Long ago when I was in college I remember an art teacher who explained to me that one of the requirements of “good” sculpture is that it must be interesting from every angle. Because it is a three dimensional piece of art it is meant to be looked at from all sides. Therefore to be considered good it has to show more than simply a good view from the front. Look at it from the side, from the back, then ask yourself if it is still worth looking at?
This year I have done a lot of personal work with an artist in Bigfork named Sunti Pichetchaiyakul. Earlier this year I got to photograph all of Sunti’s bronzes. It ended up being ten hours of photography, but it was so worth it. Sunti’s work is interesting from every angle. The details are incredible. And in all of his work there is such a sense of soul. His Legends of the Americas are based on photographs, or paintings. He wants the sculptures to be as true to life as possible. One of his sculptures is of Crazy Horse. There was no actual image so Sunti based his work on interviews with the descendants of the famed warrior.
His work amazes me. The attention to detail. The fine craftsmanship. I have a personal preference for his bronze work, but all of what he creates is infused with such life.
When I saw Sunti finish his sculpture of Gerald Ford my first thought was to wish that Betty Ford was still alive. She gave Sunti permission to do the sculpture and I remember thinking that if she had seen it, she would have wept. Somehow, through his art, the static bronze becomes dynamic. He captures, a look, an expression… It’s hard to explain. Photography captures the fleeting moment and freezes it in time. My mother is long gone and I miss her so much, especially at this time of year, but something of her smile lives on in one of my favorite photographs of her. Sunti’s work has a similar quality. I don’t know how to explain it better than this, but something of the people he sculpts lives on in the sculptures he creates.
This is why when Sunti told me he was planning to do a sculpture of Christ based on the Shroud of Turin I was instantly excited. There is a strong spiritual aspect to Sunti’s work. In Thai culture making a realistic representation of someone is a heavy responsibility as well as an honor. Sunti takes this very seriously. He is faithfully meticulous. A perfectionist. No detail is without significance. Having seen his other renderings, I literally could not wait to see what Sunti would do with Jesus Christ. I’ve enjoyed all of Sunti’s work, but this has been special for me because now he’s taking a look at someone central to my faith. Sunti is creating a portrait of God.
Because of tight schedules I haven’t had the time to follow the creation of this sculpture the way I would have liked to. The short story is Sunti worked very rapidly to have the sculpture done before Christmas. And with only days before the holiday the sculpture is finished. I got to see it Tuesday at the gallery. I’ll be coming back to do the formal portraits of this sculpture, like we did with the other Legends, but I didn’t want to wait until then to publish these photos. Besides, it’s almost Christmas. What better time to share these photos than in conjunction with the holiday that celebrates the birth of the savior of the world. So here it is, the finished piece. I’ll have more photos of this soon I hope, once we all have time to set up backgrounds and lighting and do the formal portraits. But for now, here it is: Jesus Christ, the first in the Legends of the World series, but Sunti.