Nancy Goughnour, sculptor and ceramic artist, recently completed a stunning sculpture depicting St. Francis of Assisi leaning over talking with (or listening to) a tiny bird. The sculpture stands about 12 inches high and 11 inches long. It is ceramic with a bronze patina.
You can see this piece in person at 1+1=1 Gallery in downtown Helena. If you are a lover of St. Francis, as many people are, you will be touched by his body language, the kind face, the bird’s gesture towards Francesco, and the profound statement about humans and Nature embodied in Nancy Goughnour’s work.
St. Francis, the patron saint of Italy and patron of animals and the natural environment, has been my favorite saint since I was a child growing up in a Catholic family. St. Francis believed that nature itself was the mirror of God. He called all creatures his brothers and sisters, and preached to the birds and other animals. In his “Canticle of the Creatures,” he mentioned “Brother Sun” and “Sister Moon,” the wind and water, and “Sister Death.” He referred to his chronic illnesses as his “sisters.” Francesco’s deep sense of brotherhood embraced all others, and he declared that “he considered himself no friend of Christ if he did not cherish those for whom Christ died.”
As a friar in the Fransican order which he founded …
St. Francis preached to man and beast the universal ability and duty of all creatures to praise God and the duty of humans to protect and enjoy nature as both the stewards of God’s creation and as creatures ourselves. In 1979 Pop John Paul declared St. Francis the Patron Saint of Ecology
Legend has it that, one day, while Francis was traveling with companions
… they happened upon a place in the road where birds filled the trees on either side. Francis told his companions to “wait for me while I go to preach to my sisters the birds.” The birds surrounded him, intrigued by the power of his voice, and not one of them flew away.
St. Francis is often portrayed with a bird, typically in his hand.
With this depiction of St. Francis of Assisi, Nancy has chosen to show Francis stooping over — almost bowing — with the bird on the ground instead of in his hand. So much can be said with just a few strokes of the pen, or paint brush — or in Nancy’s case — with a few strokes of her hands in clay.
If you are interested in purchasing this piece, or in seeing other current and new work by Nancy Goughnour, call us or email us for more information, or stop by the gallery to see her work in person. We are located at 434 North Last Chance Gulch in Helena, Montana.