MFA Thesis Exhibition: A Fall From Grace
A Fall From Grace” is a multi-layered story told through the voices of now elderly women that were a part of a Charismatic Movement known as the “Prayer Band”. This movement took place during the early 1970's through the early 2000's. It was comprised of single black women and children who followed in the footsteps of a self-governed spiritual leader. Forming her own ministry and controlling the lives of all participants in any way possible, the leader manipulated them into believing that leaving the group would bring harm to their children. This movement evolved from a traditional Christian based organization, The First Church of God in Christ. This started as a simple Saturday noonday prayer for members to meet and pray together, but soon after the woman leading the noonday prayer started to quickly reshape and form her own ministry. The Church began to reject her teachings because it went against their doctrine and this led to the beginning and Rise of “The Prayer Band.” Control, fear, punishment, isolation, and ridicule also kept them from leaving the group. They were not allowed to make any decisions without the consent of the leader, or they would be severely reprimanded in front of other members. Convincing both the participants and herself that she was the intermediary between God on behalf of all the women in the group. She considered herself the voice of God, referring to herself as “Black Jesus in the Flesh” and “The Queen of the South.” Isolated from the outside world, all non- Prayer Band relationships were destroyed. As “the way, the truth, and the light” her tyranny maintained the final say. This group of women lived a very fearful life for over two decades before they were able to gain the strength and courage to move away and start a new life. This series gives a voice to the women that were silenced through mental, physical and emotional abuse and their transition that led them to where they are today. This series is a multimedia project that includes, photography, paintings, sculptures, and stained-glass pieces. This project is a complex layering of stories, that illustrates the lives of the remaining women who are willing to tell their stories and their long recovery back to their faith. Belief and Faith are powerful and in misguiding hands, it can take you from the highest mountain to the lowest valley. A tale of misplaced trust, a fall from grace, and a prayer of hope tell the story of how the “Prayer Band” members persevered to give their families a new start. These women have continued their strong walk of faith and believe when you take your eyes off of God, you lose focus and fall from grace.
Church Mother includes plaster molds of my Grandmother and four aunt’s faces. These sculptures are symbolic of their lives and journey along the way. Each statue is about their height in real life. I wanted these sculptures to be their height so they could look at themselves and reflect on their faith journey and also how far they have come. Their eyes are closed to show them in a meditative state and them praying to God. Each individual is wearing their “Sunday’s Best” hat that best describes their personality.
The bronze represents a sense of calmness and sincerity. I wanted the statues to resemble that of a religious icon or diety. The pewter green shows times and them being seasoned saints. Each book represents their story from them as a small child, Prayer Band, faith journey, and where they are now. The books are aged and warped because no one’s story is perfect, and everyone goes through trials and tribulations. On each statue, the books are divided into sections. Each section rotates as a reminder life can take you in many directions.
Mother Pace is the Matriarch of the family and the oldest of the sisters. She lived in D.C. and moved to New York City to be with her sisters. Mother Pace was a snazzy dresser and shopped only at the high-end stores in Manhattan. Everything about her said she liked to be fashionable with clothing and her home decorating. She retired from hotel management and is currently one of the Mothers’ of her Church. She believes that “If you give God all of you, then you will receive all that God has for you.” Her wisdom and life experience have truly been an inspiration for the younger generations.
Mother Adejumobie moved to New York City and paved the way for her sisters to follow. All the sisters were very close, and they all worked together to accommodate each other. Mother Adejunmobie was very affluent and very well known in her community. She often traveled with her husband and family and was often referred to as the Black Brady Bunch. She also worked in the medical field as a nurse because helping people was her calling. She is currently a Mother of the Church, speaks at women conferences, and believes that everything she went through made her relationship with God unbreakable.
Mother Dukes has always been the most serious one of the sisters. She was often mistaken for being older because she was very mature. Her journey and walk of faith continue to guide her footsteps. She has always been a dedicated and firm believer in the Gospel. She also knew that God had called her to be a Solider in the Army of the Lord. Mother Dukes is retired from nursing, but she has always had a passion for helping the sick and shut-in. Mother Dukes has a degree in Theology and speaks at women conferences at her church. She says she will continue on this journey with all those that believe in his holy name.
Mother Craig grew up in a small town in South Carolina and was eager to come to New York City and join her other sisters. They all lived under one roof and helped to care for each other. She has always had a passion for cooking, and her family says her fried chicken is the “best in the Carolinas.” She had a special gift that reached and comforted her patients. She has since retired from both the medical field and child care. Mother Craig truly believes that a family that prays together stays together. She continues to spread the Gospel wherever she goes and welcomes friends and family to always join in with her in a word of prayer.
God has always had his hands on her life since she was a young girl. In the late 1950’s she survived a terrible car accident in a small town in South Carolina. She was considered a miracle child, and her walk of faith with God has only become stronger. God gave her the gift to work with children in primary learning in schools and churches. She has received great notoriety for the enormous impact she had with her students in the Public School System. Mother Miles loves to study the Bible and is currently pursuing a degree in theology.
All of the sisters choose a biblical figure they thought best represents their life and story best.
Red: Not surprisingly represents the blood of Christ or the martyrdom of saints. It also represents Jesus’ blood and sacrifice and could also indicate strong emotions such as love or hate.
Blue: Is associated with the color of the sky and therefore symbolizes heaven, hope, sincerity, and piety- like the Virgin Mary.
Green: Is the color of grass and nature and represents growth and rebirth, life over death.
Violet: A bold color symbolizing love, truth, passion, and suffering.
White: Is a representation of chastity, innocence, and purity and is often associated with God.
Black: A very rarely seen color in stained glass on churches it has connotations of both death and regeneration.
Yellow: The color most used in depictions of Judas and sometimes used to symbolize treachery. It can also be used to indicate the halo of saints, or the Gates of Heaven and to symbolize divinity, power, and glory.
Purple: Since it is thought that Christ wore purple before his crucifixion the color often symbolize suffering and endurance; purple is also used to depict royalty or God the Father.
Gray: This color is a symbol of humility and mourning and can also be seen representing the immortality of the spirit.
Brown: Used as a symbol of spiritual death and renunciation of worldly things.
Leaving behind a comfortable life, Sarah followed her husband and began to live a nomadic life. She had faith in God’s promise to her husband, Abraham. For many years Sarah was childless and grieved because of this. In due time God affirmed Sarah would have Abraham’s child.
Just like Sarah, Fannie Pace was patient and trusted God to fulfill the promises that he made to her.
Queen Esther used her power to prevent a mass genocide of the Jews. Queen Esther found out that an official decree was issued to kill all Jews on a specific day. Queen Esther and her cousin took this information to her husband, King Ahasuerus. Her husband permitted them to issue another decree that allowed the Jews to defend themselves, and from this decree, they defeated their enemies.
Janet Adejunmobiand and Queen Esther both have set examples of courage and modesty. Even when things are difficult, Janet Adejunmobi possesses the courage to stand tall.
Miriam was a prophetess and played a prominent role in Isreal, leading God’s message. Out pride and jealousy, Miriam and Aaron spoke negatively of Moses. God heard everything Miriam and Aaron said. He struck Miriam with leprosy because she continued to talk negatively of Moses. God healed Miriam after Moses pleaded on her behalf; she also accepted the correctness from God.
Mattie Dukes and Esther both accepted God’s correction and allowed God to craft them into his masterpiece.
Abigail was married to a harsh but wealthy man, Nabal. During this time, David was hiding as a fugitive in the region Abigail and Nabal lived. While in hiding, David and his men protected Nabal’s flock from robbers. David’s men asked Nabal for food, but he rudely turned them down. When David found out he and his men set out to kill Nabal. Abigail found out and sent food for David and his men. She pleaded with David, and once he saw her courage and humility, he did not act on his original plan. He saw that God was in Abigail through her spirit and actions.
Dorothy Craig and Abigail were both very humble and discerning women. Dorothy Craig is very clam and handles tense situations with courage and tactfulness.
Ruth became a worshiper of Jehovah in the land of Isreal and left her homeland. She was extremely devoted to her mother-in-law, Naomi. She loved Naomi as if she was her mother. Ruth also wanted to worship her mother-in-laws God, Jehovah. Even after Ruth’s husband died, she remained loyal and stuck with her. Neata Miles and Ruth were both hard-working and devoted. Neata Miles is a very loyal person despite when met with adversity.
The Holy Trinity
God the Father
Gives humanity HOPE
that we will all have
a purpose in the
HOPE that their lives
God the Son
Hold on to your FAITH
and believe that “I
FAITH kept them on their journey
God The Holy Spirit
God is a spiritual
being, and we must
continue to believe in
PROMISE That they would
one day see the blessings
During the Prayer Band, The Queen of the South tried to alter the perspective of the bible. She manipulated and twisted the bible to make it fit into her teaching. The bible sculptures are used to represent the Holy Trinity. Each bible represented a different interpretation of her perspective of the bible. Each piece is recognizable as the bible, but the details in each are different. The crystals in the Bible sculptures, along with the Holy Trinity sculptures, represent transparency. The crystals are formed by undergoing a long process. Just like the crystals, Christians undergo a process by becoming transparent and allowing God to move through their lives.
Praise His Holy Name
There are five bronze hands surrounding a stack of crystalized
bibles. The hands represent all five sisters rejoicing and
celebrating their long walk with God. Each hand represents their
individual praise. When Christians give God thanks, each praise
is different, depending on experiences and individual walks with
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”
King James Version (KJV)
This piece depicts how the Queen of the South tried to mislead The Prayer Band members with her interpretation of the Bible. There is a distinction in the variation of color that shows a transition of light and dark pages. The lighter pages are significant and represent the True Word of God, and the darker pages serve as the Queen of the South’s interpretation of the Bible. The lighter side represents that no matter how a person can try to mislead you, God’s TRUE word will always prevail in the END.