Letters U-S-A: African Rosewood, Kiaat, Partridge, Zebrawood, Stinkwood, Zimbabwean Teak
Letters C-R and D-E: American Walnut
Crosses: stained Jacaranda and Philippine Mahogany
Base: pine plywood
Dimensions: 128 x 250cm
One morning, in September, 2008, a few days before the crash of the New York stock exchange, I was in the underground train, on my way to the New York Botanical Gardens in the Bronx. As the cliché would have it, it was a bright and sunny day and I resorted to reading the advertisments in the headspace above the compartment. One advertisement, by an investment corporation, caught my eye. The corporation saw its noble task as a ‘crusade’ to help everyone invest their money wisely. Years of filling in crossword puzzles made me look at the word ‘crusade’ more intently and suddenly the letters ‘USA’ jumped out at me.
The cross is a symbol of death by slow and immense torture. It was introduced to the world by the Romans who excecuted their enemies and criminals on erect crosses in public so as to demonstrate unambiguously what will happen to anyone daring to oppose their order.
A cross, itself, is often believed to carry magical powers. Believers kiss and fondle it so as to invoke the love and mercy of God. For centuries so-called ‘splinters of the original cross’ were sold in market places all over the world to believers who would include it as powerful objects in their prayer shrines. It is said that if one were to collect all the splinters of the true cross on might easily have enough wood to construct an entire fleet of sailing ships.
Because Christ was crucified, the cross became the definitive symbol of the christian faith. Most churches are marked by a cross and countless Christian believers wear a cross on their necks. The shape of the cross, in heraldry, is further stylised in many ways to carry enhance a particular type of meaning. The four members of the crux alisee patee, for example, are so shaped as to open up in circular arcs towards their extremities. The word alisee means ‘rounded’. Patée or is the heraldic way of indicating the general form of the cross as spreading in all directions. Patée is derived from the Latin patulus which means, ‘wide open’, ‘extensive’. In English, patulenceaptly expresses such an outward spreading. The shape of the crux alisee patée is therefore symbolic of the extent to which the cross can reach out into the wider regions of the world.
In heraldry a field of crosses is is called a crux seme, the seme or ‘sewn’ is from the Latin semen, meaning ‘seed’. A crux seme indicates an orderly sewing or planting of the cross in a field in order to spread its message in anticipation of the fruits and harvest that will follow. The background or field of my assemblage Crusade is a crux seme, but I prefer to deviate from the normal orderly rows found in the tradition heraldic crux seme. My crosses, in their hundreds, are disorderly collapsed.
The crusades were well-inteded efforts by Christians from all over the world to sew the seeds of the cross in far-away lands. They focused mainly on Palestine, the country where Christ was originally crucified. Unfortunately the crusades often disintegrated into blood shedding because the recalcitrant ‘enemy’ refused to yield and be converted. Massacres and plunderings often occurred and the word ‘crusade’ became an embarrasment and a shame. The ‘heathen’and the Muslims in particular see the crusades as gross human rights violations and they take offense to the word. It is hard to understand how Christians can still be proud of the word ‘crusade’ as if it personif