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What is Christ?

May 3 - 26, 2024
Exhibition at SLUMA

Christ asks His disciples, “Who do you say that I am?” El Greco invites us to consider Christ’s question by asking, “What is Christ?” in his artwork. His paintings, such as The Burial of the Count of Orgaz, capture the Platonic Form of the divine in visual space as something that illuminates someone. Christ’s Form is radiance itself. Christ is light: a thing.

Édouard Manet, who rediscovered El Greco as an exemplar for the Impressionists, was inclined to show the what of persons, albeit in a different mode. Still-life was fundamental to – if not the entirety of – Manet’s oeuvre. His human figures in paintings such as The Dead Christ with Angels are less portraiture and more still-life. For Manet, properties unveil people. They are individuals through chromatic impressions. Christ, for him, is revealed more through an optical experience than conventional representation. Christ is color: a thing.

Both artists understand who Christ is by showing Him as things: light and color. Ignatian spirituality emphasizes our capacity to “find God in all things,” which means to see how everything is a gift from the Divine in which our Creator labors for our good. Can material means reveal who Christ is to us? Through what everyday objects can we encounter Christ? Perhaps we can gain a deeper interior knowledge of who Christ is by imagining Him asking us, “What do you say that I am?”

Installation Images


An Attempt at an Ignatian Aesthetic

Nicholas Leeper, SJ, 2024

PDF, 201 pages

Press Release

2 pages


I would like to thank the following people who have helped me undertake this project: My supervisor for this exhibition, Jim Burwinkel, for his support, expertise, and patience. The Saint Louis University Museum of Art (SLUMA), including their staff, especially Petruta Lipan for hosting this exhibit and for their care and attention in putting everything together. David Suwalsky, SJ, for his support of the arts and for helping get this exhibition together. My other art teachers, especially Terry Shay and Amy Bautz. Dean Randy Rosenberg for supporting this endeavor. My supervisor for my thesis, Dan Haybron, for his encouragement, conversation, and time. My thesis committee: Dan, Jim, and Michael Barber, SJ. The Society of Jesus and my Jesuit superiors, especially Steve Schoenig, John Wronski, and Joe O’Keefe, for nurturing my education as a philosopher and an artist. Other Jesuit artists who have been an encouragement and have been there to accompany me along the way, and with a special thank you to Bill Cain. My Jesuit community at Bellarmine House of Studies, for their constant love and companionship, and who have been very patient in listening to me talk at them about art. My dear friends, especially those I have met here in St. Louis. My family, for their enduring support. I dedicate this show to my mother, Sharyn Leeper, and her brother, Frankie Milko. AMDG.

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