By Sarah Carlson, Arts Editor
After receiving funding from generous benefactors, Jack Maxwell has been able to continue constructing his sculpture of “Jacob’s Ladder,” which should be complete by the beginning of next fall.
Maxwell, chair of the Art and Design Department, has spent at least three or four years working on the design of the sculpture, which was put on hold last year to wait for funding. Construction is progressing, and Maxwell said much of the sculpture should be cast in bronze by early next year.
“It will really be one of the capstone pieces that commemorates the Centennial,” Maxwell said. “We’re trying hard to have it finished by the Centennial year.”
The 33-foot sculpture consists of four eight-and-a-half-foot tall angels ascending and descending a ladder, which will be suspended 11 feet off the ground. The sculpture will be located between the Onstead-Packer Biblical Studies Building and the Mabee Business Building and will be a part of a larger landscaped area meant for meditation.
“It’s more than just a bronze sculpture,” Maxwell said. “It’s actually a place that will be akin to some meditative places in other buildings, such as the Quiet Place.”
Limestone slabs will surround the angels with scriptures from the Genesis 28 account of Jacob’s dream at Bethel. The sculpture is hard to describe to those who haven’t seen the design, Maxwell said, but he suggested for one to imagine Stonehenge, then throw in angels ascending and descending a ladder and picture an ancient ruin.
“The idea is to suggest history and spirituality in the space,” he said.
The stones with scriptures engraved on them will be carefully placed so as people move around the piece, they can read the scriptures while viewing the art.
Maxwell has completed casting the 8-foot model of the sculpture, which is on display at the Centennial art show at the Grace Museum. He is working at a bronze casting foundry in Bastrop, about 30 miles east of Austin, to bring the current wax model to full scale using three-dimensional computer technology.
When the wax model is enlarged, it will be made into Styrofoam pieces that will be shipped back to Abilene. Maxwell and those helping him will spray the Styrofoam pieces with an oil-based clay, which he will sculpt and mold over the models to his liking. Rubber molds will then be made of the clay pieces, which will be sent back to Bastrop to be cast in bronze.
The pieces will come on 18-wheeler trucks to Abilene, with the angels’ bodies and wings separate because of their size. A crane will lower the figures onto their pedestal of limestone, and then the wings will be molded on.
Maxwell said he has enjoyed the time spent on his sculpture, though it has taken away from other projects on his plate. Regardless, he said the time he’s spent has been worth it, considering the sculpture will be around for years, possibly even for the university’s bicentennial celebration.
“This is like my ‘Mr. Holland’s Opus,'” Maxwell said. “This may be the largest piece I do in my life. It’s worth spending the time to make it right.”