Artist Receives Awards for Co-Cathedral Sculptures

By D.F. Kratzer CHARLESTON — John Collier, the artist who created the sculptures “Annunciation” and “Tree of Life” in the meditation gardens at the Co-Cathedral of the Sacred Heart in Charleston, has been honored for both works. Ministry & Liturgy Magazine awarded Collier the Bene Award in the 2008 Visual Art Awards, Sacred Art Category for “Tree of Life.” For “Annunciation,” Collier received the Design Merit Award in the Visual Arts from Faith & Form Magazine in conjunction with the Interfaith Forum on Religion, Art and Architecture, a division of the American Institute of Architects.   Pictured are the sculptures “Tree of Life,” left, and “Annunciation,” right, at the meditation gardens at the Co-Cathedral of the Sacred Heart in Charleston. John Collier, the sculptor, received honors for both works. Martina Hart Photos “It feels good to be recognized,” said Collier, who has received numerous awards and was the chief sculptor of the Catholic Memorial at Ground Zero in New York. “It feels good to have someone agree that the work I have done is worthy of attention.” “I am delighted but not surprised that the artist, John Collier, has received further recognition and prestigious awards for the sculptures he created in bronze for Sacred Heart Co-Cathedral,” said Msgr. P. Edward Sadie, V.F., rector of the Co-Cathedral. “The annunciation scene and the Crucifixion, ‘Tree of Life,’ continues to draw tourists, visitors, sightseers and, most especially, prayerful pilgrims to our meditation gardens.” Originally, the plan was to sculpt a smaller annunciation statue, but after a brainstorming session, Collier and Msgr. Sadie devised the plans that would eventually lead to the current statues of Gabriel speaking with Mary and Christ’s crucifixion. “Annunciation,” Collier said, draws upon the “wonderful parallels between Mary and Eve” and “Tree of Life” shows Christ as the Tree of Life, and the Co-Cathedral’s garden is a “terrific” location for both statues. Collier has made a living as an artist since he was 19 and has been making art for churches for 14 years. Religion, he said, “is the thing I love the most, and artists want to paint what they love.” Throughout his life, Collier said, he has studied Scripture, having went to Sunday school as a child and continued these studies on his own. Not all sculptors, Collier said, have this knowledge of and love for scripture—“one thing I have that is useful to bring to Catholic sculpture is the knowledge of scripture.” Works of art have form and content, Collier said, noting that the form is the physical shape of the work of art and the content is its meaning and significance, together mak-ing “beautiful and moving work.” Religious art, he continued, is “unlike many pieces of art. Pieces for church need to also instruct people. They need to at least have something to say to them” and be more than beautiful to observe. In this regard, Collier said, theology is an important aspect of the art and the theology behind the art must reflect what the Church says is true, never contradicting that taught by the Church. “I hope, just as a piece of sculpture, they might like it. I think it’s a beautiful piece,” Collier said, speaking about “Tree of Life.” “There are two reasons to like it,” he continued, “One is, it’s a beautiful object, at least I think it is. The second is the theological significance.”