Who Is Jesus?: Sculpture Artist Peter Rubino Seeks To Express Love Through His Art

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Peter Rubino’s work has taken him all over the world. His pieces have ranged in style from a stunningly lifelike 8-inch figurine of “Roger Maris,” created for the Danbury Mint, to abstract “Radiance,” which stands four feet tall in the Sheraton Manhattan Hotel, as well as a 35 foot tall “Angel” for the Disney company. However, Peter has been able to connect the dots of key events in his life that have led him to the piece he is working on now. The question he is asking is, “Who is Jesus?” And his project, “Pursue Him With Passion,” is seeking to help people answer that question.

Peter, who is well known for his 18-minute extreme sculpting performances of famous people such as Beethoven and Jazz icon Dave Brubeck, recently felt inspired to go in a new direction and sculpt Jesus.

This desire didn’t come out of thin air. In 1970, as a response to the Vietnam War, Peter wrote a 30-second television public service announcement with a message of peace, called “aWARness,” that was sponsored by the Catholic Missions Board. In this film, he also played the role of Jesus. Then, ten years later at age 33, Peter found himself touring the Holy Land of Jerusalem. He was there for the installation of his 12-foot abstract bronze representation of the Biblical character Eve, called “Mother of All Life,” commissioned for the Boyko Research Center at Ben Gurion University in Beer Sheva, Israel. Subsequently, twenty-five years later, while Peter was teaching a sculpture workshop in Tuscany, Italy, he had the opportunity to experience the great religious art of the Renaissance up close and personally in numerous churches throughout Rome and Florence.

The shadow and texture around Jesus’ eye create His expression.

To prepare for this new sculpture performance, Peter first made a large head of Jesus to study. He invited a couple of local pastors to come to see it, also mentioning the performance he was about to create. The idea was well received. So through Created In The Carolinas, Peter moved forward with the plan by connecting with a video producer named Jared Chambers, who was interested in producing a video about art.

Peter explained that he wanted to make a two-minute video he could use to show and promote his full 18-minute performance to churches and Christian organizations. Jared soon called back and said that Lifepoint Church in Fort Mill, South Carolina wanted to do an art piece for their “Who Is Jesus” sermon. If Peter wanted to do the piece, the church was willing to give him the video.

Peter Rubino works on his statue of Jesus in his studio at Created In The Carolinas Co-op.

Peter did the performance in his studio at Created In The Carolinas, in Waxhaw. Jared filmed it and created a one-minute version for the church plus a two-minute version for Peter. While Peter was in the process of sculpting the bust of Jesus for the performance, he was struck by the idea that he wanted to create a contemporary figure of Jesus.

Peter said he was inspired by the famous statue, “Cristo Redentor,” that inundated television sets during the Rio Olympic Games. Peter felt he could create a sculpture of equal power in his own artistic style. He said, “For me, it’s about the visual impact and creating a dramatic artistic statement. Art speaks in ways that words cannot express. So I try not to define any of my pieces, not even for myself, and simply let the viewer decide if my work is speaking to them. I feel deeply about the importance of expressing and communicating my thoughts and feelings to others through my sculptures. I’m blessed and truly grateful for the talents, tools and skills I’ve been given to create whatever I choose and trust there is something inside me worth expressing.”

A close view of the texturing on the cross.

Speaking of how God uses artists to help portray Himself to the world Peter said, “God resides in all of us, so all of humanity is connected to Him through our relationships and experiences. We are all born with God-given gifts, and as a sculptor, I feel my purpose now is to share with the public my personal artistic vision of Jesus. In my heart, the sculpture symbolizes the essence of Jesus and expresses His message of love, peace, hope, kindness and forgiveness.

Peter believes his art can inspire peaceful, individual worship. It can help enhance church spaces and by setting the tone for worship before the preacher speaks a word or the music ever reaches the congregation’s ears. He believes that in the same way great contemporary Christian music prevails in our churches, that we also need great contemporary Christian art on display in churches as well as home. Art pieces can welcome and comfort believers with powerful messages as they enter churches and remind us, before worship begins, where we are and why we came.

A close view of the texturing on the hand.

Recalling how as a teenager he was moved by the site of Michaelangelo’s Pieta on display at the New York World’s Fair, Peter believes that he is on a purpose driven path. “It’s hard to separate myself from the spiritual workings in my life. I feel it, and I’m going to pursue it with passion,” he said.

Steve Maher, Mayor of Waxhaw, said, “Peter is an extremely talented artist, and when I saw his piece he brought back fond memories of my father who sculpted with wood. It’s inspiring to watch Peter’s creativity unfold during a live sculpting event.”

Peter wants to give viewers a feeling of peace and love.

Lisa Hoffman, Events Manager for the town of Waxhaw, also commented on Peter’s work by saying, “We are honored to have Peter Rubino with us during Waxhaw’s Kaleidoscope Fest for a live clay sculpting performance on stage. It’s a celebration of all things art in Waxhaw and Peter Rubino truly embodies the unbelievable talent we have here locally.”

When the statue of Jesus is completed, Peter will have a public unveiling at Created In The Carolinas Co-Op, at 216 West North Main St. in Waxhaw. Karen Johnson, team leader of the Waxhaw Entrepreneurs, has been watching the art process unfold. She commented, “Peter’s statue isn’t just another statue from a talented artist. He has captured the reality that Christ is real, and Peter shows a passion that comes through in his work.”

There will also be a sculpture performance planned. In the meantime, the public is invited to come drop in during business hours and take a look at the statue in-progress. The two-minute video of the Jesus sculpture performance titled “Passion In Clay” can be seen at www.pursuehimwithpassion.com. And visit www.rubinostudio.com to view other works, videos and events. Anyone who may have questions about the project can email Peter at info@persuehimwithpassion.com. Pursue Him With Passion T-shirts are available at the studio for $10. Peter will also begin selling 15-inch replicas of his life-size statue of Jesus valued at $300.

A 15-inch replica of the Jesus statue.
Peter’s sculpting tools sit at the base of the statue.
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Annie Beth Donahue lives in Indian Trail, North Carolina with her husband Brad, and four children. She is a professional writer for both the web and print, and she can be found at www.anniebethdonahue.com.

Annie Beth also has a bachelor's degree in music therapy from Queens University of Charlotte, and has either been working with or parenting children with special needs for the past 18 years. She is a children's book author and the founder and president of Signposts Ministries, a 501(c)3 nonprofit that serves families that have children with chronic health problems or disabilities. In her non-working time, she homeschools and oversees the children's care of their small menagerie made up of chickens, two donkeys, a dog, a cat, and a snake.