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The Annunciation – Cornelius Sullivan on Márton Váró’s magnum opus

The Annunciation, with Sculptor Márton Váró, Ave Maria, Florida

Ave Maria, FL, March 25, 2015 – The Blessed Virgin Mary strides forward breaking the confines of the sculptural relief format. That is only one original aspect of this Annunciation.

Márton Váró  is a figurative sculptor who understands beauty and he is experienced in showing the beauty of women.

The scene is a break from the traditional Virgin figures who are shown passively reading or praying. Often she would be shown surprised. Here, her pose indicates that this may be after her fiat, after her yes. Váró’s Virgin is a substantial figure who is strong and active. We may read her expression not as surprised but as inspired.

The Archangel Gabriel kneels respectfully before the Virgin Mary. We may imagine that as Gabriel left on his mission he may have asked, “Should I kneel?” Perhaps God responded, “Artists might show you kneeling, or on your toes, or in the air. Don’t worry you will know what to do.”

Sometimes Artists compress time to tell a complete narrative. Gabriel is speaking and Mary has already said yes. It is in the nature of relationships on earth, that there must be a back and forth, and therefore there is always waiting. We may guess that there was a moment when heaven and earth waited for her yes.

The two other innovative qualities of this sculpture are, first that the sculptor is a Direct Carver and every inch of the marble relief was touched by his hands.

Secondly, the work was completed on site and the whole community became a part of the creative process.

The normal procedure for a project of this magnitude would be for a small two foot model of the design be sent to Carrara or Pietrasanta, Italy where it would be enlarged and carved by artisans. With some luck you could have it resembling the model in a general way in a few years. There would be no guarantee that what looked good at two feet would work at thirty five feet. In Ave Maria the sculptor alone began and completed this sculpture and he also supervised the installation.

The church is in the center of the town of Ave Maria in Florida. It dominates the main piazza like a European Cathedral, a Duomo, and it faces Ave Maria University. The church, the town, and the university are all dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary.

The Annunciation takes up a very large proportion of the “cathedral”, the Oratory. The art is both traditional and innovative and it signifies that the building is a Roman Catholic Church.

The sculpture saves the odd Post Modern building that kids call a space ship and that has been compared to an airplane hanger. Its silhouette, front and back, resembles a Bishop’s mitre. The architectural vocabulary of the Oratory, employing both masonry and steel, is a mixed metaphor, not having a particular style. The project did not have an architect, it was the vision of a businessman executed by engineers with no regard to the cannons of traditional Catholic Church architecture with its vocabulary of arches and domes and religious art designed for the inside of the church as well as the outside. It is recognizable now as a church because of The Annunciation sculpture.

A parishioner objected to my characterization of the Oratory as an odd Post Modern building. In teaching at the Harvard Graduate School of Design, the School of Architecture, I was required to define terms and understand movements such as Post Modernism.  That does not mean that I don’t love the church. It is my church too. Sacraments are lived there.

In The Annunciation the beauty of the message and the beauty of the sculptural form are one and work together.

Lest anyone think that art like this is extravagant I remind them of a sentence by Pope Benedict that proclaims the truth that art is essential to the Church.

The only really effective apologia for Christianity comes down to two arguments, namely, the saints the Church has produced and the art which has grown in her womb. – Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, The Ratzinger Report, Messori, 1988.

On any given day you can see small groups of people in the remote location on the edge of the Florida Everglades taking pictures of The Annunciation of The Blessed Virgin Mary. Those photographs will subsequently go around the world.

Annunciation sculptor Marton Varo

Márton Váró  worked for long hours each day in public before the whole community. Covered with white marble dust, (and “looking like a baker” as Leonardo da Vinci said of Michelangelo) he would stop and answer questions for students and pilgrims. When asked at a discussion forum, when the work was nearing completion, if the Virgin Mary had communicated anything special to him, he responded, “Yes, she said keep working.”

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Click here to see an image of the unfinished side angels and to read more about the Ave Maria Oratory and The Annunciation.

Artist--1Cornelius Sullivan, MFA, is a prolific writer, painter, engraver, sculptor, art historian and lecturer whose work  – even his non-religious work – reflects his Catholic faith. He has taught at several universities including the Harvard University Graduate School of Design, and currently is an adjunct at Ave Maria University. For years Cornelius has been part of the fabric of life in Ave Maria. His art and writing can be discovered at www.SullivanArt.com

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