Church and State is a cross heavily embellished with an assortment of buttons, coins, text, and found objects. The work transformed over time as the artist added and removed decorative objects from its surfaces. As a result, the sculpture conveys a depth of feeling through the built-up layers of objects and paint. Its texture resembles an almost reptilian skin or an otherworldly moonscape. Jan Wade has stated that the number of buttons on the cross is meant to reflect the number of bodies forcibly brought over from Africa to the Americas during the transatlantic slave trade. Her love and use of buttons relate to both their symbolism as utilitarian objects and their connection to so-called feminine crafts such as sewing.
Jan Wade: Soul Power
Jan Wade, Church and State (detail), 1990–2020
Wood, metal, plastic, shell, found objects, paint, 173 x 84.5 x 15 cm, Collection of the Vancouver Art Gallery, General Acquisition Fund. Photo credit: Ian Lefebvre, Vancouver Art Gallery.