In Blog by Scotty Utz


The Task:

The ask was for a sculpture in a memorial garden of a Presbyterian church with the theme of connection and care for one another.  My ears perked up. I love making liturgical art.  This sounded like another way of framing how we live out Jesus’ teaching to love our neighbor from a Trinitarian perspective, something I have been spiraling around for decades. 

The Form:

The basic form of the sculpture I’m playing with is lifted from a triquetra, the three interlocking circles are perhaps the most recognizable symbol of the trinity.  The origins of the triquetra date back to 500 BC in the Celtic and Norse traditions.  The three mockettes I’ve made so far are derivatives of one arching line segment of a triquetra.  Additional  line segments spiral toward the center creating a fractal.  The proportion of the line segments followers, phi=1.618, also known as the Golden Ratio.  One version of this calculates the length of each line segment to phi while the other uses phi to calculate the radius of the next segment.  On two of the mockettes the joints are compound angles so the sculpture moves in/out as it spirals toward the center. Much can be said about the importance and relevance of both fractals and phi, but that’s for another time.

On the first two mockettes, one end of each line segment is upset and drifted with the other end tapered. Each segment is pierced by the tip of the next line segment.  This repeated shape is similar to a sewing needle.  Each needle is stitched through the eye of another.


The Needle

The interlocking needles represent our interconnectedness and how we are each both supported and support one another in community.  A friend who saw this in my studio noted that we at times are pierced by others and at other times are the ones who pierce as we live in community.  The needle imagery may bring to mind for some Jesus’ parable, “It is harder for a rich man to enter heaven than it is for a camel to go through the eye of a needle.”  It’s almost impossible to focus our attention on love and care for our neighbor if we are striving to get financially comfortable.  Or as Jesus put it in the Gospel of Mathew, “No one can serve two masters….You cannot serve God and wealth.” I’ve come to understand these Bible passages to ultimately be about community and loving our neighbor, about care and connection.  To the degree that we put our attention on building and protecting our wealth we almost inevitably lose ground with our ability to focus our attention on love and care for our neighbor.  

The Fish

When stepping back and taking in the whole of the sculpture one version looks more like a fish and another resembles the stylized Maori fish hook.  The fish and fish hook are also familiar Christian symbols.  The fish is one of the earliest Christian symbols and was the predominate symbol of the early church.  The Greek word for fish is “ichthys.” As early as the first century, Christians made an acrostic from this word: Iesous Christos Theou Yios Soter, (i.e. Jesus Christ, Son of God, Savior).  The fish likely became a symbol in part from Jesus’ feeding of the 5,000 and his invitation to his disciples to “come follow me and I will make you fishers of people.”   

More Connections

A memorial garden, is a place where we come to remember those who have gone on before us.  Memorial gardens also remind me of my own death, then I think of my children.  We can feel the chain of life in a Memorial garden.  We are all bound together the living, the dead, the yet to be alive; all anchored in the Ground of Being. The fractal structure of this form helps pull us deeper into the paschal mystery.  For me the spiral shape also represents the hero’s journey, which is never straight.  There is both the inward spiritual journey and the outward journey that we live in community with others.  Both of these aspects of the hero’s journey are present in the sculpture.  In a similar way the negative space of the spiral makes a path that winds toward the center.  This path can be traced with your eyes and used like a labyrinth.  For me, all this various symbolism spin around and work toward how we are in relationship with one another and through that, in relationship with God the very Ground of Being itself.  I believe all art to be a co co-creation between the artist and the observer.  The best art speaks to people across time and space and is not dependent on the artists original intentions.  It is always my hope that others will find there own interpretations and connections in my work.

Third Variation

This Model seeks to have more weight and depth so it can be seen more easily from a distance.  It loses some of the aspects mentioned above but gains others.  It was  made to move in the wind and spins on the bottom shaft which is set into a set of bearings.  As a friend often notes anytime he feels a breeze, “the Spirit is on the move!”


The History:

For Presbyterians, and Trinitarians of every flavor, there is a trust in the Trinity.  Our first written record of this theology comes from Tertullian (AD 160–225) and was  cantankerously debated.  It emerged as Orthodoxy from the Council of Nicaea in 325 CE. It’s a beautiful piece of theology that proclaims the very nature of God, and all creation, is held in a dynamic relational community originally imagined  as the Father, Son and Holy Ghost.  This relational dynamic of the Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer is considered intrinsic to the foundation and fabric of the universe reflecting the free and open community lived out within the Trinity.  The power of relationships and interconnectedness, through seemingly empty space, appear to be at the very Ground of Being itself.  Community is central to the Christian story and it’s understanding of God’s nature.  Trinitarians perceive God to flow in unity and love amid divergence and radical equality.  Spirit beckoned us to live out this same dynamic in our lives.