Washington National Cathedral announced last week that it has chosen contemporary artist Kerry James Marshall, renowned for his large-scale works depicting African-American life, to design new stained glass windows with racial justice themes that will replace a set of confederate images that have been removed. in 2017.
The historic shrine said in a statement that the four windows would tell “a new and more complete” story of the nation’s racial history. Poet Elizabeth Alexander will write a poem that will be inscribed on stone tablets next to the windows, covering the oldest ones that worshiped the lives of Confederate soldiers.
The project is expected to be completed by 2023.
The windows will replace a set that honored two Confederate generals, Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson, with saint-like reverence and which included a Confederate flag. The cathedral withdrew them in 2017, prompted by greater national awareness about Confederate imagery and white supremacy following deadly right-wing attacks in Charlottesville, Va. That year and in Charleston, in South Carolina, in 2015. The window openings have been covered with plywood since 2017.
The setting is especially prominent in the imposing Gothic Revival Cathedral, which is replete with iconography depicting American history in glass, stone, and other media, with images ranging from presidents to famous cultural figures and symbols of the state.
The cathedral, also the seat of the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church and the Diocese of Washington, is regularly used as a setting for ceremonies related to major national events.
By replacing the windows, the cathedral recognized the need to correct what it called a “false account of what America once was”.
The old windows “were a hindrance to our mission and a hindrance to worship in this place, and they had no place in a sacred space,” the Right Reverend Randolph Marshall Hollerith, dean of the cathedral, said at the meeting. a press conference on Thursday.
“This is a unique opportunity for the cathedral not only to create magnificent art, but also to claim what we value and which we value,” he added.
Marshall, who made his first visit to the cathedral this week, said it was too early to say what the new windows will look like.
“It was really important for me to come here and really get a feel for what the place is, what is already there, what mission they tried to accomplish, and then what to do with it. how I might be able to adapt to the cathedral … needs to achieve its ambition for these windows … in this space, “he said at the press conference.
He noted that the cathedral made it a “monumental” goal that the windows represent the pain as well as the dignity of “the African-American struggle for justice and equality.”
“It’s something that’s actually going to take a long time, because the story itself, as most people know, is a very complicated narrative,” he said.
Hollerith called Marshall “one of the greatest artists of our time” and hailed Alexander as “one of the most eloquent and convincing voices in our country”.
This will be Marshall’s first work in the stained glass medium after a long and acclaimed career using a variety of media to create portraits and other works depicting black lives. Marshall was a MacArthur Fellow in 1997.
Alexander, president of the Mellon Foundation, recited one of his poems during the inauguration of President Barack Obama in 2009 and has published several books, including the Pulitzer Prize finalists.
She said in a statement that she was honored to be part of the cathedral’s “efforts to ensure that those who worship in its sanctuary know that this is truly a space for all and that the stories being relayed through its sacred walls, windows and the like the iconography represents the truth of our nation.
The cathedral loaned the Robert E. Lee window to the National Museum of African American History and Culture for a new exhibit, “Make Good the Promises: Reconstruction and Its Legacies.” The museum said the window represents “the nationwide myth-building and intimidation of African Americans through the adoption of Confederate symbols.”
Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.