By all accounts Heather Wise meant well. She just wanted to restore the head of baby Jesus on a church statue in Canada after it had been repeatedly vandalized. But her efforts flopped spectacularly, sparking worldwide shock and ridicule.
When a parish priest put out the word that the statue needed to be repaired, the amateur Canadian sculptor stepped up to the plate. Emphasis on “amateur.”
Via Fox News:
For almost 10 years, The Guardian reported, vandals would attack a white stone statue of Mary and child outside Ste Anne des Pins church in Ontario, Canada, often leaving the baby Jesus’ head on the ground. About a year ago, an unknown suspect reportedly knocked the head off for the last time and took off with it.
When the church’s priest, Gérard Lajeunesse, inquired about replacing the head via a professional sculptor, he was told it would cost about $10,000. That’s when Heather Wise, a local artist, literally knocked on his door.
“I was so sad,” she told Sudbury.com, describing her feelings when she saw the headless statue. “I thought, ‘Who would do that?’ It’s just not a positive feeling to see that. I said, ‘I’m an artist, I would like to fix it.’
“I knocked on the door, talked to the priest and we’ve been getting this together, because we had to find out a way of doing it.”
Wise said she learned to sculpt in college, but she had never worked with stone. Apparently she was more comfortable using bright orange terracotta clay. Which turns out to be the crux of the problem….
— SBS News (@SBSNews) October 21, 2016
“No wonder Mary has her eyes closed,” a commenter wrote on the CBC website.
As the story circulated online, some said Jesus looked like Maggie Simpson. Others compared Wise’s effort to a Spanish octogenarian’s effort to restore Ecce Homo, a peeling fresco of Jesus, that has been called “the worst restoration in history.”
Another writer said the baby Jesus resembled “a demonic hedgehog.”
Father Lajeunesse didn’t quite know what to say. “It really is shocking to the eyes because of the big contrast in color,” he told the CBC, adding, “I wasn’t trained for this in seminary.”
The good news is the new head (which is already eroding in the rain) is only temporary. The bad news is, Lajeunesse plans to use the same sculptor for the next head.
He said Wise plans to use her experience with the clay to make a head of stone.
“It’s a first try,” Lajeunesse said. “It’s a first go. And hopefully what is done at the end will please everyone. She did this out of the goodness of her heart.”