In League with Devils Michael Petry The Dadian Gallery, The Henry Luce III Center for the Arts & Religion Washington DC May 5 - August 21, 2023
Wesley Theological Seminary’s Luce Center for the Arts & Religion In League with Devils by Michael Petry Exhibition explores forgotten gods, resurrected rituals & queer desire.
“Michael Petry celebrates the ceremonial, memorializes the mythical and acknowledges, honors and explores the deeper spirits within us whom we all feel and hear yet have always found hard to name. Our gods and our devils. — Stephen Fry
WASHINGTON, DC — The Luce Center is proud to host In League with Devils by Michael Petry, a leading multi-media artist, author, and director of the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) in London. The exhibition in the Dadian Gallery opened in May 5 and runs through August 21.
The Bible praises “the Living God” and decries the deities of surrounding cultures, from the Assyrians to the Greeks, as mere lifeless idols. Yet these forgotten gods—left for dead in the dustheap of history—are precisely the ones that interest Michael Petry.
“I feel like an archaeologist sifting through the sands of time to uncover the old stories, the old myths, the old beliefs on which modern believers act,” reflects the artist. “I have bathed in the spirit of the ancients. Marduk and Thor, Brigit and Ra, Janus and Seth are only a few of the now mythologized gods of old. They are no longer held in the respect they were, but does that stop them from being gods? Is it simply time that morphs a god into a myth, and if so what of the current gods, and devils? Will they too just become stories told around a camp fire?”
Steeped in the history of religion, Petry’s exhibition finds the perfect home at Wesley Seminary, with its rich collection of ancient artifacts from the Middle East. With a keen eye for historic techniques and materials, Petry casts mysterious objects and ritual appurtenance from silver, gold, and bronze.
For his installation At the Foot of the Gods, Petry cast dozens of bronze toes from life from contemporary cultural icons. These comprise the central installation in the gallery, while the artist also places glass versions in sly locations around campus. In Piercing the Barrier, Petry inserts verdigris patinated bronze arrows into trees in Wesley’s quad, evoking the Catholic saint (and latter-day queer icon) Saint Sebastian as well as the erotic tools of Cupid.
Apollo's Mirror—patinated and polished to look like ancient Greek originals—sits in Wesley’s Oxnam Chapel. As part of the Luce Center’s exciting new collaboration with VOMA (www.voma.space), the world’s first virtual online museum, Petry has also created a digital collectible of Apollo's Mirror, available for patrons to purchase to support future collaborations.
The exhibition is curated by Aaron Rosen, PhD, director of the Luce Center for the Arts & Religion and author of Art & Religion in the 21st Century. In League with Devils is accompanied by an eponymous hardback book with essays by Petry, Rosen, Daniell Cornell, and Rick Herron, with an introduction by British comedy legend Stephen Fry.
A hardback publication with the same title accompanies the exhibition.
Book release 1 July: In League withDevils Michael Petry Published by: MOCA London and The Dadian Gallery Hardback publication date July 1, 2023 ISBN: 978-1-912800-09-4 Includes a forward by Stephen Fry (actor/author) and essays by the Director of the Dadian, Aaron Rosen, and independent curators Daniell Cornell and Rick Herron.