Sunday, while doing my ’rounds’ as an usher at Basilica of St. Mary in Minneapolis I happened to notice a piece of religious sculpture on the wall (click to enlarge photos). (Photos of all of the art on exhibit can be seen here, and are posted with the permission of the artist.)
The creation was intriguing: a combination of wood, metal, plastic and foil. Artist James Quentin Young’s note at the side of the piece said “This cross can be seen as strong and sturdy, a force against the brokenness that exists in our society.”
Now I paid closer attention: James Quentin Young is an unusual name, and many years ago in Anoka-Hennepin School District I knew the name of an art teacher, James Quentin Young. I wondered, “one and the same?”
If so, he likely would now be retired, as I am.
A little later, I noticed another cross design a short ways down the same wall: “James Quentin Young”. Another, another…in all there were 18 creations by this James Quentin Young on the outer walls of the Basilica, each unique. I go to church at Basilica, but normally don’t see the outer walls and had completely missed this exhibition (which, unfortunately, ended November 20).
Downstairs, where we always have coffee after Mass, there were many more attractive works of art on the walls. They are like most such exhibits: one admires the ability of the artist and the representation without necessarily noticing who did the piece. This time I looked:
James Quentin Young.
The exhibit ended the same day I saw it, so the best thing I feel I can is make others aware of this retired art teacher and his work. Likely there will be other exhibitions. His website is here. He’s in the Minneapolis phone book, if you are interested in making contact. Kathy Dhaemers, who handles art exhibitions at Basilica, notes that Mr. Young has a following in the twin cities. I can see why.
Monday, I made a special trip over to Basilica to take photos of all the works – there were, in all, 75. By good fortune, I arrived at the Church about the time the artist James Quentin Young arrived to take down his exhibit. We managed to meet briefly by yet another of the crosses in the sanctuary, this one composed of a portion of a rack of clothes hooks. As best as I can recall, James Q had rescued this rack from some garage sale or other, and the hooks-as-cross symbolized for him the assorted kinds of things on which we human beings hang our lives.
James grew up on St. Paul’s west side, and spent a year in Mexico City, and his art has a strong strain of both common roots and Hispanic influence. It is both beautiful and thought provoking.
Here’s the text on the flier which accompanied the exhibition: “In reviewing his art from the past 53 years, James Young discovered that from the beginning of his study in art he sought to use Christian themes. It was a journey with Biblical references using reoccurring symbols of doves, fish, angels, and portraits of Christ. For the past eleven years the cross has been the primary symbol in his work. Young often creates his art from old wood, metal and found objects. Using discarded and broken items, Young’s art portrays Christ’s acceptance of our flawed and rejected lives and transformation through His death and resurrection.”