Pope St. John Paul II understood that if artists are not supported and encouraged by the church, they would earn their keep by secular pursuits, filling the world's demands for Godless imagery. He exhorted artists to create works which would inspire the faithful, and to pursue excellence in their task.
Yet many artists flood the internet, wondering why the church is not responding, to their eagerness to glorify God. They conclude that "false economy" has overtaken the virtue of thrift, where the drive is to think short term.
Recognising God as Artist...
Fr. Ian Petit OSB in his book "How can I pray?" describes how, as a child, he first perceived an encounter with God:
"The fields and hills filled me with awe and reverence, excitement and wonder...
He ponders on the artist, and God as divine artist :
"I have often seen some work of art and felt a desire to meet the person who could create such beauty... that within them something of that beauty must reside.....
After the now famous "Ecce Homo" fresco was defaced in an Italian church by an amateur artist some years ago, I hoped such a mistake might not be repeated.
Then I read of the amateur "artist" who had attempted to restore a Madonna statue in Canada. Ms. Wise had offered her services "for free", and as she was not Catholic, the results were fated to be somewhat dysfunctional.
The Parish Priest responsible for allowing the artistic faux-pas, excused it by admitting that he had not been taught at Seminary about "these things". (Thankfully, people will always forgive a good priest some of their more silly mistakes. )
When Ms. Wise met Lisa.
Considering the words of Fr. Petit, one asks what kind of encounter with God should we expect when viewing Catholic Art? When the amateur artist Ms. Wise met "Christ", it seems she thought of Lisa Simpson.
That is the danger of the church no longer leading culture but reflecting it. The world needs Catholic artists, and Catholic Artists need the support of their church.
As St. Theresa of Calcutta said; "together we can do great things for God."
as though she was teetering on the edge, preparing to jump.
Fr. S wanted to find something more fitting to help with devotions in his church. Providentially, the answer to this problem came as a commission for us to produce a new statue of Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament.
Having seen the Marian shrine of my childhood church in Liverpool relegated to a meeting room, (during re-ordering in the 70's) I am grateful to Fr. S for having considered me for this work, and to have been part of re-instating devotion to her. It helped to heal that former sense of loss, to know that devotion to Mary would be shared again.
The statue was missing a cross from the orb which the Christ child holds, and her Sceptre was broken in half.
We made new crown points for both the madonna and the child, rather than add to the broken areas.
Once all the repairs were complete, we applied the gold detailing, and replenished the patina she looked good as new.
The weight is the same though - very heavy ...!
With all the parts for our statue of Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament now cast, we will wait for them to dry out, and then smooth out any fins.
"Fins" are the seamline areas of the mould, which appear on all cast works.
Once this has been completed the parts of the statue can be assembled and painted.
There were some unavoidable delays in the progress of this figure, but we are now back on track and hope to have it ready for May.
I am looking forward to seeing it painted up and installed for the place it was intended.
I hope to post again soon with images of the completed statue.
To keep detail sharp, I have removed the hands of the Baby Jesus, and will cast them separately.
These will be re- joined on to the main figure at a later stage.
With final detailing done, we should be able to start making the mould early next week (God willing!)
(This wait has been compounded by a bout of flu, and all I could do was sit and dream for a while rather than get on with things!)
The photo on the right hand side of the model is of "Our Lady of Good Success".
I used it as my inspiration for this model, because legend has it that Our Lady chose the sculptor (Francisco del Castillo) for the work, and that it was completed by angels. Alas, its difficult at present to find good resources for this particular apparition,(as the story has been somewhat hi-jacked by the Pious X society to further their opinions.) None the less, the sufferings of Sister Mariana were in expiation for the Church and peoples of the 20th century.
The reasons for the statue were given thus:
“First so that men in the future might realize how powerful I am in placating Divine Justice and obtaining mercy and pardon for every sinner who comes to me with a contrite heart. For I am the Mother of Mercy and in me there is only goodness and love.
Our Lady's stated to Mariana, that she would be prioress of the convent until the end of time.!
When he asked if I might take up the challenge, I was delighted to accept.
I showed him a small 12 inch statue of Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament which I had made some years ago; (and almost forgotten) He declared that it fitted the bill perfectly!
This story is about two people being in the right place at the right time; what St. John Paul the Great would call a "God- incidence" rather than a "co- incidence".
Commissioning a statue of Our Blessed Mother isn't just a matter of commerce or duty; according to St. Louis de Montforte they are vehicles which encourage us to holiness.
In his famous treatise, St. Louis lists twelve interior practices which indicate "True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin" (Article 115)
Here are three which concern religious statues:
9) Taking charge of her confraternities, decorating her altars, crowning and adorning her statues.
(I will post further progress on this sculpture as time allows.)
I am posting some photos of the recently restored Marian Retable designed by Giles Gilbert Scott in 1937.
We finished the work earlier this week, and the scaffolding is yet to be removed.
(Click below for larger images...)
As the original angels were missing, we made replicas of those on the main Reredos behind the high altar, and added those.
This approach was in keeping with the original design of 1937, though some gold spindles would have been a welcome addition to complete the look - (see below left.)
On this Statue we found a little label which said " A. STROBE "Artistic Decorator". Inscribed on the base in a fancy scrawl was the date (1930).
I had first thought, that "A. Strobe" was the sculptor, or at least the name of the studio; but the term " Artistic Decorator" suggests the possibility, that this label referred to the person who had poly chromed the statue.
The original shown above left, has been treated in a painting style which emulates the Spanish practice of rubbing a dark pigmented oil (Bitumen) over the completed figures to give depth - (no it wasn't just grime! )
Mary's sallowed face is a result of the varnish yellowing with age; this had dripped in curtains down the figure, and had produced unsightly stains.
It was quite a relief to find, that the only modern intervention in 70 years, was the poor finger repair ( see previous post)
When I see a label with a name, such as " A.Strobe" I wonder if they are still in this world or the next? I also wonder, if like me, they had a family - and if they prayed about their work. Stuff like that - and when I see something as beautiful as this, I have to thank God for the gift he gave to those people who created it.
This is our next project - the restoration of a 1930's plaster Pieta. Images below show the repair made to the index finger of Jesus' left hand.
The back of the chair is arched to represent the arch of the rainbow; "the sign of the covenant between God and every living creäture.
" (Gen 9 :v 12)Under her feet is the Toad stone, believed during medieval times to be formed in the head of a toad, and to have magical powers;- it is the East Anglian equivalent of the moon or serpent, all representative of evil; superstitious practice and idolatry.
Just as the serpent is crushed under heel in the book of Revelation, so Mary (crushes) the Toad stone and all it represents - under her feet.
The finished statue holds a sceptre fashioned like a three fold lily, as Mary is the pure Lily chosen by the Trinity from all eternity.
I have added two decorative golden bosses at the base displaying the Greek symbols for Mother of God and Jesus Christ ♥
It is said that "When England returns to Walsingham; Mary will return to England."
Slide show of procession
As its not always possible for me to attend the installation of my statues or similar events like this procession; I am always grateful for those who send me a photo or two.
The slideshow is courtesy of Mrs. H. and the comment is from " Brendan" :
"The day has been very special the sun has been with us, Carmel was full and even the old Sister's looked young, really seemed that Our Blessed Mother had arrived home, Our own English Queen will be singing your praises in Heaven, She will be delighted with your statue. Well done.
Lewis and Lewis
is a Catholic family run business: specialising in statue restoration, and church interior projects.
Jeanette is a professional sculptor/fine artist and designer; husband David is a traditional upholsterer/technician.
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