Jason Arkles, sculptor


Large-scale works in public spaces

Christ Pantocrator

Church of Our Savior, University of Southern California Los Angeles, California

Read the article in Fine Art Connoisseur Magazine about this work here.

This tympanum adorns the newly built Church of Our Savior at the Caruso Catholic Center on the campus of USC; it's a beautiful church done in the Neo-Romanesque style. The tympanum was installed in 2012, just weeks before the consecration of the new church.

The tympanum's symbolism represents a Christ Pantocrator, known similarly as Christ in Majesty. Christ is seen walking through a Vesica Piscis, an ancient symbol of the shared sacred space between Heaven and earth, inhabited by Christ.

On either side sit two angels - the Angel of the Alpha and the Angel of the Omega - representing metaphorically the cosmological role of Christ as the beginning and end of all things. Bearing trumpets which herald Christ's message, the angels' meaning is reinforced by a rising sun and setting moon appearing on the horizon, in the distance, above each figure.

The sky in the background appears a bit darker than the rest of the work, even though it's the same piece of Carrara marble. That's because it's more highly polished; over time, as the rougher and less polished sections of the work gather dust, the polished sections will remain cleaner and brighter. Eventually, the constellations incised into the sky above the sun and moon will become visible; in a sense, this work will remain unfinished for a few more years.

Apotheosis Of Saint Mark

St. Mark's English Church, Florence, Italy

This life-size marble figure was carved for the Anglican Church in Florence in 2007-2008. It sits in its niche directly above the main doors of the church, visible for hundreds of feet up and down Via Maggio, one of the main streets in Florence. This highly prestigious commission came to completion as a result of the generosity of St. Mark's church and many of its members, clergy and staff, as well as my own friends and associates in Florence. Although I was the right person at the right place at the right time, it wouldn't have been possible without their help and support.

This sculpture makes me the only American sculptor, living or dead, to have a permanent, large-scale public monument in Florence. Interestingly, I first noticed this conspicuously empty niche in the center of Florence ten years ago, and even made a study for a St. Mark statue for this niche as a student. When I discovered late in 2006 that the church was about to undergo extensive restoration, I decided to show my portfolio to Father Lawrence Maclean, chaplain of the church; one thing led to another...Dreams can come true.

The statue of St. Mark is an apotheosis; it is symbolic of the salient points of the life of the saint, rather than a depiction of the saint at a certain time or place .He is represented as a young man, bare-chested and with his cloak slipping off his shoulders. This refers to the verse in the Gospel of St. Mark which describes how a young man was present in the Garden of Gethsemane with Christ and how this lad was nearly hauled off by the Roman guards, but escaped by wriggling out of the cloak he was wearing and running off into the night. Traditionally, this verse has been interpreted as a description of Mark himself, present at the scene.

Ropes bind his ankle and wrists. This refers to the manner in which Mark was eventually martyred, dragged to death in the streets of Alexandria, Egypt, where Mark served as the first Bishop of Alexandria. The vaguely North African style of the trousers he wears also alludes to this time. Centuries after his death, his body was smuggled to Venice, where Mark has become the Patron Saint of that city.

The scroll, incised with the first verses of the Gospel of St. Mark, obviously reflects the role of evangelist. Finally, the brooch holding the cloak together across mark's chest is a simple winged lion design, the iconographic representation of St. Mark used often throughout the history of religious art.

In the years since the installation of the statue, certain sections have weathered and gathered dirt more than others. Instead of trying to fight the ravages of Time, I chose to incorporate the darkening of marble I knew would occur. Accordingly, as dust has settled into the crevices of the text in the scroll,it has become plainly visible, whereas at installation it was indiscernible. Likewise, the folds of cloth in his cloak seem darker than St. Mark's skin.

The Golden Knight

United States Army Parachute Team Headquarters Fort Bragg, North Carolina

The U.S. Army's Parachute Team, a non-combat demonstration team of top-notch stunt parachutists who perform and compete across the country and the world, marked its 50th anniversary of existence with this monument outside the Team's headquarters on Fort Bragg. The Team is known as the Golden Knights, so named due to its propensity for bringing home gold medals from competitions with other military teams from around the globe.

The monument was commissioned by the Team's very active Alumni association, which saw fit to closely model the design of the Golden Knight statue upon the commemorative trophy each team member receives upon retirement. The statue is gold patinated bronze, well over six feet in height, mounted on a 12-ton block of polished black granite provided by GK Alum Jim 'Skippy" Kassel, which itself is etched on the sides with the name of every Golden Knight Team Member from the last five decades.

Deborah Kornegay Memorial Fountain

Imperial Center For The Arts, Rocky Mount, North Carolina
This terracotta and bronze fountain is located inside the Rocky Mount Arts Center at the Imperial Center in Rocky Mount, North Carolina. The monument honors the life and work of Debbie Kornegay, a resident of Rocky Mount, who died tragically last year.

The general concept behind this memorial is Charity, as Debbie was widely recognized for her selfless commitment to her community. I thought a fitting tribute might come in the form of a wishing well. Apart from a wishing well's symbolic function as a symbol of hope ( a wish being the 'civic' version of prayer), it could have a very real charitable function, one that I would like to think Debbie would approve of. Any coins tossed into the basin will be periodically gathered and donated to local charities once supported by Debbie's work.

The themes running though the work deal with charitable acts and nurturing. A bronze allegorical figure of Charity stands atop the fountain, gently pouring water from a small dish onto a small potted plant in her hand. The the drip of water falling onto her plant is echoed and amplified in the cascade of water from the upper basin into the lower one, and floral motifs are found throughout the terra cotta basin. In addition, the fountain is adorned with living plants and flowers, their pots sculpted right into the fountain.

The siting of the fountain in the Arts Center is a large alcove, just off the main atrium of the building. The photo below shows how the monument is triangular in shape, fitting into the corner of the alcove, to allow for foot traffic through the alcove as well as the widest possible viewing angle of the fountain. (A 'head on' view of the fountain is not possible, due to a structural support about ten feet in front of the fountain.)
The fountain itself is made of over 130 handmade terracotta tiles I have fired myself, as well as having hand-mixed 1500 pounds of clay from a recipe I developed for this work, similar to a clay body used for bricks. The inscription on the backsplash reads "Do unto others as you would have others do unto you."

Lady Chapel Altar

St. Mark's Church Florence, Italy

At the same time I received the commission for the St. Mark statue I was also tasked with the construction of a new altar for the Lady Chapel of the same church. I chose to carve the altar out of Rosso Verona marble, a mottled red and orange stone. It's known as an 'antique' marble - that is, the quarry from which the stone is taken has been open for centuries, and has been thoroughly mined. Mostly, stone from this quarry nowadays is either fairly small or of secondary quality. It took over a month to locate stone of high quality and of sufficient size for the altar, but the search was worthwhile, as Rosso Verona has a jewellike quality which was at the heart of the design concept.

The design for the altar base is based loosely on two floor standing candlesticks in the church, located on either side of the icon behind the pulpit. Because of the small size of the Lady Chapel, I was careful not to create a design that would dominate this space, hence the single pedestal leg rather than two or four legs. Incorporated into the base are lion's paws, a subtle tribute to the patron saint of the church, and three fleur-de-lis in the Florentine style with an 'M' superimposed upon them, for Mary. Inlaid into the top of the altar are five crosses in Carrara Statuario marble, the highest quality white marble in Italy.

Atop the base of the pedestal is a column capital which I carved by hand rather than turning it on a lathe. Around the rim of this is the inscription of dedication to Bruce Sherman Noll, father of Candice Noll, whose patronage made the altar possible.

King Monument

Mt. Gilead Church, Pittsboro, North Carolina

This funerary monument was completed in February 2006, after eight month's work. The design is based on the tomb of Emelyn Story, wife of William Wetmore Story, an American sculptor living in Rome in the 19th Century.

Story's tomb and its Angel of Sorrow has proved a popular motif for monument builders and those who would commission them. Several similar works can be found in the United States, including New Orleans and Stanford University. But rather than copy Story's work, I hired a model and put her into a pose similar (but not identical) to the original pose. The biggest deviations I made were in the style of modeling and dress, and in the choice of materials.

I'm not a Neoclassicist (I'm a Naturalist), and so the figure was not given a Greek nose or any of the classicizing elements common in Story's day. Along with the naturalistic modeling, I chose to dress the model in a strapless evening gown, rather than a bedsheet toga. It's funny - artists have traditionally used the toga to denote timelessness regarding their subject. Putting a toga on a figure these days is about the most dated thing you can do, short of a poodle skirt. Evening gowns seem to have that timeless quality an angel needs - we'll see if posterity agrees.

What seems to please me the most is the contrast between marble and bronze in the work. It's something I've wanted to try ever since I saw an exhibition of Louis-Phillippe Hebert's work in Quebec. His monuments are fantastic, integrating figurative bronze with stone architecture in a way that goes far beyond the traditional figure/pedestal relationship. Every rendition I've come across of Story's tomb have been entirely of marble, and yet the several components of the monument (figure, bouquet, dais, tombstone) were perfectly suited for Hebert's idea of rendering static, inorganic architecture in stone and organic, fleshy elements in bronze. Also - and this was not insignificant - it's more cost effective and less laborious to render figures in bronze than in marble, and at the same time less laborious and almost as inexpensive to render architecture in marble, rather than bronze.

This is my first large scale monument, and I must thank Dr. Jerry King for the opportunity to finally show what I can do. I also need to give credit where it's due - The choice of basing the work upon Story's tomb was entirely his, as is the unique inscription and the excellent siting of the piece, and without the honest criticism of a knowledgeable art lover such as Jerry, this monument would have been good enough, instead of good.

One Single Step

Wilmington Riverwalk, Wilmington, North Carolina

The title of the piece is derived from the expression, A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. Whether the figure in the sculpture has just arrived or is about to leave is intentionally ambiguous, giving leave for each viewer to ultimately determine the motive behind the work as he or she sees fit. Is she windblown and a little cold, or does she stand with a pose of determined resolve? A goal of this work and its proximity to the water is to draw to the viewer's attention the dual nature of a port as both a safe haven in rough weather and as a doorway to the world.

One Single Step is cast in a lightweight resin from the original clay model. This resin cast is not for sale, although editions in bronze are available.