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Cover Sabachthani

 Essay by Dominique Nahas
Poems by Margaret Evangeline, Julie Fontenot Landry, Jonathan Goodman
Charta Books

Sabachthani: Why Have You Forsaken Me? (published by Charta Books and distributed by ARTBOOK | D.A.P.) is American artist Margaret Evangeline’s powerful new monograph that is a meditation on grief, faith, and doubt during wartime, and a reflection of the artist’s personal anguish sitting vigil for her son while on his third tour in Iraq.

Sabachthani presents black and white plates of Evangeline’s charged sculptural works, The Stations and The ChorusThe Stations was created in collaboration with the artist’s son and his military colleagues while on active duty in Iraq. The Chorus utilizes iconic press images of historic events during the ferment of the 1960s. Both works incorporate the artist’s signature gunshot markings on stainless steel that Evangeline describes as « painting without paint. » The bullet marked photographic traces evoke Simone Weil’s 1940 essay « The Iliad or the Poem of Force, » and are a contemplation on the dynamics of force as they are felt in human affairs. Sabachthani concludes with a list of all the recorded wars fought by man, beginning with the first, The Conquest of Sumer (now modern Iraq) and ending with the war in Afghanistan.

Sabachthani: The Stations


In 2011, Evangeline mailed a batch of pristine aluminum rectangular bars to her son stationed in Iraq with a request to have them shot. He arranged to have two soldiers fire at the bars on April 6, 2011 at the Joint Base Balad, north of Baghdad, using an M4 and a Beretta M9. The bars marked with bullet holes were then sent back to Evangeline’s studio in New York City. A video of a Range Controller, filmed from the back for security purposes, firing at Sabachthani bars can be viewed here.

Evangeline uses fourteen bullet-riddled industrial bars for her installation. They evoke, in reductivist and contemporary terms, the fourteen painted or carved iconographic scenes established in 15th century Christianity known as The Stations of the Cross. From the artist’s perspective, these stations are emblematic of a path shared by individuals who devote themselves to a life of service. The original spaced-apart scenes of The Stations create a walking devotional setting, customarily sited around the periphery of the nave of churches or along the walls of chapels throughout Europe as they are to this day.

These bars suggest physical tactile evidence of the work of America’s serving soldiers who Evangeline believes have been selectively obscured from public view in what The New York Times media critic David Carr describes as « a nation at peace with being at war. »

Image inside Inside image

Sabachthani, The Stations, 2012, © Margaret Evangeline

The book’s title is taken from Jesus’s plaintive cry upon the cross « Eloi, Eloi, lamasabachthani? » (« My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? »). In 1966, Barnett Newman wrote about the cry in relation to his Stations of the Cross series of black and white paintings (1958-1966): « The cry of Lema — for what purpose? — this is the Passion and this is what I have tried to evoke in these paintings … I wanted human scale for the human cry … I wanted to hold the emotion, not waste it in picturesque ecstasies. The cry, the unanswerable cry, is world without end. But a world has to hold it, world without end, in its limits. » Evangeline’s Stations began with the same proportions as Barnett Newman’s singular strip of a painting, « The Wild, » but she shortened the strip so she could mail it to her son.

Sabachthani: The Chorus

The Chorus incorporates iconic press photographs of historic events from the turbulent 1960s and Vietnam era. The images include the assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. and John F. Kennedy, and the killings at Kent State. Each photograph is reflected back at the viewer from a stainless steel bullet-riddled panel, Praxis, 2012, giving the illusion that the photograph itself has been shot at — an act of violence upon violence. As The Chorus in a Greek play comments on the often-misguided exploits of its actors, The Chorus in Sabachthani is savagely confronting the violence wrought by guns.

Image inside Image inside

Sabachthani, The Chorus, 2012, © Margaret Evangeline (l-r Martin Luther King’s body

After Assassination, 1968; Kent State University Shooting, May 4, 1970)

The series are interwoven with moving poems about love, loss, and war penned by Margaret Evangeline (« The Debt »), writer Julie Fontenot Landry (« Stabet Mater »), and poet and writer Jonathan Goodman (« As Was Intended, » « In The Event, » and « A Distant Hunger »).

On the occasion of the release of Sabachthani, the book will be the subject of a panel discussion at The New York Public Library on March 20, 2013, one day after the 10th anniversary of the start date of The Iraq War. Evangeline, along with curators and art critics Dominique Nahas and Lilly Wei, and writer and poet Jonathan Goodman, will talk about art’s potential to mirror social issues without subverting the aesthetic nature of art making. Evangeline and Goodman will read poems they contribute to Sabachthani.


A conversation with Margaret Evangeline, Jonathan Goodman, Dominique Nahas and Lilly Wei
Wednesday, March 20, 2013
6:00-8:00 p.m.
Margaret Liebman Berger Forum
Room 227, 2nd floor (Opens to Public at 5:30 p.m.)
The New York Public Library, Stephen A. Schwarzman Building
5th Avenue at 42nd Street
New York, NY 10018

Margaret Evangeline grew up in the American South in Baton Rouge, Louisiana and her work is rooted in American gun culture. She learned to shoot a gun when she was a young girl, taught by her French-speaking Cajun grandfather on his farm. Shooting back then was a shared gift that related to hunting and sustainability. In an interview with D. Dominick Lombardi published in Sculpture magazine, Evangeline talks about eating « lots of squirrel gumbo, with BBs rolling around in the bottom of the bowl. » In 1997, Margaret Evangeline began shooting stainless steel panels in New Mexico that reflected the big sky of the Southwest, marking them with bullet holes that appeared to pierce the sky. Later, in 2005, she began shooting mirrored steel for her acclaimed series, Gunshot Landscape, which began as a site-specific work for the permanent collection of The Fields International Sculpture Park in Ghent, New York. In September 2008, Evangeline created an installation incorporating her marked stainless steel panels for the River Thames in London on a barge opposite the Tate Modern, commissioned by Illuminate Productions. The work, entitled Saved From Drowning, memorializes the tragic sinking of the pleasure boat, Marchioness, on a birthday voyage some thirty years ago. Last year, Charta published her first monograph, Margaret Evangeline: Shooting Through the Looking Glass, providing an overview of her work, including video, painting, and performance. Sabachthani continues her survey of the expansion of the terms of painting. Evangeline lives in New York where she draws inspiration from the Hudson River. Evangeline’s work is widely collected and discussed in the press. Her paintings are in numerous museum collections, including New Orleans Museum of Art, Knoxville Art Museum, Rose Art Museum, CU Boulder Art Museum, Ogden Museum of Southern Art, Tucson Museum of Art, Hilliard Museum, Tennessee State Museum, and Alexandria Museum.

Dominique Nahas is an independent curator and critic based in New York City. His articles and reviews have appeared in Art in AmericaARTnewsFlash Art, and Sculpture, among many other notable publications. Trained as an art historian and curator, Nahas has organized numerous museum and gallery exhibitions, including the first American retrospectives of conceptualist Les Levine and feminist Nancy Spero. He teaches Critical Studies at the Pratt Institute, and is a Critique Faculty member of the New York Studio Residency Program.

Jonathan Goodman is a poet and art writer based in New York City, where he teaches at Pratt Institute. The recipient of two grants from the New York Foundation for the Arts, he published his first collection of poems, Metropolitan Rooms, in 1994. He is currently working on a second manuscript, intended to be a gathering of selected poems with an emphasis on recent writing.

Julie Fontenot Landry is a writer and mother who lives in Laguna Woods, Ca.

Artist website: www.margaretevangeline.com

Margaret Evangeline: Sabachthani (Why Have You Forsaken Me?)
Publisher: Charta Books
Hbk, 24 x 17 cm./88 pgs
U.S. $29.95 | €27.00 

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