The late, great Gerald Squires is remembered fondly this time of year, for his unique, emotional and decidedly local take on the hallowed Stations of the Cross.
For Christians across the island of Newfoundland and Labrador and abroad, Easter is not about delicately adorned eggs, barrels of sweets or bouncing bunnies. No, Easter is about something more, about a time of reflection and meditation, about loss and resurrection.
The Final Journey
The images more commonly known as the Stations of the Cross, which illustrate the final journey of Jesus Christ – his walk, crucification and burial as depicted in the New Testament – are images known to many. None, we’d surmise, have been as uniquely our own as those created by late, great painter and master artist Gerald Squires of Change Islands.
You don’t have to be an avid church goer or faithful Christian to see the beauty, or unique connection to this place outlined in Squires’ take on Stations of the Cross. Commissioned by Mary Queen of the World Church in Mount Pearl, Squires’ Stations have a distinctly Newfoundland flavour.
Squires was first introduced to Father Adrian Kimenai in 1983, a Holland native who was apart of the team building what would be Mary Queen of the World. The church, which celebrated its 30th anniversary in 2015, has drawn parishioners for years for the unique and moving renditions of The Stations of the Cross, The Triptych of the Death and Resurrection of Christ and The Last Supper, all of which were completed by Squires.
‘Not Directly Religious’
As indicated in a 2014 article in The Herald, one of the last before his passing in 2015, Squires spoke of Father Kimenai stating “He liked what I was doing, and although the work was not directly religious, it was spiritual in a sense,” he said. “So he said ‘Maybe you can make up some drawings and we can talk about doing some commission work for this church’.”
Uniqueness and bucking of trends was nothing new for Squires. Painting from a young age and moving to Ontario at 12, Squires had his first exhibition at 20 years of age. His daring landscapes, many in acrylic and oil, as well as his various mediums from sculptures to lithography and stained glass earned Squires worldwide recognition, including an induction into the Order of Canada and receiving the Queen Elizabeth II Golden Jubilee Medal.
It was that uniqueness in style, as well as a particular love of Newfoundland and Labrador, that made Squires’ interpretation of Stations of the Cross so compelling, a mindset mirrored by Father Kimenai.
“He (Father Kimenai) was very fond of Newfoundland Culture, and he wanted to express that in his church when it was built,” said Squires in our archived interview. “He wanted Stations of the?Cross, the Crucification and the Resurrection, so it was a great undertaking and I really wanted the commission because I knew I could do it.”
The breathtaking works are all set in Newfoundland. Place and persons, even indirectly, may be familiar to many of our islands residents.
‘A Personal Christ’
Squires would often visit Mary Queen of the World in his later years, a testament to the impact, and emotional heft of perhaps his most endearing and ever-lasting work.
“I often go there just to take a look, especially around Easter time, because the paintings really ring true for that period in Christ’s life,” said Squires. “A lot of people have told me how comforted they are by these paintings, which is a great compliment to me.”
That push and pull that has drawn in devotees and onlookers for decades has much to do with Squires’ desire to craft a relatable figure in his works. “It means a personal Christ, a real human being,” he said. “It’s the same story, it’s just told in our environment.”