Our Lady of Lourdes scene is seen by hundreds of passers-by

Mary Frances Skinner sculpted a scene of Our Lady of Lourdes earlier this month at Blessed Sacrament Church in Wichita. She sculpts there because it is located in College Hill on East Douglas Avenue and gets a lot of traffic. (Courtesy photos)

The Lord giveth Mary Frances Skinner snow and the Lord taketh it away. In the interim, the sculptor gives passers-by a temporary work of art.

As the snow fell during the first week of February, the Blessed Sacrament parishioner and sculptor wasn’t sure what she was going to make out of the transient medium.

“Right before I did it I had a couple of ideas in mind,” she said. “Then I went to the spot and looked at it. I looked at the liturgical calendar and so I knew it was Our Lady of Lourdes coming up.”

She said she sculpted the snow to honor Our Blessed Mother on Feb. 11 and to bring joy on the World Day of the Sick, introduced on that day in 1992 by St. John Paul II.

The sculpture of Bernadette held a candle.

The preparation work is more exercise than it is an artistic endeavor – scooping up a pile of snow is work.

“On Friday (Feb. 4), I just did the cave and the start of Mary,” she said. “And then Saturday I went back. I wasn’t sure if I’d have time or the energy to do a Bernadette, but I was really happy when I completed it.”

Skinner was tired Saturday after completing a man-made snow sculpture of a baby and mother wolf howling at the moon at the Mid-America All-Indian Museum but happy she returned to the church to finish the Lourdes scene.

The artist has been sculpting for about 15 years, and being a native Iowan, she said, she loves snow.

Skinner fashioned her first snow sculpture with the help of her daughter in 2013 for her parish family at Blessed Sacrament Church in Wichita. “I’ve been sculpting there ever since – if we get a big snow. We have to get about six inches.”

The temporary nature of the sculpture and the frigid conditions means she works faster than she would with clay.

“I don’t get so attached,” Skinner said. “I still struggle with the time but I quit when it’s good enough. It doesn’t have to be perfect.”

She said she is shocked by the number of comments she gets about her work. “Part of it is people think it’s kind of crazy. Why would I work so much if it’s going to go away? But that makes it enchanting.”

Part of the appeal to everyone, she added, is that it’s a medium that everyone else had tried – usually with the same three-sphered subject in mind.
Skinner said she is better prepared for a future big snowfall because those who shovel the snow at Blessed Sacrament Parish told her they will pile the snow for her the next time they’re cleaning sidewalks.

“I will take them up on that because I spent most of my eight hours just piling snow. If I spend less time doing that and more time sculpting, who knows what I could come up with.”