Stations of the Cross, 1958–1966. Photos by Barnett Newman on WikiArt.T
his text/sound collaboration between Dave Griffith and Kyle Peets is an excerpt from Days Between Stations, their fourteen-part audio project set during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic. The text reflects on Griffith’s experience viewing for the first time Barnett Newman’s fourteen-painting series Stations of the Cross: Lema Sabachthani (1958–1966). The viewing was not in person but online at Griffith’s dining room table.
The project takes as its inspiration the Stations of the Cross or Way of the Cross, a religious ritual carried out during the Christian season of Lent in which participants memorialize the Passion of Jesus by praying, singing, and processing before special icons depicting his journey to his crucifixion.
While not intended to be explicitly religious, Days Between Stations does borrow the narrative structure and the narrative device of tableaux from the ritual. It also draws on the rich literary tradition of walking as an aid to personal reflection and as a means of exploring the isolation, longing, and grief experienced by many during the pandemic.
The text and accompanying ambient music were composed independently of one another during the pandemic at a distance of over 2,000 miles—Griffith in Indiana and Peets in Oregon. They did not have access to each other’s work during the composition. This was to ensure that any synchronicities would be accidental, though in the sound mixing stage, some musical choices were made to accentuate textual decisions.
An e-book version of the original MoMA exhibition of Newman’s paintings can be viewed here.
Dave Griffith is an essayist and educator and the author of A Good War Is Hard to Find: The Art of Violence in America (Soft Skull Press). His essays and reviews have appeared in print and online at the Paris Review, the Normal School, the Utne Reader, Killing the Buddha, and Image, among others.
Kyle Peets is a multidisciplinary artist and educator who has exhibited his work nationally and abroad. He has had solo exhibitions at Platte Forum gallery (Denver, CO), as well as various group exhibitions, including Character Profile at Root Division gallery (San Francisco, CA), Art Is Our Last Hope at the Phoenix Art Museum (Phoenix, AZ), and Art Shanty on the frozen White Bear Lake (Minneapolis, MN). He received his MFA in printmaking from the University of Iowa, as well as a graduate certificate in book arts from the Iowa Center for the Book.
NER Digital is New England Review’s online project dedicated to original creative nonfiction for the web. “Confluences” presents writers’ encounters with works of art such as books, plays, poems, films, paintings, sculptures, or buildings.