Jeansus Christ

29/05/09 | Posted by MattPage

When an 87 year-old lady Winifred Gregory died last year she left her parish church a substantial sum of money. After much deliberation Father David Buckley and his Uckfield congregation decided to commission a new, modern statue to hang on the church's tower. The winner was a seven foot bronze statue, sculpted by Marcus Cornish, which shows Jesus in modern attire. "Jesus in Jeans", as the statue has quickly become known, not only depicts Christ in Jeans and a T-shirt, but also shows him with short hair and a neatly trimmed beard.

 Marcus Cornish’s Statue

Father Buckley was keen to explain the reasoning behind the statue. “You are always looking for new ways to enrich people in the experience of Christianity”. “We felt this design summed up the spirit and activity of Christ perfectly”. Miss Gregory had, he said, been “a very outward looking lady, in her old age” and so the church had been keen for a statue that would be “for all people, whether they were Christian or whether they had no sort of religious faith at all.”

Cornish’s statue is the latest in a series of headline grabbing sculptures over the last decade. The dawn of the new millennium witnessed Mark Wallinger’s slight, and shaven-headed <i>Ecce Homo</i> standing on the fourth plinth in Trafalgar Square. Two years ago a statue of Jesus made entirely of chocolate caused outrage whilst this Easter a Swedish church unveiled a 5’8” model of Jesus built from 30,000 white lego bricks.

The statue’s appearance is as welcoming as its open arms and “Jesus in Jeans” certainly seems to be popular with the town’s locals. Over 200 people voted for it during last year’s commissioning process (compared to just 14 against). And when BBC cameras shown up eager to capture some contrasting opinions, the worst that was said against it was that it was “a bit drab”. Bloggers have been less kind. One said it looked like he was “playing soccer in a wind tunnel”.

Whilst attempts to modernise Jesus’ image are certainly welcome, this one seems just a little conservative. Denim jeans may have seemed rebellious in the 50s, but by the mid-90s they were beginning to be seen as, well…drab, resulting in a slump in sales due to the “Jeremy Clarkson effect”. They hardly seem like the trousers of choice for a radical northern revolutionary. The statue is unlikely to offend anyone, but only because it is hopelessly bland. I would have liked to see Cornish’s trying to communicate something of who Jesus was, and why it is actually worth making him “relevant”. The real Jesus had a message, not just an inoffensive wardrobe.

Bizzarely, Jesus’ original clothing was actually noteworthy. The soldiers at the foot of the cross ended up playing snake eyes to compete for the honour of taking them home. It’s hard to imagine anyone even tossing a coin for the chance to take home his outfit here.

You can see more artistic interpretations in our Faces of Jesus module.

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