LeAnne Martin
Christians in the Arts

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Stephanie Tumney, Part 2: Faith & Sculpting Intertwined

Today I'm concluding my interview with Stephanie Tumney, a stone sculptor. At an early age, her creativity and love for art were evident. In kindergarten, her favorite sculptor was Michelangelo, and she is still influenced by his work today, along with others such as Bernini, Picasso and Henri Moore.

Stephanie graduated from the Corcoran College of Art and Design in Washington, DC. She has shown in galleries, museums and private homes in California, Massachusetts, North Carolina, Virginia, Washington DC, and Cairo Egypt. She works primarily as a sculptor, although she enjoys drawing, painting and photography as well. Her work in stone is often figurative, in poses that depict raw emotion, as well as spiritual and psychological transformation.

Sculpting is a spiritual exercise for Stephanie. Her work is derived from Scripture, often the Psalms. She tries to meditate and pray while she sculpts, depending on God throughout the process, and rejoicing at His work when it is finished.

Stephanie grew up on the East Coast, in Massachusetts, and currently resides in Campbell, California, with her husband Mark, who is a Presbyterian Pastor.

LeAnne: How does your faith impact your sculpting?

My faith and my sculpting are intricately intertwined. I hesitate to say “my sculpting” because I have to be so dependent on God throughout the process, that it isn’t really my sculpting at all. I can take credit for the mistakes, but anything that is good and beautiful must be credited to the Ultimate Artist.

The sculptures I make are always derived from or inspired by God’s Word. Many times it is the Psalms, whose raw emotion and visual images lend themselves greatly to art. During the process of sculpting, I try to pray and meditate on the chosen scripture verses. I pray for people I know, and those I don’t, people that feel the same way as what I am depicting. Particularly with stone, I end up praying a lot for God to turn my mistakes into something great for Him, my life mistakes and my sculpting mistakes.

LM: Have you faced career challenges because of your faith?

Yes. Honestly, I think that in any career, a Christian faces challenges because of their faith, even “Christian careers” like being a pastor. It just would be so much easier to give in to the way of the world, but we are told to fight against it, to love our enemies, to flee from evil. It is very difficult to be a Christian in the art world, particularly a Christian who believes that Jesus Christ is the only way to God the Father, who gave us His Holy Spirit, our Helper. Many not-yet-Christians are willing to tolerate my faith as long as it doesn’t interfere with theirs. But if one person believes the Earth is round, and another believes it is flat, both can’t be right. You are both going to be preparing for very different journeys, and it’s a Christian’s responsibility and charge to show the truth out of love for them. I still don’t do this very well.

Some people in the art world are intrigued by the commitment and conviction of being a Christian. Others have been hurt in the past by other Christians who were not acting like Christ at that moment, and there are good and healing conversations sometimes. Still other artists try to be as shocking and as offensive as possible, and I struggle most in those situations. It is also challenging to put Christian themes into a context that not-yet-Christians would not be repulsed by, but drawn toward, and prayerfully introducing Christ to them.

LM: What are you working on now?

Right now, I am working in a couple of different areas. I have been learning how to sculpt in bronze, and am now working on two almost life-size figures, male and female slaves, in poses that allude to Michelangelo’s slave series.

I have also been experimenting with a stone called dolomite, whose physical properties are similar to marble, but whose chemical properties are more akin to limestone. I have just finished a small piece this week of a grieving figure based on Psalm 69, and am working on ideas for the future.

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