He’s become a prominent, and controversial, figure at two separate Ontario university campuses: a life-sized statue cast in bronze of a homeless man lying on a bench. The figure is wrapped in a blanket; the only parts of his body showing are his feet, which bear the stigmata associated with Jesus Christ.
The sculptor, Timothy Schmalz of St. Jacobs, Ontario, named his creation Jesus the Homeless. According to the Catholic Register, Mr. Schmalz, a graduate of OCAD University, was moved to create the statue after seeing a homeless man lying on the sidewalk in Toronto in 2011. His desire, he says, is that passersby, from a distance, will think the sculpture is a real person and approach it.
Jesus the Homeless was first installed at Regis College, the Jesuit school of theology at the University of Toronto, in February 2013. A second cast was installed this past fall at King’s University College, federated with Western University. Before that, the statue was twice rejected – by St. Michael’s Cathedral in Toronto and by St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City.
One person who has not turned away Jesus the Homeless is Pope Francis. In late November, the original wooden model of Mr. Schmalz’s sculpture was brought to St. Peter’s Square to present to the Roman Catholic leader. After his weekly general audience, the Pope blessed the statue.
David Sylvester, principal of King’s University College, says public art “should challenge people to think about who they are and how they interact with others.” He hopes Jesus the Homeless will be “a catalyst of discomfort and generate some interesting and challenging conversations among faculty, students and visitors to campus.”