Catholic sculptor built while others demolish – BC Catholic
As statues fall across the country, there is little positive that sculptor Timothy Schmalz can take from anger and destruction.
Egerton Ryerson, John A. Macdonald, and Queens Victoria and Elizabeth all felt the wrath of crowds upset by the residential school legacy as their own legacies are diminished for their perceived roles in the system. Anger has surfaced with the discovery of over 1,100 unmarked burial sites in former residential schools in Saskatchewan and British Columbia, and more are sure to come.
“There seems to be such a trend of destruction in our country right now,” said Schmalz, the famous Catholic artist from St. Jacob’s, Ont. “It’s kind of human nature in a way when you have an abundant amount of energy and you don’t know how to express it, it usually becomes a destructive energy event.”
Rather than demolishing, Schmalz firmly believes in construction.
“Where I can help as a Catholic sculptor is to bring new symbols that can be used in a positive way,” he said. “It’s one thing to say something with words, it’s another to say something with works of art. Since art is open to interpretation, it has a powerful effect on a culture, on a society and on a people.
Indeed, Schmalz has fashioned a possible solution. The prolific artist has diverted attention from his current artistic roster to launch a sculptural model called Pensionnat. He began sculpting the prototype on Canada Day, a Thursday, and he continued to devote his energy to completing the original design of his artistic tribute until it was completed on Sunday night. It is now molded into the finished product.
Schmalz designed a classroom with each desk representing Canada and one of its 10 provinces and three territories. A lone Indigenous girl sits at one of the desks with her head side down and one of her hands resting on top of the desk. She holds a feather in her other hand next to her skirt.
“I think the little girl surrounded by all these empty desks is a simple but powerful message,” Schmalz said. “The child has his head tilted over the desk, almost hiding from the situation at school. It also appears that she passed a secret note – in this case a feather – to another student, which is symbolic of her ancestry and culture. “
Schmalz envisioned a classroom full of children, but ultimately felt that he could best illustrate the frightening, lonely, and painful nature of these institutions with just one student.
It is his hope to install a life-size sculpture on the grounds of a Catholic parish in each province and territory. He imagines visitors walking between each of the desks – the chairs will be folded up – and perhaps feeling inclined to leave gifts of flowers or tobacco as a souvenir for the children.
This is not the first time that Schmalz has expressed his frustration with the dismantling of statues. Just a year ago, during the fury over the death of George Floyd at the hands of a Minneapolis cop, he said The Catholic register he gritted his teeth at the site of the monuments being demolished.
“This incident made me realize how important visual images, especially sculptures, are to the world and to people’s psyche in a way,” he said. “It becomes so symbolic that by removing one it is superimposed on deep symbols, power and philosophy.”
Ideally, unlike the degradation of religious and historical monuments and the burning of churches that dominated Canada Day 2021, Schmalz hopes his art will positively contribute to inspiring “decent, civilized, reasonable and unifying conversations.”
The Catholic register.