From the Hand of the Sculptor: Gib Singleton

An art form that has captured my interest in recent years is sculpture.  There is something about the ability to craft a freestanding, three-dimensional object out of raw material that fascinates me.

Any piece of art is, no doubt, born of the ability to imagine another world, but to nurture something that occupies our own space in height, breadth, and depth is born of a very specific genius.

I am also struck by the hands-on nature of it all.  Unlike most forms of painting, a sculptor’s work involves immediate contact with the raw material of his work (unless it is chipped out of stone or wood), requiring a unity of heart, hands, and mind that, again, is involved in other forms of art, but has a particular immediacy and engagement to it.

One artist whose work particularly fascinates me is that of Gib Singleton.  Now in his seventies, Singleton was born in Kennett, Missouri, educated at Southern Illinois University and the Art Institute of Chicago.  A Fulbright Fellowship took him to Italy where he assisted in the restoration of flood-damaged art in Florence and in years since he helped repair the damage done to the Michaelangelo’s Pieta.

His own work, which he has done for years now in New Mexico, is largely devoted to religious and Western themes and has claimed a place in the Museum of Modern Art, The Vatican Museum, and the Cowboy Hall of Fame — to name a few.  The crucifix that he created adorned the crozier carried by Pope John Paul II and now the one used by Pope Benedict XVI.

Spiritually, Singleton’s religious works give powerful expression to the work of God:

  • one that is rooted in the earth and evident in the texture of his pieces (interestingly, the first photographic compendium of his was entitled, From the Earth)
  • one that points beyond this world to something transcendent (there is a vertical dimension to many of his pieces)
  • and one that is urgent and insistent, demanding a response from the viewer

One could hope for little more from the icons of God’s work….presence, the transcendent power to make a difference, and a reminder that we are urged to respond.

About Frederick Schmidt

The Reverend Dr. Frederick W. Schmidt, Jr. holds the Rueben P. Job Chair in Spiritual Formation at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary in Evanston, IL, and directs the Rueben Job Institute for Spiritual Formation. He is an Episcopal Priest, spiritual director, retreat facilitator, conference leader, writer, and consulting editor at Church Publishing in New York. He is the author of numerous published articles and reviews, as well as several books: A Still Small Voice: Women, Ordination and the Church (Syracuse University Press, 1998), The Changing Face of God (Morehouse, 2000), When Suffering Persists (Morehouse, 2001), in Italian translation: Sofferenza, All ricerca di una riposta (Torino: Claudiana, 2004), What God Wants for Your Life (Harper, 2005), Conversations with Scripture: Revelation (Morehouse, 2005), Conversations with Scripture: Luke (Morehouse, 2009), and The Dave Test (Abingdon, 2013). He and his wife, Natalie (who is also an Episcopal priest), live in Glen Ellyn, Illinois, with their Gordon Setter, Hilda of Whitby. They have four children and five grandchildren: Henry, Addie, Heidi, Sophie, and Drew, with a sixth on the way.