Our Lady of the Smile

Submitted by Michele vandenHeuvel

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Client: Rev. Vincent Chavez, Shrine of the Little Flower - St. Therese Parish

Location: Albuquerque, NM, United States

Completion date: 2017

Artwork budget: $24,000

Project Team

Artist

Michele vandenHeuvel

Bené Bronze

Industry Resource

Bill Weaver

Bill Weaver Studio

Industry Resource

Samuel Sievert

Midnight Arc Metalwerke

Overview

Our Lady of the Smile was St. Therese’s beloved statue that sat on her nightstand. One day when Therese was very ill, the statue turned her head and smiled at the Saint, making her well.
Our Lady is shown as pregnant and walking, stepping on “evil” (the snake). On the back of her gown are columbine flowers; tradition says that when Our Lady traveled to greet her cousin Elizabeth, columbines sprang up in each of the footprints. French lace is imprinted on the rim of her gown, in tribute to St. Zellie Martin, St. Therese’s French mother.

Goals

My goal when sculpting this piece was to reflect the warmth and love that Therese felt and experienced at the moment the statue of Our Lady smiled at her.

Process

As work progressed on The Little Flower sculpture, Rev. Chavez spoke to me about commissioning me to sculpt the beloved statue of St. Therese of Lisieux, Our Lady of the Smile. Coincidentally, and unbeknownst to us at the time, the day he spoke to me regarding this piece was the anniversary of the day the statue of Our Lady had smiled at Therese. Upon completion of The Little Flower I began sculpting Our Lady, and work progressed quickly. Samuel my production manager son and Bill Weaver, along with Shidoni Foundry were instrumental in the completion of the work. Our Lady was installed outside the front door of the Shrine of the Little Flower. She stands on a granite pedestal designed by Rev. Chavez, and greets those arriving and leaving the church.