The Museum of Contemporary Religious Art, or MOCRA for short, is located conveniently on the campus of St. Louis University. It is an interfaith museum containing religious art that is contemporary with the times. The museum strives to keep ongoing dialogue between the contemporary artists who display work at MOCRA. The following link will bring you to the MOCRA website to explore, http://www.slu.edu/mocra.
With all the turmoil in today's society the differences in religion and practice has come to light. Some would use these differences to separate and divide good-hearted people in the name of religion. America is a place where people come to practice religion however they please without persecution or discrimination. MOCRA is a pronounced example of this freedom on display. As Andrew Dewdney, David Disbosa, and Victoria Walsh put it, museums have changed from “an overtly controlled and supervised space to a more public oriented environment ... in which the visitor was both directly acknowledged and encouraged to speak back to the gallery." MOCRA is a place where anyone of any background can spend an afternoon reflecting on and engaging socially-conscious religious artworks.
Michael Tracy's Triptych "spoke to me the most. When I look at art I think of what the artist had to do to create the piece and what their state of mind was during the process of creating. In this piece I saw very raw powerful emotion. That was very overwhelming. I can't imagine this piece was constructed delicately nor thoughtlessly. This is the artist’s reaction and interpretation of the most sorrowful part of the holy Bible as it relates to the sorrow of Latin American trials and tribulations.
MOCRA seeks to recognize the differences in religion and use them not for division, but rather as a tool for its patrons to celebrate and come together as a group. The museum acts as a place for people to heal and search for interfaith understanding. So rather than attack another religion because it's not your own, patrons can use MOCRA as a place to seek understanding. People fear what they don’t understand, so seeking this understanding can bring people together by increasing the respect for one another's beliefs.
The art at MOCRA garners a wide variety of reactions from its patrons. All of the art is visually stunning, but works such as Dean Kessmann's "Untitled (Wafer and Wine/Blood Cells)," "Vessel" by Donald Grant, and “Free Element” evoke a very powerful and profound response. To each individual the art means something different. Even though the artist may want to display a certain message, that message is up for the individual to create for themselves. Several current SLU students were asked on a recent class visit which piece exhibited at MOCRA was their favorite piece of art. One student said “The piece of the water and the wine/ blood cells speaks to me. It is describing the interaction between science and religion which is fascinating to me. It asks if science is capable of giving undeniable confirmation of the truths believers hold through faith.” Another also responded with “I really admire the Living Proof collection, for I like how the artist incorporated the people's stories under their photo. I feel like the artwork comes alive: when you know the photographed prospective. I think this says that I really value connections among people through relationships.”
“The face of the Columbian woman spoke out to me almost immediately. Experiencing so much terror, and for so many years… It leaves me feeling empty and angry. How can we let things get so bad? Who will change them? This resonates with me as I look at this collection.”
At MOCRA the current exhibit is a collection of black and white portraits of women who have been affected by drug wars in Columbia. Artist Erika Diettes places these portraits on large silk sheets which flow with the current of air in the main space of the MOCRA. Diettes interviewed women who saw their family members tortured and at the moment in their story when they felt the most pain in remembrance, she captured a photo. All of the women display show an enormous amount of raw emotion that can be felt just looking at them. Besides a few crucifix necklaces there is not a large emphasis on a particular religion. The exhibit contains a certain reality and emotion that penetrates through all religions which is embodied by the delicate transparent silk. Anybody who has experienced pain of a lost loved one knows all too well the pain of these women. Erika Diettes’ art follows Thomas Martland’s thesis that such artworks are "initiating actions, rather than reactions.” In Sudarios, Diettes wanted to capture the emotions of those that have undergone tremendous tragedies, not only in the Colombian drug wars, but as well as the concentration camp survivors. She draws inspiration from her heritage as a Colombian as well as her Jewish husband’s past. As an artist overall, her work is subtle and delicate yet overflow with authentic emotions.
Overall, MOCRA displays several types of Christian art. The art speaks to several aspects of the religion including the tradition of Mary, a prominent figure in Christianity, and her tenderness and devotion. Being a modern Jesuit university, the art tends to lend itself towards an abstract idea of Christianity, including the expression of the faith, as well as the struggle that many went through to develop the religion. MOCRA does all of this in a tasteful manner, one that does not just mimic classic pieces but brings fresh ideas and emotions. MOCRA furthers Christianity in Saint Louis by being a safe and welcoming place to explore the faith and those who practice it.
Content researched, written, and compiled by Jesus Aguayo, Danielle Cox, Kevin Green, Emma Hupp, James Oslovich. Documentary created by Jesus Aguayo.
Buggeln, Gretchen, Crispin Paine, and Brent Plate, eds. Religion in Museums. London and New York: Bloomsbury, 2017. Print.
Dewdney, Andrew, David Disbosa, and Victoria Walsh. Post-Critical Museology: Theory and Practice in the Art Museum. New York: Routledge, 2013. Print.
Martland, Thomas R. Religion as Art an Interpretation. Albany: State U of New York, 1981. Print.
MOCRA EXHIBITIONS. Digital images. Museum Of Contemporary Art. Saint Louis University, Fall 2013. Web. 11 Nov. 2016.
"Mocra Tour Interview." Personal interview. 21 Oct. 2016.
"Mocra Patron Interview." Personal interview. 21 Nov. 2016.
"Museum of Contemporary Religious Art," Saint Louis University MOCRA. Ed. Terrence Dempsey, S.J. David Brinker, n.d. Web. 19 Oct. 2016.