CAMBRIDGE Artists require thought and
space, sculptor Sondra Jonson of Cambridge said.
Sondra Jonson works on a life-size statue of
Pope [Blessed] John XXIII in her
Cambridge studio. The sculpture will be placed in the [Blessed] John
XXIII Diocesan Center in Lincoln. The works in museums often are done
by artists who dont live in urban centers, she said.
Instead of what she calls concrete and
desert in Las Vegas, Jonson wanted greenery and the quiet of
a small community in which to raise her sons and pursue her profession
as a sculptor. She and her sons moved to Cambridge in 1994. Since
then, her career has thrived, and her sons have learned about 4-H,
running cross-country and four seasons of weather.
Jonson grew up in Philadelphia and studied
art at Bryn Mawr College. Her plan was to paint until she visited
the studio of noted sculptor Donald DeLue in Leonardo, N.J.
To more fully understand the substance and
form of what she would paint, DeLue encouraged her to study sculpture.
She enrolled in an academy and discovered sculpting was her calling
Her first sculpture was done 19 years ago [in
1985] for a private collection near Harrisburg, Pa. Her works have
been installed in public and private collections from Las Vegas to
Washington, D.C. Her small bronzes appear in Europe, the Vatican and
the White House.
Jonson has done many commissions in Nebraska.
She has 10 projects, and much of her work involves religious subject
Her studio is an older house she remodeled
into a brightly lit studio directly behind her home.
Her workroom is dominated by a clay mold of
Pope [Blessed] John XXIII, pope from 1958-1963. At 5 feet, 4 inches,
the mold is slightly shorter than the late popes actual height.
It was commissioned by the Lincoln Diocese
and will be placed in the [Blessed] John XXIII Diocesan Center in
She began a miniature model of the pope in
October 2002 and completed it the following March. She delivered it
to Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz in Lincoln for his approval. The full-size
statue is scheduled for delivery in September [of 2004].
A steel frame, called an armature, was built for the statues
size and framework. Special steel netting was shaped about the armature
to create the basic form of the statue.
I filled the netting with foam
the same kind you can buy in a hardware store. Except, I buy it by
the case, she said with a smile.
The foam fills the cavity created by the netting
and becomes the core for the statue.
When the netting is satisfactorily shaped,
the hard work begins. The core could be anyone, but as clay is applied
over the core the likeness of a person begins to appear.
Jonson cuts, trims, adds more clay and rubs
it to the exact outline displayed on the miniature. Slowly, the head
acquires its shape. The arms and shoulders gain form. She fusses at
the precise shaping of the hands and fingers, the folds in the robes,
and the tiniest details of the late popes genial face.
The work takes many hours and many days. As
she rubs, the muscles of her slender forearms appear hardened by years
of such work.
When it is finished and ready for shipment
to the foundry in Springville, Utah, the clay model of the pope will
weigh 450 pounds, Jonson said. At the foundry, a bronze casting will
be made in sections from the clay model, then welded together.
Bringing the welded sections together and eliminating
all signs of the welds requires craftsmanship, she said.
Her sculpture, Rachel
Weeping For Her children, recently was named Best
in Show for 2004 by the American Mothers Association. The bronze
statue has been on permanent display since 1999 at the Lady of Fatima
Shrine at St. Germanus Catholic Church in Arapahoe. Other castings
of Rachel are in Sioux Falls, S.D., and Long Island, N.Y.
Additional castings of a sculpture are sometimes
arranged with the client who commissions the original, and permission
to do so affects the cost.
Jonson created Breaking
News, a 4-foot by 6-foot bronze sculpture in front of radio
station KRVN in Lexington. A 6-foot-tall bronze, Swan
Princess, is a wall sculpture that hangs at The Tassel in
She is also sculpting a wall hanging in resin
for Prince of Peace Catholic Church in Kearney. This work, portraying
the infant Jesus, Mary and Joseph, will be set against a mosaic background
to hang above the tabernacle.
She is asked if this can be a lifelong work.
Jonson replies, I hope so so I
can be good at it.
View more images
of Pope Blessed John XXIII.