Installing Marble Sculptures, Part II

Originally written in October, 2006.

How on earth are you going to get that two-ton marble sculpture into the church?

The Next Day…

Our Lady of Mercy, Potomac, Maryland

We met back at the church after the Mass in the morning. Logistical problems abound. “Hey, isn’t this statue suposed to go on the other side of the church?” I was asked a thousand times.

“The Virgin is always on the right side of Christ. Christ faces the congregation in this church, so Mary has to be on our left to be on His right. Feels strange for people. All the churches in Italy…” I trailed off.

Anyhow, the crew left for New Jersey to fetch some larger equipment. The major problem with the site was the doors are too short to get any major piece of equipment heavy-duty enough to hoist a two-ton Virgin Mary in place. Andrew, of Canal Street Studios, thought that he may have just the thing to do the job, but the job will have to wait until Monday. So, Mary waited beneath a blanket somewhere in the church.

Then I lost my voice. I still had to teach a drawing class in the evening. My voice was hanging on by a thread by the end of class and the next morning the only way to communicate with me was via e-mail. I was certianly not answering the telephone and we didn’t have text in those days. *hello?*

And Then…

An email from the day before: “We are in the last phase of installation today. Apparently there has been some concern that Mary needs to go on the other side of the church. Several people at the church insisted that she needs to go on the right side of the church. Well, I did much research before embarking on the project and determined that she does indeed need to go on the right, but on the right hand of Christ, which would be the parishioner’s left. This is where we have planned to place her. Nonetheless, some people feel uncomfortable with this placement. She and St. Joseph were designed with this in mind and the composition is such that it works with Mary to Christ’s right and St. Joseph to His left. Switching that will change the design. Of course, the sculpture does now belong to the church. What do you think we ought to do about this matter?” -Sarah

Left or Right?


The consensus was to go with the original design and plan. Word didn’t get to Andrew, the sculpture rigger, and crew until I got to the church a few hours later. They were already setting her up on the right (wrong!) side of the church. “Stop!” I whispered. “She needs to go on the other side.” Apparently, the pre-consensus word to put her on the right (wrong!) side got to them, but the post-consensus word did not. Andrew was a little irked at the change of plans, “I knew you’d be pissed. Don’t *@^$ with the artist’s design, I always say.” So, they had to drag the two ton sculpture, fork lift and pieces of plywood to the other side of the church. Again.

Listing the statue into place on the correct side of the church.

Once we got everything in place, Andrew was able to lift the sculpture with the forklift and place it onto the niche. Sounds easy enough. “Nothing is easy in sculpture,” I always say. We placed two-by-fours in between the base of the sculpture and the top of the niche in order to get the forks out. Once the forks were free, we raised them above the sculpture and attached straps around the piece. Lifting from below we couldn’t get the sculpture far enough back in the niche, but we needed the lift to ease her up that high. With the straps securely in place we lifted her only inches above the marble niche. We were able to remove the two-by-fours and gently set her down. Next task: get the straps out from underneath. Andrew used a gorilla bar, brute force and fun with physics to lift the edges of the sculpture just high enough that we could pull out the straps. Plus, he was able to “row” the sculpture back flush against the wall using the same gorilla crowbar.

Meanwhile…

Yesterday at the church I met a man who came in to see the sculpture. I told him that I was the artist and he grabbed me and hugged me! “God bless you!” I said that I had laryngitis and couldn’t talk much. He grabbed me by both shoulders and asked God for healing. He made the Sign of the Cross over me. I could really feel God’s spirit flowing through me and got a little teary-eyed. I asked him who he was. He laughed because everyone knew him; he was a deacon at the church. I love how bold this man was. He didn’t just offer me “I hope you feel better” or a pat on the arm. He called out to the Almighty for healing. Anyhow, by the end of the night my voice had returned! Not in full force, but I could make sounds once again! After five days of silence I was at last audible. In a way I felt like Zacharias, husband of Elizabeth, who was silenced until the birth of John the Baptist. I was silenced when I last left the church last Wednesday and my voice returned after the installation.

The artist, silent from laryngitis, in front of the installed sculpture.

We placed the two vases on the plinth and stood back to see the work that we had accomplished. It isn’t just my sculpture. Sure, I designed it and sculpted it, but without the help of several models, the mold-maker and enlarger, Malcolm the stone-carver and his crew, and Andrew and the crew at Canal Street Studios, and not to mention the generous donor who has been gracious enough to give such a lasting gift to the church- none of this would have happened.

After we cleaned up the sanctuary and put away our tools, I took everyone for a round of drinks. “To Mary, to a successful installation! Cheers!”

Cheers!

To be continued…

Sarah

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