Jon Knecht wasn't sure if the largest and most breathtaking piece in his latest exhibit would even be part of the show.
Originally, the Mapleton sculptor planned on showcasing a few newer works alongside a smattering of previous works for his first solo exhibit since 2005, a show that opens today at the Carnegie Art Center along with an exhibit of images from the Bend of the River Photography Club.
But when he considered the large space in the art center's main gallery, with its raised ceiling and open floor pattern, Knecht knew what he had to do.
"I wasn't even sure if it would be part of the show," he said. "But then I saw the gallery and was like, 'Man, I've got to make it happen.'"
At 11 feet tall and encased in the hull of a 14-foot sailboat, Knecht's "SCULPTURE NAME HERE" is imposing enough in dimension alone. But its physical characteristics are made even more impressive by the expressive power of the sweetly-countenanced Madonna whose warm, upturned palm and welcoming bearing conceal a more sinister symbolism.
Knecht is not a sculptor who plays coy with his audience. Coupling his own well-established visual nomenclature — viewers can look for the recurrence of small artist's mannequins, electrical insulators and clocks in his work — with more psychologically loaded political and social symbols, Knecht's sculptures are full of narrative and commentary.
Though the soft-spoken artist said he's happy to allow viewers to arrive at their own conclusions, he also said he's not afraid to let himself be present and identifiable in his art.
In the case of "SCULPTURE NAME HERE," Knecht is commenting on the sex abuse scandal that has rocked the Catholic Church. As viewers turn a door handle, a set of wheels spin behind the Madonna's head, causing faceless priest figures to be shuffled in and out of hiding.