I mentioned last week that I was using the St. Louis Regional Arts App (Stl Arts in the App Store) to explore the arts in and around St. Louis. I went to a lot of galleries and museums, but the biggest surprise came when I stumbled upon the Museum of Contemporary and Religious Art (MOCRA) on St. Louis University’s campus. It is an interfaith museum that exhibits works with spiritual or religious themes. It’s the first of its kind in the world and is housed in an old church that was acquired by the university in 1991 and then converted into a museum.
The work on display until Dec. 11th is that of Erika Diettes. She is a Columbian artist who has made it her mission to tell the story of the suffering and pain of the people of Columbia. She interviewed and photographed women who were forced to witness the murder and torture of their loved ones as a result of Columbia’s long running armed conflict and social unrest. These photographs were then printed on large panels of silk, almost resembling burial shrouds, and then hung from the ceiling of MOCRA. Together these large panels create an almost an ethereal feel as they billow as visitors walk past. To say the whole exhibit is somber is an understatement, but it is touching and memorable as a result.
Diettes’ art is not normally displayed in museums. She wanted her art to remain in the communities in which the atrocities occurred so as to honor those people who lost their lives. However, this often meant displaying art in very small villages in rural Columbia where there were no museums to be found. As a result, her art was often displayed in churches, where the pieces received almost memorial-type treatment, with family adding candles or other personal artifacts. That is exactly why Diettes thought MOCRA to be a good fit to exhibit her new portraits: the museum, with its vaulted ceilings and stained glass windows, still feels much like a house of worship.
The museum is open Tuesday thru Sunday 11:00 -4 :00.