Where does faith manifest in a community? For Boston-based artist Allan Rohan Crite belief and social connection start in spaces of worship, but extend outside to the urban environment and into private homes. Crite not only created art in churches, religious bulletins, illustrations of spirituals, and vestments—radically portraying central figures of the faith as people of the African diaspora—but also located religious experience in vibrantly lived urban spaces. For Crite, art provided a means of creating community through shared spiritual values. Interweaving faith, identity, and community, he piously embraced the Christian teachings and challenged African American caricatures. He portrayed the people of Boston’s neighborhoods as ordinary Americans and extraordinary religious figures, visualizing religion as rooted in contemporary American society. This paper will examine Crite’s work in the context of Christianity, and the visualization of Christian themes, as a central component of African American art and history. Enslaved Africans adopted Christianity’s power, principles, and practices to blaze a path to freedom and deliverance. By exploring the unique relationship between Crite and his engagement with Christian subjects, this presentation–which is connected to an exhibition at Munson-Williams- Proctor Arts Institute, Allan Rohan Crite: Let My People Go, (Spring 2022)–will contribute to a vital conversation regarding the complexity of African American experiences as well as the place of religion in contemporary art.
Martina Tanga, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Miranda Hofelt, Munson-Williams Proctor Arts Institute
Presented at the College Art Association Annual Conference, 2021
PANEL: Contemporary Artists in Religious Spaces, organized by the Association of Scholars of Christianity in the History of Art Jonathan Anderson, King’s College London and James Romaine, The Association of Scholars of Christianity in the History of Art