The Free Press, Mankato, MN

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October 3, 2013

Err of grace: In Hosanna exhibit, Mankato woodcarver displays art with no ego

In Hosanna exhibit, Mankato woodcarver displays art with no ego

Sister Mary Ann Osborne's "The Embrace" is among the most powerful examples of the veteran woodcarver's 1,300 creations.

The large image of Christ on the cross contradicts more traditional and tortured interpretations by portraying the crucified figure with soft, rounded limbs and unpierced hands spread in invitation to the viewer. An almost childlike countenance is made all the more tranquil with a tilted posture that the artist believes is crucial to the overall representation of the work.

And to think: That tilted posture was borne from an apparent mistake.

"The head is slanted because I made a mistake with the chainsaw," said Osborne, a School Sister of Notre Dame for almost 40 years who is currently exhibiting a selection of her works, including "The Embrace," at the art gallery located within Hosanna Lutheran Church in Mankato. "I don't often use a chainsaw, but I was in a hurry to get the outline done."

Early in her career, Osborne might have struggled to fix her mistake, or abandoned the piece entirely. But in 1994, during a six-month residency with Franciscan sister and respected woodcarver Sister Sigmunda May, Osborne learned to let the characteristics of the wood guide her process. Osborne credits her mentor for unmooring her style from conventional ways of carving and "loosening my umbrella of rules."

So this time, noticing her errant swipe of the chainsaw, Osborne stepped back and reconsidered her approach. Soon, a new visage revealed itself to her and the artist never gave the mistake a second thought.

"The trick is to let go of yourself and get out of your own ego," Osborne said. "I've learned that if something breaks, that's good. It means you need to change."

The vast majority of Osborne's works (and all of those on display at Hosanna) are in the sacred tradition, derived largely from biblical scripture and New Testament theology.

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