Artist’s hands busy with the Lord’s work
If “idle hands are the devil’s workshop,” as Proverbs states, Chet Hockman’s workshop is nowhere close.
Two of his recent painted relief carvings – one of the Cathedral’s Immaculate Conception stained glass window and one of St. Michael the Archangel fighting Satan – are displayed at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Wichita.
The coronavirus epidemic has not idled Hockman’s hands. During the last eight months he has created and donated three relief carvings to various area parishes.
Last year, he gave a talk to the St. Mary’s Altar Society in Newton about the carvings he created over the years for St. Anne Catholic Church in Wichita. Because of their avid interest, he created a carving of the Blessed Virgin with the baby Jesus and donated it to the parish. It now hangs in the church vestibule.
Artist careful about his hands
His hands aren’t idle, but to ensure he doesn’t damage his wrists and hands from the repetition of carving he alternates between creating a new carving and continuing work on his other artistic endeavors.
Hockman said the building of the board and the carving of the wood, which he describes as his canvas, takes much longer than the painting. Depending on the size of the carving, it takes a month and a half to two months to complete before he can bring the work to life by painting it.
After he finished the carving for St. Mary’s in Newton he decided to carve a “pieta,” a closeup of the Blessed Virgin holding the body of Jesus, and donated it to St. Vincent de Paul Parish in Andover and their pastor Father Kent Hemberger. Father Hemberger was the pastor of St. Anne Parish in Wichita and was instrumental in encouraging Hockman’s artistic ministry two decades ago
“Being retired has given me time to just keep moving forward,” he said. “So, after completing the pieta, I decided on ‘A Happy Death, the Death of Joseph’ as the subject of my next carving. I hadn’t heard of the idea of St. Joseph’s happy death until just lately, so I was intrigued.”
St. Joseph carving goes to school
The design of the carving was based on a charcoal drawing by another artist. “I shifted parts of the design and added a dove,” he said. “It looks like it was always meant to be a carving.”
As the carving took shape, his wife, Cathie, who attended St. Joseph Catholic School in Wichita for a couple of years as a child, thought it would be nice to donate it to the St. Joseph parish, so he did.
Hockman, who grew up in the Baptist faith and converted to Catholicism while serving on the USS Enterprise off the Vietnam coast, said the carvings, even though they are done in relief, still allow the faithful to experience a more dimensional image and texture than with almost any other type of artwork.
He said his carvings of the Vietnamese Our Lady of Levang and Our Lady of Guadalupe at St. Anne Catholic Church were created to allow people – including those who are blind – to touch the carving itself while praying, unlike a glass-covered image or photograph.