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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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Crossing meanings

From discarded materials, artist portrays Christ's love

James Quentin Young was trained primarily as a painter. For more than 30 years, though, the retired school art teacher has specialized in another medium: found objects—including wood, metal, plastic, cork, fiber and barbed wire. From these he creates crosses.

“The discarded wood and metal that I use in these crosses portray Christ’s love for all rejected and outcast people,” said the artist, a member of Word of Peace Lutheran Church in Rogers, Minn.

Young constructed his first cross from the parts of an old motor he disassembled. After that, the artist looked for materials wherever he went.

He’s dragged objects out of swamps and lakes and has been a regular at garage sales and construction sites.

From his home in rural Minnesota, he visits farms and dumps too. After so many years, he said, people—“even kids”—know about his work and bring him things.

These items “take on new meaning,” he said, when they become part of an artistic creation.

Influences for his work come from memory and travel. Young, 71, was a child during the Depression and World War II. He recalls that his father taught him “nothing should be wasted.”

When he studied art in Mexico, he was moved, he said, by the crosses he saw “all along the road.”

Recently he’s become fascinated with another Christian symbol, the fish. He constructed one from a piece of battered stovepipe.

Young exhibits his work at galleries, colleges, churches, seminaries and hospitals. His constructions also are in public and private collections in the U.S. and Mexico.

The Vine & Branches gallery in Arden Hills, Minn., displays images of his crosses on its Web site.


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