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Object Narratives explicate religious images, objects, monuments, buildings, or spaces in 1500 words or less.

Conversations

MAVCOR began publishing Conversations: An Online Journal of the Center for the Study of Material and Visual Cultures of Religion in 2014. In 2017 we selected a new name, MAVCOR Journal. Articles published prior to 2017 are considered part of Conversations and are listed as such under Volumes in the MAVCOR Journal menu.

  • A pale stone slab is covered with low relief carvings. A central niche holds an ethroned figure carved in higher relief among his attendants. A variety of figures and processional scenes surround him as well as abstract vining and floral motifs.
    Kate Lingley
    This is a Buddhist votive stele made in the sixth century in north central China. It probably stood either in the courtyard of a Buddhist monastery, or in a public place such as a market square, or at a major crossroads.
  • In a white marble sculpture, a thin woman stands on a pink marble pedestal. She has a small head, elongated limbs, and a curved posture. Her dress falls around her in elaborate drapery. The work stands against a red wall in a museum setting.
    Lauren Lessing
    Given the fact that Benjamin Paul Akers was a Protestant working at a time when nativist and anti-Catholic sentiments ran high in the United States, his choice to depict a miracle performed by an Eastern European saint seems peculiar, as does the popularity of his sculpture.
  • A series of large white and black paintings hangs on the walls of a white gallery space. The white canvases are painted with black lines of differing thicknesses.
    Valerie Hellstein
    According to the art critic Harold Rosenberg there is nothing religious about Barnett Newman’s series of fourteen roughly human-sized, black and white paintings, The Stations of the Cross: Lema Sabachtani.
  • A painting depicts a small child, a woman, and a suited man gathered around two urns on a plinth. They are framed by the drooping leaves of the golden tree that they stand under. The man gestures in oration and the woman leans on the plinth.
    Jamie L. Brummitt
    Mary Lyman’s mourning piece served as visual and material evidence of her education, participation in mourning practices, and her religious and social formation.
  • A woodcut depicts a female-figure holding a small, haloed child close. Hand-colored vignettes surround the group in delineated architectural spaces with patterned borders. The top vignette shows Mary at Christ's crucifixion.
    Lisa Pon
    Forlì's Madonna of the Fire is a large fifteenth-century woodcut almost twenty inches high and sixteen inches wide.
  • A manuscript page with black and red text depicts Christ on a blue, floral cross. A pale, blood-spurting Christ is nailed to the cross. The geometric figure has large open eyes but stiff limbs and drapery. Two angels swoop around the crucifix.
    Lawrence Nees
    The image of Christ on the Cross, either as an element of a narrative scene (a Crucifixion) or as an isolated object of devotion (a Crucifix) is so common in the artistic and religious traditions of the last millennium of Western art, especially but not only in the Catholic tradition, that it is seldom recognized that such images are altogether absent during the first centuries of Christianity, and remain rare at least through the eighth century of the common era.
  • A small red metal heart is fashioned with a white and blue banner unfurled across it. The banner is inscribed with "te Amo" in black, handwritten script. Abstract, metal flames emerge from the top of the heart.
    David Morgan
    This object was purchased in an upscale novelty shop catering to tourists in downtown Boulder, Colorado, in 2010 for $11.95. Although at first blush it appears to be a Sacred Heart of Jesus, on second look the banner, which reads “te amo,” Spanish for “I love you,” indicates that the heart may not belong to Jesus.
  • A large, shiny jade figure sits cross-legged on a carved platform. The head is gold with large eyes, long earlobes, a black topknot, and serene expression. It holds a small black object. The figure sits against a red background and among yellow flowers.
    David L. McMahan
    Numerous photographs appear to reveal what adherents are calling “mandala lights” around the Jade Buddha for Universal Peace as it makes its way around the world on a tour of Buddhist temples, monasteries, town squares, and museums.
  • Gray, jagged stones stand in the foreground of a photo that captures a stone architectural ruins and green mountains in the background.
    Claudia Brittenham
    For the Inca, the landscape was both sacred and animate, full of forces that demanded respect and offerings. Distant mountain peaks, called apu—a term of respect meaning “lord”—were among the most powerful of these forces.
  • A woman sculpted of gray stone emerges from a rocky outcropping. She reaches her arms out over a sculpted basket with two thin birds in front of it and small chicks underneath it.
    Karil J. Kucera
    To most modern visitors, the Chicken-Feeding Girl displays the stereotypical concern of a doting mother, and a number of scholars have described this image as representative of the pastoral life of the region during the Song Dynasty (960—1279 CE). While this is in fact one way to interpret the work, the Song dynasty audience for Chicken-Feeding Girl read her presence at the site in an entirely different manner.
  • Stained glass windows with red, yellow, and blue panels let colorful light in on a cozy and cluttered room. It is filled with couches, chairs, tables, and rugs,
    Gretchen Buggeln
    Lake View Lutheran Church on Chicago’s north side is the fourth building of a congregation founded by Scandinavian immigrants in 1848. About 1960, demographic changes pushed the congregation to relocate and rebuild.
  • A wooden sculpture depicts a skeletal figure pulling a bow and arrow taunt. He has a flat chest imprinted with ribs, a head of wispy gray hair and large teeth, and oversized hands.
    Miguel de Baca
    This dramatic death cart is an object that was used in acts of corporal penance performed by the Hermanos de la Fraternidad Piadosa de Nuestro Padre Jesús Nazareno (Brothers of the Pious Fraternity of Our Father Jesus of Nazareth).

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