Leni Dothan is an artist and twenty-first century ‘Renaissance Woman’ from Israel, who frequently works with themes of religion, gender and art history. Dothan exhibited this piece, Dead End, as part of a recent (2017) exhibition in Washington, DC focusing on Jesus’ journey through Jerusalem to his crucifixion, The Stations of the Cross.
Her film formed part of her installation at the First Congregational United Church of Christ and offered an artistic response to the scene in which Jesus meets the ‘daughters of Jerusalem’ who were ‘beating their breasts and mourning for him’ (Luke 23:27). Jesus responded by telling them not to weep over him, but rather to weep over their fate and the fate that awaited their children with the destruction of Jerusalem. The film, which ran on a loop above the altar of the church, records the artist’s bare feet and legs as she walks the Via Dolorosa (The Way of Sorrow) through Jerusalem, the path Jesus is traditionally thought to have taken to his crucifixion at Golgotha. Pilgrims have travelled this route for centuries, either imaginatively in their own churches or cities, with the use of devotional images like the ones produced as part of The Stations of the Cross installations, or by going to Jerusalem to tread the same ground. In Dead End Dothan thus inserts herself into the history of the city as a site of pilgrimage, as well as a site of suffering and redemption. In the context of this exhibition, her work presents a challenge to the overwhelmingly male gaze on the Holy City, reminding us that women too have lived, shaped and dreamed of Jerusalem.
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