On Faith, (2015) came to fruition during a 10-week residency in Bourglinster, Luxembourg through the Museum of Wisconsin Art, the Luxembourg Ministry of Culture, and in support by Ansay Development Corporation. It was terrifying and yet delightful to not only conceive of a new body of work but then to execute it in a new country in under 10 weeks.
Personally, I have always wanted to do a project on the church, having been raised in an acutely evangelical Christian home. Exploring the quaint villages that dot the Luxembourg countryside I found that the church was almost always the tallest point and center of the town. A key point of interest to me was the estimated 68.7% Catholic country decided to separate church and state only a few weeks prior to my arrival. But the final deciding factor was attending mass during carnival as part of my initial research on the church. The mood was very festive among the huge turnout. During the homily, which was in Luxembourgish (in other words, I had no idea of what the priest specifically said), the priest had the entire audience laughing and listening attentively. I was struck by the vibrant intimacy. This, coupled with the newly separate church and state, made me curious about the huge cultural shift that would transpire for both avid church-goers and the occasional attendee. The church was/is exceptionally tied to the state and to the people. This is evident through the religious curriculum in public schools (although no longer), Saint-Paul Luxembourg (of which the Catholic church is the majority and only shareholder) owning the largest paper in Luxembourg, and the significant defunding of government funds to the church.
People are incredibly complex, which drives my constant curiosity as to what people see, how they interpret, and why they behave as they do. I left the church after I left my parents’ home. I assumed the church was lagging with my and younger generations. I began to question who still believed, who attended, and why. I wanted to know their stories, rituals, and the root of their faith, perhaps out of my own jealousy in their ability to believe.
After much legwork, I created 30 portraits of various church figures: parishioners, priests, a nun, a monk, and even church employees who weren’t necessarily believers. I also did intimate audio interviews with all of my subjects. This and recordings of church sounds culminated in a 4-channel audio installation. To my delight, I was able to photograph and interview the priest who gave the stirring homily at carnival. Additionally, I photographed many of the publicly-open churches as a way to record-keep given current speculation
many village churches will have to close without funds from the state.
During the audio interviews, I asked my subjects how they believed the separation would affect the church and the community. Although they were very concerned about the future of children who would not be raised with Catholicism in the classroom, many ultimately felt it was a good thing because the church had become too wealthy and in the process, lost the integral heart of the community. Priests and parishioners felt the church needed to be poor to return to its roots and true place within the minds, hearts, and souls of the people.
Indeed, to believe is vast richness.