When Ross Lippman visited Imo Imeh’s studio this summer for a look at “in his name,” the artist shared an image from the series entitled “On Earth as it is.” 

This specific piece is inspired by the raising of a cross during the January 6th insurrection at the U.S. Capitol and conveys the intersection of divine and reality on display during the attack. In a digital exclusive, Imeh explains the symbolism behind the different imagery he used in the work. 

Watch Ross Lippman’s piece on “in his name.

Read the full transcript:

Imo Imeh, Artist & Educator: This work and the title of this work is…all over the place. I think the title of this work is…”as it”.. “On Earth as it is.” “On Earth as it is.” So, the completion of that would be “On Earth, as it is in heaven.”

There are a couple of things happening. The foundation of the work is the thing that alarmed me probably the most that I saw at the — on January 6th, which is the the raising of this gigantic cross. And it took about seven or eight full grown men, you know, to raise it.

So, like you can see them — that some of it’s gotten lost, but I spent a lot of time actually designing. Here are two figures, they’re holding a rope. And here’s another figure in the middle, he looks like he’s orchestrating it. Someone’s lifting up here. And then there’s a large cross that’s been erected.

What used to be here, which you can’t see anymore, was the Capitol Building somewhere in the middle. We’ve lost it. And then the other thing that was also visible here were gallows, which have since kind of like faded away, with pencil.

But the foundation of this work is the raising of the cross at the Capitol. In the midst of all of these different kinds of flags, some that represent Christianity and others that really appear to be the antithesis of all things — of anything Christian.

The image is now layered with this other image of two people who are surrounding a Black figure, a Black figure that I believe is one of the Angels of the Benediction series. And he is looking out at us, or looking out somewhere, as communion elements are being kind of forced on him.

There’s the the bread or the biscuit there, and this is the the blood, the blood in a glass, right? And there’s a noose nearby. I wanted the noose to be there because of what we saw at the Capitol building.

But that noose at the Capitol, also reminded me of all the things we’ve learned about in American history. You know, so whether or not the noose was for Nancy Pelosi or whoever they say it was for, that image — that image is a trigger point.

So, the fusion of the noose with the cross, for me, transported me back into history with this kind of image. But of course, in this case, the people who are about to execute, who are about to lynch this man, this angel, are wearing those broken, tattered Jesus face masks. 

And again, the project is titled “in his name,” the full project. This idea that these actions, whether those at the Capitol or those, you know, one hundred years prior, were somehow being done with the grace and with the covering and with the blessing of our blessed Lord Jesus Christ is astonishing to me. And what’s even more astonishing, is that it’s not astonishing to a lot of other people, is that it feels normal.

And so, the image itself is, you know, I’m still playing around with it. I’m still messing with it. At the bottom of this, of this work, this is where I’m beginning to see the structure of the Capitol itself being formed, with angelic limbs, with their arms, with their heads.

I have always seen, you know, like large spheres here that represent the heads, the heads of of the Benediction Angels — as if they were there in on the Capitol scene. This would be the eye, the nose here. But, it’s as if they’re standing on top of the angels as they’re doing this, right?

I can imagine this angel’s arm being stretched out and holding the top of the image, as if buttressing the Capitol space itself, so that we can actually see the image unfold.