The angel doesn’t have a head, or legs either, and perhaps that’s for the best.
“He’s a creature of the air. You see him as more of a force,” Darlene Miller-Lanning, Ph.D., said, explaining how, without the distraction of appendages, you can concentrate on the struggle depicted in the University of Scranton’s eye-catching sculpture “Jacob and the Angel.”
To learn more about the campus’ collection of eye-catching outdoor sculptures, you can participate in one of two walking tours, set for Wednesday and for April 28, or visit the university’s Hope Horn Gallery, where an exhibit offers insight into the creation and installation of the pieces.
“We have a photo of (Swoyersville artist) Gerhard Baut on a crane, checking St. Ignatius’ face,” Miller-Lanning said, describing a finishing touch for a sculpture called “Metanoia.”
That Greek word means “transformation,” Miller-Lanning said, and “Metanoia” speaks to a change of heart experienced by the man who would become St. Ignatius and found the Jesuit order of priests that established the university.
“It’s kind of a cubist representation of St. Ignatius, who was a Spanish soldier. He was injured, and while he was recuperating he started to rethink his life. It shows him turning his sword around so it becomes a cross-like form and offering his service to God.”
Jacob’s struggle with the angel deals with changes, too, said Miller-Lanning, who is director of the Hope Horn Gallery. “In the biblical story of Jacob and the angel, he’s at a transitional point of his life, coming to terms with who he needs to be.”
When you’re a university student, Miller-Lanning said, “you have to make a lot of big decisions about what you’re going to do for the rest of your life. It’s kind of scary.” So it’s appropriate that Jacob and his transitional struggle, designed by Philadelphia artist Arlene Love, is “near a lot of dorms.”
Also fitting for a college campus is a piece called “Christ the Teacher,” which depicts Jesus standing by another person, one whose identity could be a bit mysterious.
“There are a lot of interpretations,” Miller-Lanning said, explaining the artist, Trevor Southey of San Francisco, has suggested the other figure represents “one of ‘the least of these,’ a person who is anonymous, one of the poor or lonely or forsaken, because everyone has divinity in them and ‘we’re all in this together.’ “
Other people see the sculpture as representing Jesus with a disciple, she said, and some see it as “an image of the resurrection, with Jesus appearing to Mary Magdalene.”
As to the gender of the person with Jesus, the director said, “I think Southey kind of left it open. It’s androgynous.”
A fourth sculpture, “Doorway to the Soul” by Lisa Fedon of Pen Argyl, is a bas-relief attached to the wall of a building. “It’s a series of panels representing the levels you might go through in a procedure of personal growth,” Miller-Lanning said.
To learn more about the artwork and how they express the ideals of the University of Scranton, you can visit “Imagination and Spirituality: Public Sculptures of The University of Scranton Commons,” which will remain on display at The Hope Horn Gallery through May 10.
The exhibit is part of the gallery’s “Landmarks and Milestones” 2012 -2013 series, celebrating significant dates and architecture in the region.