Thursday, August 2, 2007

A "Pièce de Résistance" for Our Chapel

I've posted recently about my desire to create Catholic art for our chapel, and for the rest of our home as well, and that's something I am very excited about doing. However, the art that I am and will be creating is drawings and paintings. Another essential form of art for chapels and churches, in my opinion, is sculpture. For some reason, sculpture is incredibly powerful as a representational art form, probably because of the three-dimensional physical nature of the sculpture. If the subject is a human being, we see the person being depicted as frozen in time, and yet the three-dimensional nature makes the person seem almost real. For me, this art form can be incredibly powerful when depicting the saints and their lives on Earth. Asking for intercessory prayer from a saint is so much more easily done when I can see a representation of that person, almost like it's easier to remember a loved one if we have a picture of that person. And there's much more to be said about the artistry of sculpture, the methods of capturing a feeling of movement, the classical roots of the human form, the use of the golden ratio, the use of contrapposto pose, the oversizing of parts or lengths of the body to communicate elegance or heroism, just to name few. Sculpture is truly fascinating.

Now, when I saw Duncan Stroik's design for Holy Family chapel for a private residence, one of things I liked the most was the variety of sculpture included. An example was a sculpture that was done of St. Joseph, as shown at right. I would love to have piece of sculpture be an artistic centerpiece of our chapel, and so of course, I wondered: A) How much would a piece of sculpture like that cost?, and B) Where did they get their sculpture? Only one thing to do, e-mail Duncan Stroik. So I did. Mr. Stroik graciously e-mailed me back, and among other suggestions for our chapel (regarding materials, guidelines, etc.) the answer on sculpture was:
Most of the statues we use in our projects are custom from Italy. We find that there are very few sculptors in this country that can match their quality. Custom statues can be 20-30K. The Italians also make what I will call stock statues--still made from marble but are a 'stock' pose. These run about 10K. Anthony Visco, from Philadelphia, is a wonderful Catholic artist in this country and we work with him quite frequently.
Yikes! Wow, $20,000-$30,000 for a custom piece of sculpture. After having slowly recovered my senses from this revelation, I read the last sentence again and decided to try to look up who this Anthony Visco guy was. What I found was someone who is easily the premier Catholic artist in the United States.

In order to understand the level of proficiency and artistry of Anthony Visco, you really have to visit his website and see for yourself. Here are examples of his sculpture, painting, reliefs, and drawing (click each to enlarge):

Truly an amazing artist. Here's more info as well:
Now, one link I was particularly interested in was a link on his front page entitled, "A Prelude to Your Commission." Of course I read this, and the wheels started turning (Wow!, Imagine a custom commissioned, one-of-a-kind piece of sculpture by Anthony Visco in our chapel!), and figured, "what the heck," and e-mailed him a proposal. Certainly we cannot afford 20-30K for a piece of sculpture, but maybe something much less, along the lines of a used car. I've paid off used cars before, over 4 or 5 years, and this may be worth it (at least for consideration).

Mr. Visco, just like Mr. Stroik, graciously returned my e-mail, with the following response:
Dear Mr. Koop,

Thank you for your interest in my work but moreover thank you for your desire bringing your children closer to Christ in your home.

You have already been very helpful in giving me two of the three things I would have asked: a sense of calendar and a budget. The third component, the image, is what I would need next to best serve you and your family. I would be more than happy to guide you as best I can to serve the devotional needs of your family chapel.

First, is there any particular image of Christ, or the Blessed Virgin, or perhaps the chapel is under the patronage of a certain saint or a blessed? Could you give me some idea how the work would function? Is it a votive or devotional work to be apart from the sanctuary? Since the chapel is indoors, our choices for material are more varied and this, as opposed to the need for an outdoor material such as bronze (the most costly), gives us greater options. Good strong plaster cements when given a patina can look as though bronze. I will include an example of a plaster that I did of Saint Nicolas of Tolentine for the National Shrine of Saint Rita of Cascia. It is made in plaster with a bronze patina.
Please feel free to call and discuss your thoughts as they come about. In the meantime, I pray the Holy Spirit guides us to do the Will of the Father in that it best serve Christ's church on earth.

Pax et bonum,

Anthony Visco

Atelier for the Scared Arts
Anthony Visco, Director
1426 Christian Street
Philadelphia PA 19146-2221
Tel. 267.455.0705
Awesome! Certainly it's something we're still considering and praying about, but we'd like to make it happen. And in some sense, if we're going to make it happen, then we'd like to include a defined place for the sculpture in the chapel design. And, we also need to choose a patronage for the chapel (a saint or other devotion). Certainly exciting to think about!


Aodh said...

Brendan and Molly
Many congratulations on the developing concept of a chapel for your home. Additionally I have know Tony Visco and his art for many years and consider his work the premier american work in liturgical expression.
Tony will work with you to establish a unique and traditional artistic approach to whatever iconic image you like.
Also as well, when considering a home chapel, because of the closures of Catholic Churches throughout the US, perhaps you can "rescue" statuary and other pieces from salvage and antique dealers and restore their theological integrity in a personal shrine or home chapel.
My liturgical blog,
frequently muses on the need for restoration of good Catholic worship spaces, I hope you enjoy it.
Hugh McNIchol

Brendan Koop said...

Thanks Hugh! I am actually planning a post on various Catholic art sellers that I have found online, and a couple deal with items previously in churches. Since my other brother, Evan, is discerning the priesthood now at the St. Paul Seminary, and may one day be ordained, there are other items I am interested in, such as a monstrance for adoration when Evan would visit. If you're going to design a Catholic home, it helps a little to have a brother who is an architect, and another brother who may be a priest! I'll definitely check out your blog, thanks for the link.