When -- and if -- you think about the face of Jesus, what comes to mind?
For many people, it's the standard "Head of Christ" by Warner Sallman, even though that European-looking face with light-blue eyes almost certainly looks nothing like the Semitic Jesus. (The Sallman portrait is shown at the left here.)
Still, you can find a copy of that painting in the amazing display at the Broadway Church in Kansas City at 39th Terrace and Broadway.
The collection is called "The Faces of Jesus," and includes dozens and dozens of works of art (about 200 in all) depicting Christ. They line the halls of the church (as shown in the photo above), one corridor after another, and represent what the co-pastor, Paul Smith, has gathered over the years from countless sources.
This is not a museum collection, though there are copies of works of art you will find in a museum by such well-known names as Rembrandt and Dali and Warhol and da Vinci and Raphael and Picasso. Rather, it's simply an amateur collection of old and modern depictions of the face of Jesus of Nazareth. My, what a range.
You see traditional Christs, like Sallman's, along with almost wildly non-traditional Christs -- as, for instance, a man with close-cropped hair in a coat and tie. You see Jesus as black, as Asian, as Navajo.
You see the baby Jesus, the adult Jesus and the Jesus on the cross. One crucifixion painting shows Jesus as a female -- and if you look at it sideways you realize the cross is a birthing table and she is giving birth there.
You see a weeping Jesus (done by a 13-year-old church member), several laughing Christs and some you would be hard-pressed to recognize as Jesus at all.
Religious art has had a famously mixed history, with fights over icons in the Christian Orthodox tradition, the removal of nearly all art in some forms of Protestantism and brutal battles over depictions, such as cartoons, of the Prophet Muhammad.
But in all of this, century after century, people have sought to understand Jesus better by imagining his human face. Paul Smith's collection offers a representative sample of all that, and even if you aren't Christian, it's worth seeing as you think about your own images of God.
The link I've given you to the church will provide you with contact information so you can arrange to go see the display. And if you have a chance while you're there, also look at the angel art displays done by the church's other co-pastor, Marcia C. Fleishman. You may not think of angels in the same way ever again.
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GOD'S SENSE OF HUMOR?
Wide receiver Terrell Owens says "God has a place for me." And what place would that be? Buffalo, N.Y., it turns out. (Insert your own God-Buffalo joke here.) I used to live an hour from Buffalo. I won't call it God-forsaken. Nor will I call it the end of the world, but you can see it from there.
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TODAY'S RELIGIOUS HOLIDAY: Purim (Judaism)