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Dale Zarrella Sculpture

By MELISSA TANJI - Staff Writer, The Maui News

St. Damien sculpture to be blessed by pope

Kihei artist, Hawaii Catholic delegation traveling to Rome

A Maui artist will soon see Pope Benedict XVI as the pontiff blesses one of the Kihei man's bronze Saint Damien sculptures in Rome on Wednesday.

"This is an honor I never dreamed of. I wish I could say it was a dream come true, but I never dreamed of something like this," said Dale Zarrella on Sunday morning as he prepared for his trip to Vatican City.

Benedict, who turns 85 today, will bless one of Zarrella's 3-foot-tall, 90-pound replicas of a young Saint Damien on Wednesday morning. That statue will become part of the Vatican collection, and a second sculpture will be installed and blessed Wednesday evening at the Pontifical North American College, a seminary school that is part of Vatican City, Zarrella said.

The 50-year-old artist and sculptor, along with high-ranking Roman Catholic clergy from Hawaii, including Bishop Larry Silva of the Diocese of Honolulu, will make the trip.

Silva is also heading to Rome for his first ad limina visit to the Vatican, according to the Hawaii Catholic Herald.

An ad limina visit includes a report to the pope on the state of one's diocese.

Zarrella said his commissioned works are gifts to the Vatican from the Diocese of Honolulu and the people of Hawaii.

On Oct. 11, 2009, Father Damien de Veuster became St. Damien.

Known to much of the world as Damien the leper, the Sacred Hearts priest worked on Molokai for 16 years during the late 1800s, caring for Hansen's disease patients who were forced to live there. Damien contracted Hansen's disease himself. His canonization came 120 years after his death.

Zarrella's bronze sculptures depict a young Damien standing on a cliff in Kalawao on his second day at the Hansen's disease colony on Molokai.

Zarrella said that Damien is looking toward his left at the colony in Kalaupapa and was "surveying all the pain and suffering."

While others had gone to the colony to help and "got out of there as fast as they could," Zarrella said, Damien felt that helping the Hansen's disease patients was "what he was put on the Earth to do."

Zarrella drew a parallel of his sculpture to Michelangelo's David, who is looking left toward the giant he is facing. In Damien's case, he is gazing at "evil" in the form of Hansen's disease in the colony.

In Damien's right hand is his Bible. Zarrella said that to Damien's right, he can see the pali coast of Molokai, which is "one of the most beautiful places in the world."

A child huddled underneath a blanket is depicted standing at Damien's side.

Zarrella said that all of the patients, including the children, were important to Damien.

No one can see the child's face, as Zarrella said it depicted the shame the child had as he or she was suffering from the once debilitating disease that caused disfigurement.

"I'm really pleased with the feeling the sculpture conveys," Zarrella said. "This is an incredible man that was the champion of the children and the sick and dying people. It has been a very emotional sculpture to create in many ways."

The two sculptures being installed in Rome actually started off as "studies" for Zarrella's original project of a koa sculpture of Damien to be placed in the Damien Museum in Honolulu. He expects the koa wood piece to be done in July. The "life-sized" koa sculpture will stand almost 7 feet tall, although Damien was around 5 feet 9 inches tall.

Zarrella said that after church officials on Oahu saw the work he was doing on his study sculptures, they wanted it to be taken to Rome.

Three and a half years ago, Zarrella started researching for his koa sculpture. He went to Kalaupapa and studied Damien's work and history books.

Zarrella also plans to do more replica work of the sculptures in bronze as well as porcelain.

Some of Zarrella's most notable works include three large wooden sculptures at the Makena Beach & Golf Resort and five large sculptures at the King Kamehameha Golf Club in Waikapu. He also does paintings on canvas.

Spatial Thoughts on Sculpture by Bill West
A very nicely done sculpture by Dale Zarrella. Not too many sculptors can say their sculpture has been blessed by the pope, an honor for sure.

Dale Zarrella Sculpture