Client: Our Lady of the Holy Souls Catholic Church
Location: Little Rock, AR, United States
Completion date: 2014
Artwork budget: $20,000
George R. Hoelzeman
Odom, Peckham and Associates (OPA)
The Memorial Chapel of Our Lady of the Holy Souls occupies the former Eucharistic Chapel at Our Lady of the Holy Souls Catholic Church, Little Rock, Arkansas. As one of only three parishes of this patronage worldwide, the community wanted a unique and meaningful environment to remember deceased loved ones. With approximately 800 square feet with a curved wall to the north the chapel shares an art glass wall with the main church. The parish columbarium is in the garden outside this chapel. The space provides a tranquil sacred environment of profound meaning, comfort and hope.
The sculpture of Our Lady of the Holy Souls was conceived as the central focal point of the Memorial Chapel. In Catholic devotional practice and theology Mary intercedes for those who have died. There was a desire for a positive, hopeful image. The space is unified by two curved features created to direct attention toward the sculpture. These structures become space where parishioners may place photos of deceased loved ones.
Upon entering the chapel, the viewer becomes a participant in a spiritual drama. Mary appears to be middle aged and gesturing toward the viewer, inviting them to enter into prayer. As one moves through the space, her appearance seems more youthful and hopeful while her gaze and gesture shifts, taking on the manner of one reaching out to God. Mary kneels and embraces symbolic figures representative of those who seek her help and protection. An elderly man and mother with infant are embraced by Mary in the manner of one seeking aid for her children.
The theological and ecclesiastical context becomes richer in that the curving memorial walls flow toward Mary and her gesture and gaze lift them up toward the Divine.
The collaborative process began when the pastor contacted liturgical artist and designer, George R. Hoelzeman. After meeting with the pastor, members of the pastoral staff, and the women's auxiliary to discuss the initial concept for this image, George proposes a creative session open to the entire parish. Prior to this session announcements were made so that all who were interested could participate. Each of the three creative sessions attracted about 40 participants.
Between these sessions George presented concept sketches to the project steering committee which included the pastor, architect Greg Peckham and representatives of various parish organizations. In the course of the creative process theological issues were raised and discussed, and various requests and recommendations were presented by parishioners and artist. One of the most poignant was the request from the parish support group for mothers who had lost a child to include an image of an infant.
After extensive collaboration the artist presented a final design proposal to the parish. Once approved, carving began. Committee members also visited G.R.Hoelzeman Studios to discuss the work in progress. The sculpture was dedicated on the feast of All Souls, 2 November 2014.