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Luce Foundation Center for American Art

Folk Art: Folk Reliefs: Christ Carrying the Cross
Christ Carrying the Cross


Christ Carrying the Cross
about 1972
Elijah Pierce
wood, paper, paint and stones
24 3/4 x 20 x 7/8 in. (62.9 x 50.8 x 2.2 cm.)
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of Herbert Waide Hemphill, Jr. and museum purchase made possible by Ralph Cross Johnson
1986.65.260
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“I enjoy [religious work] the most. You know, some great writer once said, ‘One picture is worth a thousand words.’ And I thought of the book, The Bible: one picture is worth a thousand of those words! So my mind just went thatta way.” The artist, quoted in Elijah Pierce Wood Carver, The Columbus Gallery of Fine Arts, 1973, exhibition catalogue


Elijah Pierce described his carvings as sermons, and used them to teach people about the Bible (Elijah Pierce Wood Carver, The Columbus Gallery of Fine Arts, 1973, exhibition catalogue). This carving shows Christ with the cross just before he was crucified. Pierce filled the image with swirling colors and gesturing figures to evoke the crowds of people who witnessed Jesus’s crucifixion, although it is difficult to tell whether they are cheering or weeping over his impending death.


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