“He lifted me out of the slimy pit…”
So begins the second verse in David’s 40th Psalm. It is the inspiration for LIFTED, a new sculpture work in wood by Nick Kroeze, president of Kuyper College, and part of the world-famous ArtPrize exhibit which opens in Grand Rapids on September 19.
According to Kroeze, the work actually began about 25 years ago when he received what he calls a unique gift—an eight-foot-long piece of walnut tree trunk. “It was worn, cracked and had many worm holes. I knew the walnut wood was precious,” he said, “but I had no idea how deeply any damage might have penetrated the log. Still, I thought I had to keep it until the time and concept were right.” So, he kept it through two-and-a-half decades and two moves across the country.
One day, while looking at that weathered log, the time seemed right. “I felt the image and could see the flow of the carving as an expression of Psalm 40,” said Kroeze. “The weathered and beaten nature of the exterior could open up to the beauty of the interior in a way that symbolized, embodied and conveyed hope out of despair, rescue out of desperation, and healing out of tragedy.” Kroeze said he hoped the interior of the log would be undamaged by natural or human causes and would be “beautiful” on the inside. “There was only one way to find out,” he said. “Start carving.” And as he did, he says the interior wood, though with some cracks and natural defects, showed itself to have a grain pattern that blended with the flow of the carving in a way that strongly complemented the figure. “Any natural deformations in the log only helped to further carry the sense of a broken, needy figure longing for rescue,” said Kroeze.
According to Kroeze, LIFTED expresses the state of a person mired in a situation that leaves the person feeling trapped and in need of help beyond him or herself. “The somewhat exaggerated stretching emphasizes the person’s soul straining upward for rescue,” he said. “Reaching for the certain help of one who can liberate the person from the entrapment being experienced—while the eyes are focused upward expectantly, through the tips of the fingers, to the source from which rescue will come. At the same time,” he continued. “The left arm with its exaggerated muscles shows inner determination and desire to be extricated, to be part of the liberating action. The fingers clutch at the mud, striving to rip it off the body and break its hold in the miry pit.” Kroeze said that the weathered exterior of the original log and old cuts and other damage caused to it were intentionally preserved to further the image of brokenness and decay out of which the figure emerges.
Lifted will be exhibited at the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel. In addition to the sculpture, a devotional—“30 with 40”—illustrated with sculpture photos, will be available, beginning on September 19, at www.praisecraft.com.
It will also be available later this fall in printed form. To receive a free copy, while supplies last, e-mail your name and address to: firstname.lastname@example.org