From Clouds to Bronze

Guest Blogger: Sr Cor Immaculatum Heffernan

Sr Cor Immaculatum Heffernan: I have always responded to things in 3-dimension:  I remember as a young child, looking at clouds in the sky and finding images…as a teenager, picking up rocks, feeling the shapes, textures, weight… putting them in different positions, seeing animals or objects they resembled. I was always drawn to hold, to touch, and to feel.  My world was a three-dimensional world and my imagination pictured freeform and figurative objects of substance, movement, and beauty. 

Today, I continue to imagine and to create in clay, alabaster, and bronze.   From where does the inspiration come?   How do I envision the abstract idea in material form?

I want to reach every person who interiorly sees that moment “when humanity touches the Divine”.

Whenever I reflect on ideas that call forth the “spirit” within a parable, poem, quotation or story, I find myself simplifying the image as if it were too precious to make realistic.  I want to reach every person who interiorly sees that moment “when humanity touches the Divine”.  Only the simple forms, the hollowed hands, the bend or twist or turn of head and body, can catch the inner response of the viewer, the response that goes below and beyond the external… the interior movement demands a different creative response.  This response can be seen in the Crucifix, mounted in the entrance to Marywood’s Center for Architectural Studies.  Christ is bending toward the viewer, hands open in welcome, arms extended wide, inviting each individual person into loving embrace.

crucifix for Architecture Center - 2
The Crucifix

“The Seekers” in the Amphitheater of the Learning Commons portrays a different artistic response, a realistic representation of one’s personal search for wisdom of the past, knowledge of the present, and creative achievement in the future.

A recent commission was to create a sculpture of St. Francis of Assisi as a memorial for three babies who died before their birth.  The chosen space was immense, encircled by pines that seemed to touch the sky, and huge plates of ironstone rocks embedded in deep earth.  This was a space that called forth  praise, glory, and honor to our Creator God.  The concept that leapt to my mind was “Let All Creation Praise the Lord” and the larger-than-life bronze figures included St. Francis, a doe, wolf, rabbit, squirrel, and two birds.   I sculpted Francis realistically and the animals stylistically.  “Let All Creation Praise the Lord” is now complete and awaits transportation to the site, installation, unveiling, and formal dedication of the memorial in early Fall 2021.

There have been “giants” in the field of the arts whose lives and works have profoundly affected me artistically.  Among them are Ivan Mestrovic, that great Croatian sculptor whose work is alive with perceptive insight, powerful monumentality, and exquisite craftsmanship.  There is Ernst Barlach, the German expressionist whose work soared but was rooted in the people of his world.  There is Gustav Vigeland, the great Norwegian sculptor who captured the spirit of the human person, living, suffering, joying in the embrace of life.  There are the writers of Scripture, revealing humanity’s flaws and the Omnipotent’s covenant with His people; Gilbert K. Chesterton, England’s bard, lover of the weak, trumpeter of forgiveness; Francis Thompson who fled the hound “down the labyrinthine ways of his own mind”; Carl Sandburg, Denise Levertov; Gerard Manley Hopkins and countless others who reveal the Divine Imagination.

The themes of my work are drawn essentially from these sources and capture in wood, stone, and bronze that moment when person meets person, when humanity touches the Divine. 

Sister Cor Immaculatum Heffernan, IHM, M.A, M.F.A.,
Professor Emerita, Marywood University                                               

To learn more about Sister Cor’s life, book, and work, visit her website at

Amphitheatre Statues

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