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‘Our Lady of Sorrows’ sculpture on loan to Risen Christ Parish


Sculptor Benjamin Victor smiles as Father Ben Uhlenkott, pastor of Risen Christ Catholic Community, unveils Victor's bronze 'Our Lady of Sorrows.'(ICR photos/Emily Woodham)


By Emily Woodham

Staff Writer


BOISE – Ben Victor, creator of sculptures that are on display in the U.S. Capitol and in a Rome museum, lives just down the road from Risen Christ Catholic Community in Boise. For years, he admired the architecture of the church building. However, he had never been inside the church and parishioners had no idea that such a famed sculpture lived in their neighborhood.


When Victor’s dentist, Dr. George Lewis, found out that Victor had a 2-foot bronze statue of Our Lady of Sorrows sitting in his studio, he connected Victor with Risen Christ Parish.


The bronze sculpture, a miniature of Victor’s 10-foot statue of Our Lady of Sorrows, commissioned by Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Aberdeen, North Dakota, is now on display at Risen Christ, unveiled at a reception following the 5 p.m. Mass on Sept. 10. Victor created the miniature before carving Our Lady of Sorrows out of a single block of Carrara marble (the same type of marble used by Michelangelo for his David and La Pièta).


Victor chose to depart from the traditional Our Lady of Sorrows art, that typically shows her heart exposed and stabbed by seven daggers, representing each of the Seven Sorrows. Instead, he uses a single sword through Mary’s heart.


Victor has been creating sculptures for about 20 years, getting his first commissions when he was still a student at Northern State University at Aberdeen. He has three works on display at Statuary Hall in the U.S. Capitol building, more than any other artisan. A fourth work of Daisy Bates for the State of Arkansas is pending to be displayed at the Capitol this winter. His sculptures are in churches, parks, and memorials across the United States. He also has a sculpture, “The Angel,” on display at the Sorgente collection Rome and at the Muskegon Museum of Art in Michigan.


Although he was baptized Catholic, Victor was raised as a non-denominational Christian. However, the Catholic Church has been a huge influence on his work. “The artists of the world and the world in general owe a great debt to the Catholic Church for the works of art that they commissioned, had created and preserved,” he said. “Going back to the beginning of the Church, the Church has placed a great importance on the architecture and the art being top-notch, not doing second-rate work.”


Victor travelled with his wife to Rome, Florence and Paris in 2018. “My travels to Rome, the Vatican and different museums have been an integral part of my inspiration and career and art,” he said.


“The Church takes the scripture very literally when it says, ‘Whatever you do, do from the heart, as for the Lord’ (Col 3:23), and that’s very important as an artist. When you or I walk into a great cathedral and then walk up to a work of art that causes us to reflect on scripture, and also seeing the sheer beauty of the art, it makes us have a sense of awe for the Creator. And that’s what the highest example of artwork can be; that’s what the Church has done,” he said.


Victor loves to read the Bible and has read it several times, including the Catholic Bible, from front to back. He also enjoys listening to Father Mike Schmitz’s Bible-in-a-Year podcast, he said. He is a part of a movement of artists who hope to bring glory to God through their art, creating lasting works to inspire others to worship God, he said.


“I think there’s this modern idea that if we do something great, like a great work of sculpture or a great painting in our church that somehow it’s not appropriate because a church is a charity. It’s true that the Church has always had a charitable purpose to give, but I think the Church is right by doing the greatest works of art and architecture in the world.”



In following Biblical history – such as the building of the Tabernacle and the Temple – the Church should be the greatest in the world at creating art, he said. “I think that the modern idea of denouncing excellence in art has really let the arts kind of go to the wayside, so that we don’t have as many works that are as wonderful as the works were in the past in the Renaissance and Baroque periods.”


“Sculpture can reach people in ways that other media can’t,” he said. “We need to create work that uplifts the human spirit toward God.”


Victor’s grandmother, who was an art professor but not religious, was moved to tears when she saw Michelangelo’s La Pièta, he said. “That’s the power of art. My grandmother saw that Mother with her Son in her arms, and she felt that sorrow. She loved that experience of seeing La Pièta.”


Visiting Gethsemane made a deep impression on him, and he hopes one day to sculpt the agony of Jesus in the Garden, he said. In between his many commissions, he is also working on a larger version of his miniature of St. Michael the Archangel slaying Satan.


Victor’s Our Lady of Sorrows is on loan for an undetermined length of time, at least through September, at Risen Christ Catholic Community, 11511 W Lake Hazel Rd, in Boise. For more information about seeing the sculpture, go to the parish website, risenchristboise.org. For more information about Benjamin Victor and his gallery, go to benjaminvictor.com.


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