By Kathryn Cramer Brown
Independently Published, 2014
Paperback, 24 pages
Reviewed by Catherine Bailey
I read and experienced Stations of the Cross: the Weight of Dust during the Lenten season. It is a small book to be savored, slowly and quietly, and can be enjoyed at any time of year. The author and artist, Kathryn Cramer Brown, known to CFT members as Kathy Pigg, passed away in 2016 but left us with this remembrance of her art and poetry. In her book, she shares a series of clay tiles she created to represent the Stations of the Cross and, with each tile, a poem.
My previous encounters with the Stations have been the traditional, ornate Catholic representations that are richly detailed, golden, and dramatic. Physically moving through the Stations involved an intense study of their images, colors, and drama. The images Kathryn has made with her clay tiles are in stark contrast. They are not without drama, but they are bare, physical, and provocative. The Artist Statement notes that she was inspired by clay as a very physical medium that fits well with the physical act of walking. A clay heart is used to represent the body of Jesus, which, in my view, is the perfect use of symbolism and something that is directly relatable by anyone who experiences the art.
It appears that Kathryn’s artistic side was provoked by her clay Stations, because the poems she chose to accompany each piece were inspired by her completed pieces. As one experiences her work in printed format, the poetry is both complementary and essential as part of the whole. At Station 8, where Jesus meets the women of Jerusalem, Kathryn writes, “With me, at least they could hold my hands and I could comfort them against his pain, for we had grown to love Jesus. I thought, ‘I can keep them safe.’ But can I keep them safe in a world that would do this to Jesus?” Her poetry meets the stark clay tiles with simplicity and emotion.
As I read, I searched for the meaning of “the Weight of Dust” reference in the book’s title. I drew understanding in Kathryn’s Station 13 poem, “The Body Taken Down from the Cross,” which says, in part, “The dust clings to your body now because you did not hide from what you knew of God, and you spoke it clearly.” Upon additional reflection, my thoughts led me to biology. Human bodies are primarily water, but as that water is eliminated — perhaps through fire or time — we are truly dust.
The clay tiles, in real life, measure 10 x 10 inches and I regret to say that I wish the pages of the book were larger to accommodate a closer-to-real size. I believe the variation of the clay, the colors, and the textures would be much more visible and meaningful to the reader/viewer. The white space on each page seems to overwhelm the art when I wish to experience the detail of each piece.
This small and very meaningful book is a lovely coda to Kathy and her artistic and spiritual expression. It also is one that can be shared alone or with others as a devotion whether it is during Lent or at any other contemplative time. We are fortunate that Kathy has left us this remembrance.
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