Weeks before Easter, an art professor at Wheaton College, a Christian liberal arts school in Illinois, is creating a work of "art" in the form of a dirt-covered statue of Jesus, which he plans to display at an exhibit at the school in late April.
David Hooker, an associate professor of Art at Wheaton
, said the project is intended to represent "our sins or uncleanliness," the Chicago Tribune reported.
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Hooker purchased the 5-foot-tall, ceramic sculpture of Jesus' crucified body from a local Catholic church for $4,000. He estimates the statue is between 50 and 100 years old.
Hooker collected dirt and lint from vacuum cleaners used by the school's custodial staff and covered the statue with it.
"Literally, this dirt contains skin cells from the community. The idea is that our bodies are now connected to the body of Christ," Hooker told the Tribune. "At first, some might find it disgusting, or even sacrilegious, but I hope people can get past that and see the meaning behind it."
Hooker covered the debris in an acrylic gel so it would adhere to the figure. Before his artistic vision comes to fruition, the sculpture needs at least five layers of dirt, Hooker said.
The controversial sculpture, called "Corpus," will be displayed as part of a 27-piece collection at the school's Billy Graham Center on April 22.
Jeffrey Greenman, associate dean of Wheaton's Biblical and Theological Studies, said the piece is bold but meaningful.
"I think it's bold and creative and controversial to a certain extent. If you want a picture of a very suburban, acceptable Jesus, this will not be it," Greenman said. "It's not for shock value or disrespect. I would hope people will understand it in its context and eventually appreciate the message behind it."
Philip Ryken, president of Wheaton College, said that he hopes people will see it as the college's message of "our need for God's grace, and that means being honest about our own failings."
"I think good art, or the best art, always provokes a response," he said. "I think most people, when they see this, will understand there are [a] lot of things that are disappointing and even dirty about us and see the Christian message that God loves us in spite of our sins."
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