In the beauty of the lilies Christ was born across the sea,
With a glory in His bosom that transfigures you and me:
As He died to make men holy, let us live to make men free,
While God is marching on!


Monday, January 18, 2010

Sculpting Miracles

Last weekend my family and I went to the Visitors' Center near the LDS Palmyra Temple in Palmyra, NY, to view an exhibition of sculptures in bronze by Angela Johnson depicting scenes from the ministry of Jesus Christ. I was stunned by their perfection in capturing the finest details of the subjects' bodily characteristics, such as eyes (even tears!), hair, bone structure, musculature, and the fabric of their clothing, as well as of the stone, trees, and even waters forming the physical settings of the scenes depicted. Also compelling was the sculptor's choice of events to depict, from the touching domestic scene of Christ with Mary and Martha (Luke 10:38-42), to the majestic Christ walking on water (Matthew 14:22-33), to the heartbreaking moment when the leper begged Christ to heal him (Luke 5:12-14). What most transfixed me, though, was how truly the meaning and emotion of each scene was wrought into the figures. I took some pictures, which didn't turn out very well because my hands were trembling with the excitement and power of what I was viewing. But perhaps they'll give you a hint of what I'm talking about.

The photo above right is of a piece depicting Joseph Smith's First Vision in the Sacred Grove, in which (according to LDS teaching) God the Father and Jesus Christ appeared to him and set him upon his prophetic mission. How the sculptor managed to "suspend" these figures in mid-air is truly ingenious!

The photo above left is of Christ in Gethsemane. The photo at right is a closeup of a piece depicting Christ carrying his cross; one can almost feel the crushing weight of the cross on the Savior's shoulder, and see the exhaustion--and the love--in His face.

The photo above left depicts Christ walking on the storm-tossed sea; the one at right the raising of Lazarus from the dead. I wish I could adequately show that entire piece; it enabled one to view the scene both from Lazarus' position inside the cave looking out (as here), and on the other side from the Lord's position outside it, looking in.

The photos above are of a piece depicting Christ's healing of the leper. I was trying hard to capture the wretchedness of the poor man's condition and the anguish, and hope, in his eyes. It's hard to see this one without one's eyes filling with tears.

Apart from seeing these marvelous works in person, the best way to experience them is at Mrs. Johnson's web site. Browse through all of the four galleries presented. And turn on your speakers, because the tour is accompanied by one of the most moving pieces of music ever composed, Samuel Barber's Adagio for Strings. This is the most perfect pairing of music with religious subject-matter that I've ever experienced.

The exhibit will be at the Palmyra Temple Visitors' Center through January 31st. If you plan on being anywhere near our nation's capital between July and October 2010, consider viewing the exhibit at the Washington, D.C. Temple Visitors' Center.

But there's more, or soon will be. Once funding can be secured, life-size sculpture garden containing pieces by Mrs. Johnson depicting scenes from the life of Jesus Christ is planned for the beautiful Thanksgiving Point Gardens in Lehi, Utah. For breathtaking views of the Gardens with depictions of what the statuary will look like there (and for guidance on how to donate to the effort), click here.

Incredibly, Angela Johnson (who is also a wife of more than 30years, mother of four, and grandmother of nine) did not begin as a professionally trained sculptor, but as an opera singer. She turned to sculpting only 12 years ago, in a moment of inspiration, when she realized that her musical career had gone as far as it ever would--and that God had other plans for her. Since then, she has branched out into commission work, and taught basic sculpting to lepers in India. Watch the video below for a compelling review of her career and her faith. Mrs. Johnson is a living testament that miracles DO happen!

1 comment:

JoJo said...

W-O-W!!!! What a talented woman! Beautiful post! See, why don't we ever hear of events like this on the news??