- About Grace
Grace in Art: The Bean
On March 12, 2015
Visual arts give us the opportunity to experience the Sacred in new and beautiful ways. Grace Church is blessed to house many works of art within our walls. Perhaps the most noticeable piece is the copper sculpture that graces our sanctuary, often referred to as The Kidney Bean.
Love it or hate it — The Bean is worth looking at more closely. The sculpture was created by artist Hillis Arnold and installed at Grace Church in 1965. Arnold taught sculpture and ceramics at Monticello College (now Lewis and Clark College) in Godfrey, IL and was renowned for his work in religious and symbolic art. Arnold lost his hearing at the age of six months due to spinal meningitis.
The piece was commissioned by Grace member Eleanor Harford, in memory of the life of her husband Edwin M. Harford (1879-1964).
The artist collaborated with then-rector, the Rev. Arthur Steideman, to write an interpretation of the sculpture, which we are including in this article.
After reading this explanation, we encourage you to walk up to the altar and take an up-close and personal look at The Bean. Your opinion of this art may change when you look at the detail and understand the story. This written interpretation is also hanging in a frame directly behind the reredos (wall behind the altar).
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The Bible verses used to guide the artist in arriving at this artistic creation are:
Jesus said, “I am the bread of life; he who comes to me shall not hunger, and he who believes in me shall never thirst.” John 6:35
Jesus said, “I am the vine, you are the branches.” John 15:5
The three units of this sculpture are:
1) the bread and the wine representing Jesus Christ,
2) the family relationship strengthened by the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove and,
3) the brotherhood of man under the fatherhood of God as symbolized by the eye.
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The center subject, the Holy Communion, representing Jesus Christ, is the largest in scale and is the most prominent of the sculpture. The chalice is large, as I meant for it to be, and the bottom portion appears to be absorbed by the vine and itsbranches. (Many individuals have thought at first glance that the chalice was a fish, which is also a symbol for Christ. The five Greek letters that spell “fish” are the initial letters of the five words, “Jesus Christ God’s Son Saviour.”) The broken loaf and bits of bread together with the chalice of wine are constant reminders that we worship a Lord whose body was broken and whose blood was shed for all mankind, and that we who claim to be His followers are invited to share in His life, to take His life into ourselves and share both the joy and the suffering that was His. The man on the Epistle side bows in humility because of his unworthiness to receive the most gracious gift. The woman on the Gospel side is filled with rapture and joy as she participates in the Eucharist (Thanksgiving).
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The family unit at the extreme right is guarded by the Holy Spirit symbolized by the hovering dove above. The rays of light from the beak of the dove lead to the Holy Bible in the hands of the father of the family. The dove has long been a symbol of the Holy Spirit as well as purity and peace. Christian education in this family is of primary importance. In the background you will notice a sketch of the modern home of today.
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The unit on the extreme left represents the brotherhood of man under the ever-present God symbolized by the eye, but appearing somewhat like the Sun. Many scriptural references are made to the Eye of God and it has come to symbolize the all-knowing and immanent nature of God. One individual in this group is trying to be a Good Samaritan to his fallen brother and is encouraging him to take his rightful place within the circle. The flow of the pattern of arms of these men lead to the symbol of Christ in the center panel. In the background you will notice a sketch of the present Grace Church.
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Between the center panel and the right hand panel you will notice two hands plucking a leaf. This is my symbol of the confirmand, having taken upon himself the vows made for him at his Baptism, with a rudimentary knowledge of God but through the cultivation of years of growth, symbolized by the successive obstacles in the terrain, he becomes a fruitful Christian, symbolized by the flower at the top.
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The background to the left of the center panel depicts the vine in fruition with the flowers at the top representing faith and hope. The vine which has its roots in the sacrifice of our Lord encompasses the entire sculpture to insure that none for who Christ died might be lost.