Judith Shea (American, b. 1948)
Wood, bronze, and hair
Lent by the Nelson-Atkins, Museum of Art, Kansas City
Gift of the artist and Marc and Elizabeth Wilson (2006.39)
<i>Chiara</i>, whose name means "clear" or “bright” in Italian, refers to Saint Clare of Assisi (1194–1253), co-founder of the Order of Poor Clares. The sculpture’s downcast eyes suggest spiritual contemplation, but it is not the traditional, often idealized image of female sainthood. Instead, it represents a modern saint in the guise of an ordinary person. Shea's Catholic upbringing and memories of cathedrals filled with sculptures of saints inspired her to create <i>Chiara</i>. Furthermore, <i>Chiara</i>'s carved wooden form reflects Shea's interest in the folk carving of saints, which she studied in Oaxaca, Mexico. <i>Chiara</i> thus manifests Shea's attitude toward art history as a reservoir from which to draw inspiration. The result is a contemporary expression of female spirituality.
Photograph by Ruy Sanchez-Blanco
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"I still remember the feeling of awe and disbelief when I was alone and walked in the room with those casts." --Ruth Tofle, chair of architecture, winner of the 2013 distinguished faculty award from the MU Alumni Association