A row of cars waiting for a green light was concealed by four large canvases proceeding across New York's busy Fifth Ave., creating the appearance of emptiness from W. 51st St to Central Park and beyond. Artist Nelson Diaz chose Palm Sunday to reveal his latest project, "The Isolated Christ," to the people of New York. The response to this unique mix of street art, performance art and oil on canvas was nothing short of astounding.
Five years in the making, The Isolated Christ is a four-part rendering of the most famous figure in one of Leonardo Da Vinci's most recognized works. Diaz "isolated" the image of Jesus Christ from the apostles in DaV inci's "The Last Supper" and plotted thousands of points on the image by hand. Then, using advanced calculus techniques, he fed the point into an equation that exposes "hidden" four dimensional space in the original image and used the results as the foundation for his signature perspective.
The result is four faces of DaVinci's Jesus, reflecting various situations. The final canvas – transcendence – offers an obscure, almost headless presentation, signifying the departure from the norm. The meaning is left to the viewer, with the religious assuming resurrection and the atheist likely to posit obsolescence. Diaz remains coy with his intention, believing that interpretation (like faith) is a personal affair.
With half a decade spent on the vision and production of The Isolated Christ (all four paintings were completed by hand – sans brushes, literally with his fingers), Diaz spent the last few months struggling with venue. He decided last summer to skip the traditional alternatives (such as art galleries) during his protest against the treatment of art as a commodity, during which he auctioned 10 paintings on eBay for the princely starting bid of $1 each.
"The old way of doing things is dead," he explained during several of our meetings. Deep-pocketed buyers writing checks for pieces they don't understand, he believed, would not be able to sustain itself ... a lesson to which the art market was treated last September. Diaz wanted a public setting. As with his eBay experiment, he wanted to return the aesthetic to everybody, not a self-proclaimed elite.
That left only one "gallery" from which to choose: the streets of Manhattan.