Art exhibit tells story of Christ

By  Joe Barkovich, Catholic Register Special
  • August 1, 2007

{mosimage}WELLAND, Ont. - The One Called Jesus, a travelling art exhibit with lifelike, highly detailed characters, is winning rave reviews from visitors during a month-long stop in Welland.

“It’s breathtaking,” said Mary Van Schie, who with her husband Frank studied the clay sculptures with looks of awe written over their faces.

The Welland residents heard about the exhibit through a local church.

{sidebar id=2}“I’m pleased to hear that students are being taken to see this,” she said. “It tells them about the life of Our Lord. It’s a story they should know early in their lives but somewhere along the way it has been lost.”

The sculptures are the work of Maurice Gaudreault, a northern Ontario man who worked on the collection over an 18-month period in 1996-97. He died in August 2000, aged 67.

There are 50 sculptures in the collection, one of three major projects that Gaudreault completed. The others are I Still Remember, a tribute to pioneers of the north, and Wildlife.

The One Called Jesus is now in the care of the diocese of Hearst, Ont. Gaudreault and his family lived in places like Timmins, Hearst, Moonbeam and Fauquier. He studied ceramics and pottery in Kapuskasing from 1976 to 1982 when he presented his first public showing.

The exhibit has been travelling around Ontario, stopping in many schools and other locations. It has been open to visitors in Welland since early July. In that time about 100 people have gone through the trailer that is stationed outside Eglise du Sacre Coeur in Welland’s Frenchtown neighbourhood.

Sr. Lucille Paille, formerly of Welland and now a pastoral worker in Hearst diocese, is on duty at the exhibit this month. She said its careful attention to detail is commented on by viewers regardless of their age.

“Even children in elementary school notice the quality of the workmanship,” she said. “And I can tell you that there have been people who are moved to tears by what they see, both young and those who are older.”

Dr. Jacques Dubois and his wife Margot, parishioners at Sacre Coeur, said they were overwhelmed by the sculptures.

“The characters are so life-like it’s almost like they speak to you when you look at them,” Dubois said.

The exhibit has three themes that tell the story of the life of Christ. One is The Hidden Life of Jesus, the second is The Public Life of Jesus and the third is The Passion of Jesus.

Sculptures in the first include the Annunciation, the Nativity, the Baptism of Jesus and Jesus is Tempted by the Devil. The next has sculptures like the Miracle of the Loaves, the Woman Adulteress, the Raising of Lazarus, the Good Samaritan, the Last Supper and the Washing of the Feet. Sculptures that comprise the Passion exhibit include Jesus is Flogged and Crowned, Jesus Dies on the Cross, the Resurrection, The Ascension and Pentecost.

Paille tells the story of a boy in Grade 4 who noticed that Christ’s body is nailed to the cross while the two thieves are tied with ropes.

“He said to me, ‘They did that to Him because they hated Him so much, they wanted to make Him suffer.’ ”

She said she was touched by the young boy’s perception.

Paille said visitors should take time to especially study the visage of the adult Christ in Gaudreault’s sculptures.

“What’s amazing is that the face is the same in each. It is amazing because he did all without using a mould for them.”

While in Welland, the exhibit is open to the public from 9:45 a.m. to 11:45 a.m. Monday to Friday, and 11:30 to 12:30 on Sundays.

(Barkovich is a freelance writer in Welland, Ont.)

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