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Kevin Boudreau painted the crucifixion on plywood on the plaza in front of South Church at 90 Main Street, New Britain on Good Friday. Boudreau’s painting offers a fresh perspective and contemporary interpretation of one of the defining events for the Christian Faith, The Rev. George Harris, South Church Lead Pastor, said. Rev. Harris conceived the Good Friday project after noting that some traditional observances of Good Friday in New Britain were lightly attended. Perhaps a very public expression of the crucifixion with a contemporary twist would bring attention to and invite conversation about the meaning of the brutal death of Christ on the cross, he said. At 5 p.m. after the painting was to have been completed, Friday Pastor Harris was to share a prayer of remembrance for all those who, like Jesus, have experienced betrayal, persecution, suffering and death.
NEW BRITAIN — Local graffiti artist Kevin J. Boudreau spent Good Friday painting a mural depicting his modern take on the crucifixion at South Congressional First Baptist Church. Throughout the course of the day, spectators took time to discuss what the painting meant to them.
Joel Huntington from West Hartford wasn’t quite sure what to make of the mural.
“It’s interesting,” said Huntington. “Jesus is depicted as an everyman, indicated by the tie around his neck. I’m not sure how to feel about it. I certainly don’t see Christ as an everyman. However, there’s justification since he died for our sins.”
Patricia Brossart, a New Britain resident and church member, thought the mural would speak of her faith.
“At South Church we have a saying, ‘The church is the heart of the city, for the heart of the city.’ It being Good Friday, we want to speak of our faith. We would like for all the people in the city to be a witness.”
Boudreau began his work on an 8-by-12-foot plywood canvas at 9 a.m. As he stood on a step ladder, spray painting the outlines of his work, a crowd of spectators gathered around.
At 3 p.m. the South Church tower tolled a funeral bell, commemorating the hour of Jesus’ death. Boudreau climbed down from his ladder and stood with the crowd in a moment of silence.
Boudreau then returned to his mural which at that point was half finished. The painting depicted Jesus Christ on the cross to a backdrop of bright clouds. Jesus wore a tattered business suit with fingerless gloves, and half a purple bra. When Boudreau finished painting Jesus’ legs, one was clad in a fishnet stocking with dollar bills sticking out the top.
Boudreau later spoke of the inspiration for his work.
The Rev. George Harris, South Church pastor, “requested that we come up with something new for the crucifixion,” said Boudreau. “We talked about the body of the church representing Jesus. He wanted to include every type of lifestyle, and mentioned the homeless and prostitution. After the meeting I thought about the idea as I drove home. The next day at work, I drew up a sketch and George said he liked where it was going.”
Topher Orozco, a Newington resident, said he was not very religious, but liked the concept.
“It’s a little controversial to more traditional churchgoers,” said Orozco. “It involves aspects of life that I don’t think the church necessarily condones. I’m glad to see this church open to the idea and not being closed minded. It’s like the sign outside says, they’re a more open and affirming church.”
Emily Goodnow, a New Haven resident and seminarian at the church, thought the painting was powerful.
“I think it’s a beautiful reworking of a tragic moment that each of us continues to experience in our lives,” said Goodnow. “I’m grateful for the way it’s helping me in understanding what a modern crucifixion would look like. As a young woman, I’m particularly haunted and intrigued that Jesus has a breast.”
New Britainite Eveny Recuero stopped to admire the painting as she passed by pushing a stroller.
“It looked like there are different pieces of it,” said Recuero. “He’s wearing a glove like a bum. He could be anyone among us and you don’t know who he could be. Some people around town don’t treat him well.”
As he completed the painting, the Rev. Harris climbed up on the ladder and nailed a handwritten cardboard sign onto the painted cross. The sign bore a Biblical quote: “Truly I will tell you, Just as you just did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me. Matthew 25:40.”
Boudreau was pleased with the outcome of his work.
“It turned out good,” said Boudreau. “Everything went smooth. I’m just happy I didn’t fall off the ladder.
The Rev. Harris met Boudreau several years ago through a community service program.
“Kevin did a mural in the church about four or five years ago on a wall behind my office desk,” he said. “He was at a connection with one of our members. He had gotten arrested for painting graffiti on a bridge and said he needed to do community service.”
The Rev. Harris commissioned Boudreau to paint a picture of the Good Samaritan story, in which the biblical characters were replaced with everyday people.
“Rather than just having him push a mop around the church, I decided he might make a contribution as an artist,” said Harris. “We kept in touch through Facebook and around town.”
Boudreau’s mural was commissioned to remind people of the importance of Good Friday. “This is an effort to get people to talk about what Good Friday means in our lives today,” said the Rev. Harris.
Boudreau’s painting will be challenging to some and inspiring to others, offering a fresh perspective and contemporary interpretation of one of the defining events for the Christian Faith, church officials say.
South Church Lead Pastor, the Rev. George Harris, conceived the Good Friday project after noting that some traditional observances of Good Friday are lightly attended. Perhaps a very public expression of the crucifixion with a contemporary twist would bring attention to and invite conversation about the meaning of the brutal death of Christ on the cross, he reasons.
Several years ago Boudreau painted a large mural of the Good Samaritan story on the wall behind the pastor’s desk, replacing the biblical characters in the story with “everyday people” from the world today. That mural project excited the congregation and continues to intrigue visitors to South Church, Rev. Harris says. Since then, the pastor has followed Boudreau’s career as an artist with interest and knew immediately that he was the right person for this event.
Boudreau is known for his edgy, colorful, surreal compositions reflecting on struggle, suffering and death. He brings his experience as a graffiti and tattoo artist together with education and training in fine arts to create bold, beautiful and provocative murals and oil paintings.
An introduction to Boudreau can be found at http://kjbfineart.com/about-kevin-j-boudreau/
Beginning at 9 a.m. and continuing to 5 p.m. Good Friday, Boudreau will paint Christ on the cross on an 8-by-12-foot plywood “canvas” on the South Church steps. Boudreau and the painting will be visible to thousands as they pass by on the sidewalk or drive through the Arch/Chestnut/Main streets intersection. At 3 p.m., the hour of Jesus’ death, the South Church tower chimes will peal a funeral toll, and at 5 p.m. the Rev. Harris will share a prayer of remembrance for all those who, like Jesus, have experienced betrayal, persecution, suffering and death.
The public is invited to linger on the sidewalk to be witnesses to oppression, suffering and violent death in our world today. Then the painting will be taken down to prepare the way for the resurrection and new life of Easter morning.