An early version of Ed Gibney's bust of Fr. Michael Troy.
April 30, 2012
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER
Saskatchewan sculptor Ed Gibney says a short prayer each day before he starts work on his latest commission.
"One day after my prayer I looked at one of Father Troy's younger pictures and suddenly realized his face was too wide. So I shaved off the sides of his cheeks and there it was."
Gibney pauses for a moment then says, "I thought maybe he (Father Troy) or the founder of the Knights of Columbus, Father McGivney, was trying to help me at that moment."
The talented artist who usually creates abstract stone sculpture for the past 22 years is now working on a bronze bust of the late Father Michael Troy who died two years ago at 92. The bust will be placed in St. Joseph High School - a school where Troy taught, coached teams and was loved by all.
This is Gibney's first major figurative commission and he is asked why he stepped out of his usual artistic genre.
"Well, I'm the state deputy for the Knights of Columbus in Saskatchewan and I liked the idea of working with the Knights of Alberta. Father Troy was Alberta Knights' chaplain for 16 years so it was an honour to have that opportunity to do this work."
It hasn't been an easy creation.
"I was working with the flat surface of photos that had no profile shots," explains Gibney.
So he came to Alberta for two days during the Father Troy basketball tournament at St. Joe's, chatted with those who knew the beloved priest and "did some touch-ups."
Gibney also met a woman there who had gone back to Ireland with Troy a few years before his death and she had a picture of him in profile.
HONING THE DETAILS
"He really did not have a strong chin," says Gibney. "It sort of curved down into his neck, so I got to the point where I made his neck a little longer."
The pictures Gibney worked from spanned from just after Troy had been ordained until a few months before he died. But the artist was aware of wanting to capture the spirit of this revered man.
"The teens thought of him a teenager like themselves, so while I showed his age, I wanted to also show him as a young person at the same time. I wasn't going to try to depict any moment in his life."
After four months of work the plasticine stage was completed.
"It has gone to the foundry," says the artist. "They use that mold to make a three-eighths of an inch wax form and then cover that with plaster. The wax is melted out and they pour the bronze in.
"By this time, it is eight pieces. And finally I can actually work on the bronze again to hide the welding marks."
That distance between Gibney and his sculpture is hard for him. "I like that hands-on work with stone. I like to have my hands on the final product."
Ron Schuster, state advocate for the Alberta Knights, said they wanted to honour Troy who served as the state chaplain for 16 years. The decision to choose Gibney was made by the membership, says Schuster.
Born into a strong Irish Catholic family, Gibney designed monuments for his funeral director father and brother's businesses before he entered university.
"I wondered what it would be like if I took some art classes and ended up with a degree in fine arts in sculpture. It seems that is the way I was being led."
Of his work on the Troy sculpture, Gibney's voice warms. "It's been a wonderful experience and you wish you had known the man when he was there and could talk to him."
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