An art exhibition that gives voice and visibility to young victims of abuse within the Catholic Church will open this month at Loyola Marymount University’s Laband Art Gallery. “Confess: An Installation by Trina McKillen,” opens with a conversation with the Los Angeles-based artist on Saturday, Jan. 19, 2019, and runs through March 23.
McKillen, a native of Northern Ireland, has grappled for years with the global crisis of sexual abuse committed by Catholic clerics. Over the last decade, she has channeled her outrage and grief into the creation of artwork focused on the survivors of abuse, namely children, to ensure their healing remains a priority and that their stories are not forgotten.
“It is remarkable how strongly Trina’s work embodies our contemporary moment in the language of speaking truth to power,” said Laband Art Gallery Director Karen Rapp. “Her work is aesthetically complex in that she draws from and even exalts the church’s own iconography and imagery while simultaneously proposing a sharp institutional critique.”
The exhibition’s centerpiece, “Bless Me Child for I Have Sinned (2010-18),” is an intricately crafted installation of a confessional — a life-size, transparent structure made of glass, fine metals and marble. As the title suggests, McKillen reverses the role between confessor and confessant; instead of the priest sitting and hearing confession, he must kneel down and ask forgiveness from the child.
In another installation, “The Children (2015-2018),” the artist makes a statement about seemingly invisible crimes against young people, and stories of abuse that have been kept hidden, with an immersive display of dozens of vintage First Communion dresses and altar boy vestments.
“While the artist confronts a painful and troubling reality within the Church, our hope is that this exhibition will open the door to discussion and deep reflection,” said John T. Sebastian, LMU vice president for mission and ministry. “As a Catholic institution in the Jesuit and Marymount traditions, LMU places an emphasis on care for the individual person, the pursuit of justice, and alleviating the suffering of the poor and the marginalized. Exposing the sins of the Church, and ensuring that victims’ stories get told, are consistent with our mission and necessary steps in the healing process.”
McKillen, born in 1964 in Belfast, relocated to Dublin, Ireland, as a child when her Irish Catholic family was targeted and threatened during the intense conflicts known as “the Troubles.” She graduated in 1989 with a degree in fine art sculpture from the National College of Art and Design in Dublin. She is represented by Lisa Sette Gallery in Phoenix, Arizona.
“Confess: An Installation by Trina McKillen” is presented by the Laband Art Gallery, in partnership with the Irish Studies Program in LMU’s Bellarmine College of Liberal Arts, and the Dean’s Office in the College of Communication and Fine Arts.
The exhibition is one component of a robust series of events to engage the community in an impactful dialogue about this important topic.
Conversation with the Artist and Opening Reception
Murphy Recital Hall, 5 to 6 p.m. on Sat., Jan. 19
McKillen will discuss the development of her artwork with Cecilia González-Andrieu, LMU associate professor of theological studies, and Laband Director Karen Rapp.
A reception will follow from 6 to 8 p.m. in the Laband Art Gallery.
A full-color publication designed by Becca Lofchie will be released in early March. It will include an essay by Rapp as well as contributions by noted advocates for sexual assault victims Phil Saviano, Terry McKiernan, and others.
Image credit: Trina McKillen, “The Children (2015-2018)” (detail), Irish linen, thread and gold leaf, Courtesy of the artist and Lisa Sette Gallery, Phoenix, Arizona.