Created by sculptor Timothy Schmalz, this new work is an "artistic celebration of the sacredness of every life."
If you step off the busy shopping street of Via del Corso in Rome and enter the church of San Marcello al Corso, you can see (to the left of the altar), a statue of the Virgin Mary, wrapping her arms around her radiant womb carrying the baby Jesus. This new work of art by Canadian sculptor Timothy Schmalz, “Life Monument,” was blessed by Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, president of the Pontifical Academy for Life, Sunday, May 29.
The bronze statue, with its domed uterus made of stainless steel, is “an artistic celebration of the sacredness of every life,” says the artist. Timothy Schmalz’s religious sculptures have been installed in various locations in Rome and the Vatican. The “Monument of Life” has been donated to the Christian association “Italian Movement for Life”, which defends the right to life at all its stages.
Timothy Schmalz’s sculpture will be unveiled against a backdrop of fierce debate over abortion, particularly in North America, the artist’s home region. In the United States, the Supreme Court is deciding whether to reverse the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, which legalized abortion at the federal level in the country. Tensions have led to the ransacking of houses of worship and the headquarters of pro-life groups.
A silent mother and child
The sculptor stressed, however, that his sculpture was not a “weapon of confrontation,” hoping it would have the “power to persuade, convince and move people” and make them “think deeply about the idea that all human life is beautiful.”
“I didn’t want to make a pro-life sculpture that offends anyone, because people who aren’t convinced aren’t going to learn anything,” explained Timothy Schmalz. “If you have a pro-life protester holding up [representations of] dead fetuses, the only people who understand that message are the pro-lifers. The other side has no idea and it doesn’t work.”
“With this work, I wanted to create a sculpture that even pro-abortion people would look at and agree, ‘I have to say this is great,'” the artist further emphasizes, before noting that this sculpture “doesn’t scream at you, it’s a silent mother and child.” And to launch: “Who will be annoyed by that?
Symbolic detail: unusually, the sculptor chose stainless steel to form the womb, unlike his other works of art that are mainly made of bronze. He explains that he wanted to represent “a nimbus”, to emphasize that the womb is “the source of all human reality.” Also, because it is a reflective surface, the audience can see their reflection in the womb of the sculpture, each being sent back to the place where their life began.
Using beauty to advance dialogue
The Canadian artist emphasizes the importance of art in spreading positive messages and “evangelizing silently and subtly.” He confides that he was inspired by Russian author Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s quote “Beauty will save the world. “If I can use beauty to move the dialogue one step closer to some understanding and love on both sides [of the issue], then sculpture is a great tool,” he says.
“Culturally, we cannot lose the importance of the sacredness of life, which begins at the beginning and continues to the end, with the elderly, and is found in everyone in between,” insists Timothy Schmalz, citing the homeless and marginalized, whom he has featured in other artworks such as his “Homeless Jesus” and “Angels Unawares.” In addition to the Rome statue, a six-foot-tall version of “Life Monument” will also be placed in Washington, D.C., at Theological College, across the street from the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.