Saint Francis of Assisi

This image of a beloved saint and a personal hero might never have been undertaken but for a winter respite with my students, who have long modeled for me the loving-kindness of Francis.

Sketch for the winged friends.

Why hummingbirds? Some years ago, I was working in a Vermont greenhouse and nursery wherein a sweet colleague and I rescued ruby-throated hummingbirds. They would become caught in spider webs; the silk was too strong for their wings, and our little friends would emit panicked cries from the ceilings. So, my colleague and I spotted each other on precariously positioned ladders, gently parted silk from feathers, and marveled at the weightlessness of the creatures until they rallied and flew from our hands. After a batch of rescues on a very warm day, I was sweeping out the greenhouse and paused to rest, closing my eyes and leaning on the broom for support. The air near my face changed, and I slowly opened my eyes to find four male hummingbirds hovering before me. We made eye contact for long seconds and I felt a current of pure, loving gratitude pass between us. I am convinced that they fully knew we’d risked the climbs to help them in genuine care and reverence – indeed, had now re-entered the environment of their trauma to communicate it – and this image of multiple, fiercely territorial birds in a moment of harmony has remained with me. In addition, hummingbirds are often seen as symbols of joy and their wings beat in the shape of infinity, which makes them a lovely fit for the subject. A fifth bird protected between the hands completes a reference to the wounds of Christ.

The primary tool for this work was a small, damaged chisel. It gave the surface rough imperfections that catch and reflect light.

Beyond producing a one-of-a-kind terracotta cast, the work will advance with text. More to follow, Divine-willing!