I Lost Jesus

Michael Wittels

Crucifixion 2050, 2008

Crucifixion 2050 (detail)

Twelve years ago a teenage boy named Theo gave me some plastic toys -- robots, cars and vaguely military looking things. He said, "Here, melt these. I don't want them any more." He said that because I had been experimenting with melting plastic. By that time, though, I had moved on to working with other materials, so I put them in a carton.

A couple of years ago, I decided to go back to working with discarded plastic and after several months came upon Theo's toys. I normally work non-figuratively, but one of them suggested Christ in a crucifixion pose. Who am I not to listen to such things? After I made the figure, I made a cross out of charred wood and put the two together. I named the piece "Crucifixion 2050" because the figure looked like a cyborg and we do seem to be going in that direction.

I then had a show at a nearby college. At first, I put the sculpture in a niche where it wasn't very noticeable. The truth is I am not a believer and I was worried about offending those who were. I had made the piece with a nod to crucifixions in the history of Western art, not as a commentary for or against the Church or the religion. The gallery assistant saw the piece after I put it up and said he really liked it. He suggested I move it to a more prominent position so I did.

During the opening,someone told me the figure was a Transformer so it was especially fitting. At the end of the show, a friend helped me take the work down and pack it away. The gallery assistant helped, too, for a little while. He came in late and after about an hour complained of feeling faint and left. A few months later, I unpacked the boxes to prepare for another show but the crucifixion was missing. After several inquiries, I discovered that the assistant had taken it. He claimed that I had left it behind for him as a gift (Yeah, right! as the kids say) but he had later given it to his friend who was a Christian. I called up the Christian and said I would really like to have the piece back. I offered a reward. He replied that wouldn't help, that he had been looking for "three or four months" and would call me if he found it. When I asked him how he came into possession of the piece, he hung up and then wouldn't answer my calls.

Would a Christian steal Jesus? Should I pray for its return? Probably not. I seem to be one of those people for whom religion doesn't seem to work.

Michael Wittels, Benicia, California, July 2008