Early Works

The Sacred Arts encompass work done in the tradition that blends the visual arts and decorative arts with sacred and spiritual themes. In Catholicism, the decorative arts may be incorporated into the Mass or other rites such as baptism. In Byzantine and Romanesque art, visual scenes depicting important bible stories were used to instruct the faithful. 

Helen Higgins began working with sacred imagery while a student at Catholic University. By the senior year of her undergraduate work in 1952, she had chosen clay and sculpture as her primary mediums after taking courses with Alexander Giampetro, the internationally known artist and long-time professor at CU. Giampetro after studying art at the New Bauhaus of Chicago in 1930’s with the Hungarian artist, Laszlo Moholy-Nagy and receiving an MFA in 1946 from Alfred University, Alfred, NY was versed in the tenets of the modernism and the principles of Bauhaus that aimed to blend the decorative arts with the fine arts. Giampetro, a man of faith, who worked with the sacred traditions as well as the emergent pottery movement of the 1950’s integrated his philosophies of art and modernism into his studio courses. 

The simplified forms and stylized features of these hand carved and built sculptures in this case reflect a knowledge of modernist principles. The large marble dated 1952 on the lower shelf entitled “Head of Jesus” is the largest known stone sculpture by Helen Higgins. The early abstract wood sculpture entitled “Man” is the only non-sacred work in the case but leads to the two tall walnut sculptures on the top shelf that are in the sacred arts tradition. The sculpture, “Kiss” is two forms that symbolize the moment of the betrayal of Jesus by his apostle, Judas Iscariot. The tall thin wood form on the shelf symbolized a female figure at prayer. The small glazed ceramic sculpture dated 1955 that represents the Madonna and Child is an early example of a spiritual theme that the artist would revisit over many years.

To view any of these objects in more detail, click on the thumbnail below.

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