The light of Christ transforms an artist’s ‘V2’ life
Jed Malitz appends “V2” to the name of his art gallery at 615 Julia St. in the Warehouse District. The “V2” stands for “Version 2” – both in art and in life.
If we are honest about it, there is a V2 in all of us, and perhaps even a V3 or V4 or V100.
Inside Malitz’s gallery, floor-to-ceiling black drapes bisect the rectangular gallery space. In front of the drapes, visible as soon as someone walks in off the street, is haunting glass artwork – human figures of pure light produced by light shining through 13 meticulously arranged panes of sculpted glass, cut by a computer-guided, high-speed jet of water and garnet dust.
The annealed glass panes, three-eighths of an inch thick, are light green due to their iron content. When viewed straight on, the series of glass panels provides a stunning, three-dimensional image.
“The initial goal was to represent the human form as floating ribbons,” said Malitz.
But the real magic begins when the observer walks to the side of the artwork. On the edge of the glass, a crisp, secondary image is produced by the high-powered stage lights, something Malitz, now 48, said his 25 years of training in math, computer science and biotechnology information systems could not have accurately predicted. His first glass creation, two years ago, was of a woman named “Siren.”
“After I built her, I really got to see the clarity of the edge view,” Malitz said.
It was then that an idea struck Malitz, a “baby” Christian, like a bolt of lightning. What would happen if he used the same glass-sculpting technique to depict the crucifixion?
“That got me to start thinking about depicting Christ as light, as opposed to purely physical and then depicting the light,” Malitz said. “I just couldn’t stop thinking about it. I really started thinking about the crucifixion and honoring him in the best way I could – other than prayer. Once I got started on it, it absolutely consumed me. There was nothing left.”
The crowning achievement of V2 – the crucified Christ, the product of Malitz’s mysteriously growing faith – is right behind the black drapes. And it’s all anyone can talk about.
Over 18 months, using a combination of posed models, photography, raw digital sculpting and “lots of engineering and math calculations,” Malitz produced the blueprint for 21 panes of cut glass. Because the work also included a wood cross, measurements had to be exact so that each pane fit together seamlessly.
Malitz solved one of the most challenging math and engineering problems by using a “telescoping” nail that could adjust its length to tiny variations in the width of the glass and wood panels.
In evening showings, when the studio is mostly dark and the stage lights create just the right effect, the results are visually moving.
“People will come into the gallery and look at the panels I have on the wall, and there seems to be some excitement – and then they turn the corner around this drape and they look at this and that’s it – I have no other art in the gallery from that point on,” Malitz said. “It makes it a little more difficult to market the other things, but I’m OK with that.”
“There are a lot of gasps and lot of ‘Oh, my Gods,’” Malitz said. “A lot of people spend 15 minutes, 30 minutes, an hour on this single piece. That’s unusual for a single piece of art.”
Just as the artwork seems to change depending on the viewer’s point of observation, Malitz said his work has transformed his own life.
“I hadn’t had any path my entire life,” Malitz said. “That’s just the way I was brought up. I was never cynical. I was never an atheist. At the same time, I never really felt like I belonged to anything. I was just wandering through life, letting good things happen, letting bad things happen. Wandering.
“This is my path into believing. This is how I started believing. I’m a baby, but I’m reading the Bible for the first time. It’s just incredibly moving.”
The crucifixion artwork seems to be having a similar effect on others. Malitz posted “a cheesy little video” he shot with his iPhone on Facebook, walking around the sculpture, and it has taken off in cyberspace.
“Typically, with online advertising, if you get a 3 percent click-through rate, that’s really good,” Malitz said. “My sustained click-through rate is around 20 percent. I think that’s very telling. I’m reaching a set of people, and they’re referring other people to it, and that other set is quite a bit larger.”
Malitz would love for the crucifixion to find its place in a church.
“I’d be honored with any place where as many people could see him as possible,” Malitz said. “A church would be ideal. I would hope if that’s the case, their doors would be open so that different denominations of Christians and perhaps non-believers would be able to see it as well.”
The work is expensive. Malitz is hoping to use www.kickstarter.com – a website that brings people from around the world together to raise funds for creative projects – to obtain the resources to build two other projects. One would depict Christ carrying his cross on the Via Dolorosa, and the other would be his resurrection.
“If there’s enough money raised, I will depict a Roman soldier whipping him, and the Roman soldier will be outside of the glass and the whip will be penetrating into the glass and recoiling off his back,” Malitz said. “The other will be my interpretation of the resurrection. I will have him in an initial response to God’s beckoning, rising from the tomb.”
In his reflective moments, Malitz will sit behind the drapes in the back of his studio and think about God’s V2 effect on his art and his life.
“I’ve never done anything that has brought me anywhere near as much joy and sadness as this,” he said. “This has just enriched my soul. At times I was crying and saying, ‘I’m so sorry we did this to you.’ At other times, it’s been like, ‘Thank you, Lord, for giving me the opportunity to do this and for putting the idea in my head.’”