News - The Shape of Grace - Professor Heilmer's Sculpture Featured in National Sculpture Society Journal

The Shape of Grace - Professor Heilmer's Sculpture Featured in National Sculpture Society Journal

The Shape of Grace - Professor Heilmer's Sculpture Featured in National Sculpture Society Journal

Several sculptures by Greenville College Art Department Chair and Associate Professor of Art Steve Heilmer are featured in the winter 2013 issue of Sculpture Review, a quarterly publication of the National Sculpture Society.

The issue is devoted to the influence of the Second Vatican Council on sacred art in the Catholic Church. Heilmer’s sculptures help tell the story of change in convincing fashion.

Led by Pope John XXIII in 1962, Vatican II redirected the focus of the church from institutional hierarchy to values of early Christianity. It made the church more accessible to contemporary worshipers. Art and architecture soon echoed this approachability.

Sculpture that is approachable, touchable

The lead article takes readers inside the Chapel of St. Ignatius at Seattle University, home to Heilmer’s sculpture Gratia Plena (“Full of Grace,” pictured above).  

The statue works together with other design elements to engage worshipers as participants in ritual, not just spectators.

Noticeably missing from the sanctuary that surrounds it are structures and spaces that typically separate worshipers from liturgical activity – distance, railings, platforms upon platforms and elevated out-of-reach statues.

Gratia Plena, Heilmer’s “Mary,” stands next to the altar, on the same level as worshipers, “intensely realistic, yet metaphorical in its reference,” says author Trung Pham.

Eight-feet tall, the 2,300-pound sculpture carved from a single block of Carrara marble features a rough stone shaft with “grace” lavishly poured out from its top as milk from a tipped bowl. The sculpture’s white, smooth-flowing “liquid” marble invites touch from parishioners as they pass by it to approach the altar.

An artist conversing about faith traditions

The issue also features Heilmer’s Pietastone/Meditation on the Last Temptation (1992), which has seen three showings at the Museum of Contemporary Religious Art (MOCRA) at St. Louis University, St. Louis, Missouri; and Nativity Stone: Mother’s Milk (1992), a postmodern sculpture that is part of the permanent collection at MOCRA.

The generous space Sculpture Review devotes to discussion of Heilmer’s work suggests that he is a valued participant in what contributing author Wolfgang Mabry calls, “the ongoing conversation between contemporary artists and the world’s faith traditions.” 

This story was published on August 04, 2014

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