Sculptor of Hope

November 26, 2007

When Liviu Mocan went to renew his driver’s license sometime after 9/11, the city official behind the desk began to panic. For the sculptor’s swarthy complexion and grey-flecked bushy beard gave him a remarkable resemblance to the world’s most wanted man: Osama bin Laden!
Yet this man is a revolutionary of sorts. Through his sculptures, he plans to spread a revolution of hope around the world.
Liviu (pronounced as in ‘leave you’) has since become a well-known figure in his home town of Cluj-Napoca, in Romania. There he is known as ‘Father of the Columns’, creator of a cluster of tall, bronze, sculptured columns planted in the sidewalk of a down-town square. Liviu won a city hall contest to design a memorial to be placed on the spot where anti-communist demonstrators were killed by police during the revolution of December 1989.
Last weekend I met up with the sculptor in his home in Cluj, after learning I was staying just two doors away. Meeting on previous occasions in Hungary, we had discovered a common interest in the theme of ‘hope’.
The garden of his unfinished house was populated by a dozen or more sculptures reflecting various themes and phases of his career–spirals and seeds, wood and bronze–each carrying motifs of suffering and hope. Deep cuts made by a power saw, burns inflicted by a welder’s flame, iron bands twisting and biting into the column, stubs of arrows puncturing to the soul of the sculpture, all spoke of torment and hardship. Yet despite the agony and grief, the columns overcame distress and despair, rising heavenward in resurrection hope.
Sitting in his living room opposite an imposing five-metre high floor-to-ceiling window, framing the woods behind his house, Liviu explained that creation always inspired him. His own artistry was just a very small reflection of the creativity of the Creator. ‘I come to my sculpture like a child, coming to play, ‘ he says. ‘My Father plays with me.’
One of the poems on his website reads:
I am happy to be a sculptor
The whole world is a gallery with sculptures.
In order to create a three-dimensional object
I have to take a piece of material from nature.
I start working.
When my hands touch the marble or the granite or the wood,
When my hands deepen in soft clay,
I touch God’s hands.
God’s hands are there waiting for me.
I feel them, I try to see, I try to listen…
This is how, re-sculpting His sculptures,
I tie myself, day by day, to the Universe.
This is how re-sculpting His sculptures
I understand, day by day, how inadequate I am.
I am a sculptor,
I am a sculpture.

When in the course of our conversation I mentioned my mother country of New Zealand, Liviu excitedly began outlining his current big project, called ‘Seeds, Following the Sun’. New Zealand, he explained, where each morning’s rays first touch the globe, was the starting point. Over the next few years, he planned to make a global statement on each continent and region, planting symbols of hope in places of pain, sorrow and despair–places like hospitals, prisons and orphanages.
Last August the Prime Minister of New Zealand, Helen Clark, inaugurated a seven-metre wood sculpture in the grounds of North Shore hospital, in my home city of Auckland, he told me!
The sculpture, made by Liviu in New Zealand, assisted by Kiwi John Ferguson, followed the familiar theme of a seed overcoming trial to become all the Creator designed it to be.
I found a YouTube clip on Liviu’s website (under Multimedia, ‘Illseed’), capturing the inauguration. Instructed by (the very secular) Ms Clark’s office not to talk of his faith, Liviu told of a great love story between the sun and the seeds. ‘The seed is placed in the darkness of the ground and dies. But there is hope. The love of the sun brings the life out from inside of the seed.’
Ms Clark herself praised the sculpture as a ‘beacon of hope’. It was, she said, an appropriate symbol to be standing outside a hospital where people needed comfort and healing.
Future sculptures are planned for China, Africa, America and Europe. In America, where more people are behind bars than in any other country, Liviu hopes to place the sculpture by a prison. He showed me a three-metre high ‘sketch’ he had prepared, with a ‘seed’ caught in a cage growing upwards out through the bars into a beautiful golden shape.
The last sculpture in the global series will be seven times seven metres high, on a hill overlooking his home town of Cluj.
The artist plans to continue witnessing to the hope of the resurrection even after his death. Written into his will and testament are instructions that he be buried grasping a stainless steel staff, bolted to a plate laid under his body to prevent theft and desecration. The staff will rise up through the soil to display a welded metal pennant embossed with the word, ‘Resurrection’, for all visitors to see.
Till next week,
Jeff Fountain

Till next week,

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