By Maureen Doallas
Margaret (Peggy) Adams Parker, a senior lecturer at Virginia Theological Seminary, will be exhibiting her 14 “Stations of the Cross,” a series of woodcut prints on paper, at St. Michael’s Episcopal Church, Arlington, beginning Ash Wednesday, Feb. 22.
The “Stations” are a liturgical devotion to the Passion of Christ, known as the “Way of the Cross” or “Way of Sorrows,” which allow the faithful to experience visually and through a service of readings, prayers, and meditations, events at the end of Jesus’ life, from condemnation to crucifixion and death.
The Arts & Faith Ministry, the solo show’s sponsor, has displayed both indoor and outdoor “Stations” since 2020, including “Native American Stations of the Cross.” This year’s Lenten exhibition of woodcuts, “Bearing Witness,” is the first to showcase a local artist’s set of “Stations.”
On view in St. Michael’s parish hall throughout Lent, Parker’s woodcuts are the second of three “Stations” series the artist has made, charcoal drawings and paintings comprising the other two. (Duke University Chapel now owns the paintings.) They were inspired by Parker’s initial introduction to “Stations,” mounted years ago at her Arlington parish, St. Mary’s Episcopal Church, and the “immensely moving” service she prayed there.
Two feet high by 18 inches wide, the figurative black-and-white prints are notable for being graphically stark. In her book “Praying the Stations of the Cross: Finding Hope in a Weary Land,” co-authored with systematic theologian Katherine Sonderegger, Parker explains that she selected woodcut prints as her medium because they “better suit the rawness of the depictions” of Christ’s Passion. In their immediacy and directness they “embody the experience of Jesus’s journey to the cross: that relentless downward movement, physically and spiritually, from trial to tomb.” Confusion, despair, suffering, sorrow: all these emotions and more are reflected in the prints.
Parker is a sculptor and printmaker with an extensive exhibition record. Among her many commissions are the award-winning “Mary as Prophet” for VTS; “Reconciliation” for Duke University; and “Harriet Tubman” for St. Paul’s Church, Rock Creek Parish, Washington, D.C. Her sculpture “MARY” with the infant Jesus can be found in churches across the country. Parker currently is at work on a painting of a Navajo Christ, commissioned by the Episcopal Church of Navajoland.
“Bearing Witness” is open to parishioners and their guests as well as the public. A comprehensive online presentation, which will include a service for walking and praying the “Stations,” will run simultaneously with the gallery exhibition.
Maureen Doallas is the curator of “Bearing Witness” and co-founder of the Arts and Faith Ministry.