CAMBRIDGE (SNR) — With the mouth of Jesus gaping in agonizing suffering and his hands opened from pain, a sculpture of Jesus Christ on the cross created last year by a
Nebraska artist inspires reverence both because of the act of love it portrays and the skill with which it was made.
Sculptor Sondra Jonson of St. John parish in Cambridge created the Crucifixion of Jesus for Immaculate Conception parish in Perry, Florida where it was installed last July.
Immaculate Conception pastor, Fr. Francis Bagen O.M.I., asked for the crucifix for his parish. The parish is located by a major highway and Fr. Bagen wanted the sculpture because he is passionate for conversions, Jonson said. Father Bagen is a former pastor at St. Patrick parish in McCook, Ne.
An anonymous donor put up $1,500 in seed money for Jonson to start the project last year. Before beginning work on the piece, Jonson extensively studied the anatomical suffering of Christ. In her sculpture Jesus is actively suffering rather than already dead.
“I wanted something that would show His suffering,” Jonson said.
Jonson also studied the Scriptural accounts of the crucifixion. The sculpture is entitled, “I Thirst”. These are Jesus' words in John 19:28, the Scripture passage that most moved Jonson when she read the accounts.
The sculpture includes the words in Hebrew, Greek and Latin, “Jesus of Nazareth King of the Jews.” John 19:19 records that Pontius Pilate had these words put on the cross.
Jonson also studied other depictions of the crucifixion. One of the most inspiring was a piece by Matthias Grünwald, a German painter from the early 1500's. Grünwald's paintings of Christ's suffering are considered some of the most passionate depictions of His passion. In Grünwald's works Jesus' hands are very twisted because of pain and Jonson made the hands of her sculpture similar.
“I wanted to do his hands as if he had no power over his hands,” Jonson said.
Her figure of Christ is physically strong as medieval sculptor's work often portray Jesus. Jonson said Jesus was probably strong from hard work and a lot of walking.
Over six months of work, Jonson began the sculpture with an aluminum frame on a welded cross. She then covered it with wire mesh, foam and finally [cast in] resin.
Jonson started the work in January 2003 and finished it in March. The piece was installed last July. A bench was installed in front of the sculpture.
Fr. Bagen said someone stops every day and meditates in front of the statue. Jonson's hope is that someone who doesn't believe in Jesus as the Christ will see the statue and be converted.
Jonson is also working on many other projects. The Sisters of St. Joseph in Wichita, Kan. are renovating the chapel of their motherhouse. Jonson is making a resurrection sculpture, which will hang above doors on which Jonson will include a sunburst. She is also making a crucifix for the chapel.
She is also working on four plaques for a parish in Independence, Missouri. The piece is taken from the gospel of St. Mark.
In addition to her sculptures, Jonson will speak on the role of sacred art in the Church.
Jonson is scheduled to speak on sacred art at the Eucharistic Congress sponsored by the Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious at the basilica of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C. Sept. 24-25 . She will present a slide show of various forms of art and will speak on the importance of having art in worship.
Images provided by Walt Beers.
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