ROME — If “beauty will save the world,” as Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoyevsky said, then “perhaps beauty can also save the unborn,” said Canadian artist Timothy Schmalz.
“Works of art have the power to persuade, convince and move people”, and “the more representations we have of a mother and child…in our visual landscape”, the better, he said.
Schmalz spoke to reporters in Rome on May 27 to present his latest sculpture: the “Monument of Life”, which is permanently installed in the church of San Marcello al Corso in the center of the city.
The 8-foot-tall bronze statue depicts Mary kissing her pregnant belly, which reveals a polished stainless steel womb with the unborn child Jesus. The mirror effect of the womb allows viewers to see themselves in the womb, reminding that their life too began in a womb, he said.
He said he plans to unveil a new piece highlighting the value of the elderly as part of a growing series of pro-life pieces, which includes his “Homeless Jesus” sleeping on a park bench and “Ignorant Angels depicting a group of migrants and refugees on a boat.
Schmalz said her hope is to offer a pro-life message that reminds people of their own gift of life and the beauty of art to touch the hearts of those in favor of legalized abortion.
“I just don’t want to preach to the choir,” noting that the church where the statue is displayed is visited by countless tourists.
He said he wanted the play not to be “a weapon of confrontation”, but seen as “a celebration”.
“I didn’t want to make a pro-life sculpture that offends anyone” because the method of using horrifying images of dead unborn babies “doesn’t work” and those who need convincing “don’t won’t learn anything,” he said.
If they can see the beauty of unborn life, he said, “maybe it will be a kind of persuasion” to make them think more deeply about all of human life as beautiful.
As for the “touching” hot issues, he said, “you have to use beauty and love, otherwise it just won’t work.”
“If I can bring that dialogue closer to a little more understanding and love on both sides, then sculpture is a great tool, it’s a great instrument,” he said.
A ‘colossal’ version of the life-size statue of Rome is currently touring the United States, starting in Texas, and ending in its permanent home in Washington, D.C., outside the University’s Theological College. Catholic Church in America, directly across from the National Shrine Basilica of the Immaculate Conception.
Schmalz said he hopes copies of the Life Monument will be permanently installed in other countries as well.
The Catholic Church must rediscover the value and impact of “the power of the visual”, he said.
In the past, the visual arts have been instrumental in teaching the faith to a largely illiterate society, he said. But today, the problem is not that people can’t read, it’s that they don’t have time to read.
People “need visual images,” he said, and if the Catholic Church can continue “to spread these positive messages that are relevant today, then they are silently, subtly evangelizing.”