- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 18, 2000

A 38-year-old Scottish sculptor has won a commission to produce a depiction of Jesus Christ in flesh-colored Fiberglas that fits the ethos of the 21st century.

The winner of this invitation-only contest had the option of portraying Christ through any kind of media he chose.

Kenny Hunter, an Edinburgh native who works out of Glasgow, won the $17,500 award and up to $52,500 for materials to produce a fairly traditional life-sized figure of Christ. Called "The Man Walks Amongst Us," the piece portrays Jesus walking out of the Jordan River on his way to face 40 days of fasting and temptation in the Judean desert.

"So often in art, Christ is depicted as passive," Mr. Hunter said. "I aim to portray him as active. Christ as the agitator, the troublemaker, a man with action in his life. Through the work, I hope to convey a message to both Christians and non-Christians about the man whose life has given society a moral measure."

Glasgow's St. Mungo Museum of Religious Life and Art already owns one of the world's most powerful 20th-century religious paintings: surrealist Salvador Dali's "Christ of St. John of the Cross," which shows a crucified Christ suspended between heaven and earth. The City Council sponsored this contest in an effort to produce a depiction of Jesus for the coming century. Mr. Hunter's sculpture, which is expected to be completed by August, will go on display there.

"We were overwhelmed by the level of research and thought which the artists put into their proposals," said the Rev. John Riches, chairman of the eight-member Jesus 2000 Commission that selected the finalists and the winning entry. Mr. Riches is also a biblical studies professor at Glasgow University. The commission also included a local newspaper art critic, a modern art museum curator, four persons from the religious community, and two City Council members.

The contest could have produced a politically correct art piece, like the winner of the National Catholic Reporter contest to update the image of Christ for the new millennium. Announced in December, the winner is a dark-skinned Jesus that the artist painted using a woman as a model.

Mr. Hunter's entry was nowhere near as radical. It was selected over five other finalists. One proposed a painting of "a naked male figure suspended in darkness. His body would show distinct signs of physical trauma in forensic detail." Other entries included a tableau of religious art history and a video of a foot-washing ceremony.

Mr. Hunter said his sculpture represents a "wilderness of the soul" of Jesus, where "all the outpourings of His imagination are in turns misunderstood, rebuffed, ignored, mocked and would eventually result in His death."

"As well as this sense of separation from the rest of us, He displays a double-sided nature. On the one hand, an enormous compassion for the human condition. On the other, we find in Him a burning anger against all systems, religious or political, that come between God and the poor of the earth. This anger and compassion, this furious pity, is what I aim to capture in the face of Christ."

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