press).
For the “Stations” installation, Janelle Washington’s large silhouettes, measuring 4 by 2 feet each, weave together historical images, architectural motifs, Christian icons, and African Adinkra symbols. She includes decorative patterning inspired by her site-specific photographs made at the church and Hollywood Cemetery. To produce the intricate silhouettes for the stations Washington undertook extensive research. “I wanted each prayer station design to be truthful, exposing the good and the bad in history while also being a balm for personal confession,” the artist stated.
After earning a BFA in Fashion Design from Virginia Commonwealth University, Washington discovered a passion for paper cutting. Her distinctive silhouettes explore “themes of history, identity, and beauty in African American Culture.” Based in Alexandria, Va. the artist has exhibited extensively and is represented in private and public collections, including the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture. Her silhouettes are also published in books and magazines.
Open to the public, visitors may view the installation independently Monday – Thursday between 9:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m., Fridays between 9:00 a.m. and noon, or adjacent to Sunday services at 10:00 a.m. Every Friday at noon, there will be a guided liturgy and clergy will lead a service at 7:00 p.m. on Good Friday. The Friday services guide participants on a pilgrimage that traces specific episodes in the racial history of the 175-year-old church. At each station, guided by a booklet available at the church, a reading and its related artwork invite contemplation, response, and prayer.
The St. Paul’s commission marks Washington’s first major exhibition in her native Richmond. She will be a featured speaker at the church on April 6, noon, as part of St. Paul’s historic Lenten lecture series. Details for this and other speakers in the series, offered live and online, are available through the church’s website. Additionally, you can learn more about the artist’s conceptualization and creation of each station through guided videos and the History and Reconciliation Initiative (HRI) on the church’s website: www.stpaulsrva.org/stations-of-st-pauls.
About St. Paul’s Episcopal Church
Located at Capitol Square in downtown Richmond, St. Paul’s is an urban fellowship for all people with an active congregation that is enriched by our history and our message of compassion and inclusion. The church is open Monday – Thursday, 9 am to 4 pm, Fridays, 9 am to 1 pm, and for worship on Sunday mornings at 10 am. Please see the church website for programs, events, and opportunities: stpaulsrva.org.