Sharing the Gospel in Clay and Bronze with Sculptor Timothy Schmalz

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The sculpture looks so much like a homeless man, people have called the cops on it. It’s a life-size sculpture of a person huddled under a blanket on a park bench. Get close to the artwork in any cities that have a copy of it, like Toronto or Rome, and look at the feet. You’ll find two wounds carved into the bronze, the only signs that the person show here is Jesus himself. It’s a powerful and challenging sculpture inspired by the 25th chapter of the Gospel of Matthew, when Jesus tells his disciples that whenever they feed the hungry or visit the prisoner, they’re caring for Christ himself. 

The artist behind the homeless Jesus statue is Timothy Schmalz, a devout Catholic from Canada who uses sculpture as a ministry. Tim is an absolutely prolific sculptor, usually starting his day in his studio at 4am. He creates large, visually arresting works that are on display all over the world, including a recent piece for the Vatican called “Angels Unawares,” which is 20 feet long and depicts more than 140 migrants and refugees. 

More recently, Tim has finished a series of 100 sculptures depicting all 100 cantos of Dante’s Divine Comedy. Host Mike Jordan Laskey asked him why he decided to take on such a massive project and how he approaches sculpting as a spiritual practice. Tim is so good at taking us into the mind and heart of the artist, and his reflections will probably have you Googling where you can find a sculpture of his near your own hometown. 

(Image courtesy of Timothy Schmalz)

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Mike Jordan Laskey is the director of communications at the Jesuit Conference of Canada and the United States. He leads a team responsible for the Jesuits.org website, social media and vocation promotion.