WelCom April 2023
It’s not often in modern times an artist can say he has spent his days painting the Virgin Mary but at the beginning of this year Island Bay artist Ian Logan was doing just that. Together with sculptor Jenny Hartley and her husband Robin, they were working to restore the statue of Our Lady of Lourdes in the grounds of the Home of Compassion in Island Bay. Until recently Jenny and Robin also lived in Island Bay and now live in Ōtaki.
The restoration was completed over a week at the end of the school holidays in January. The sculpture itself is part of a garden area and shelter near the back of the Home of Compassion complex with the Our Lady of Lourdes statue set about three metres above the ground on a concrete bank and a ‘grotto’ replicating the renowned site at Lourdes.
The work involved scraping down the old paint layer, filling in any defects then matching the old paint with a modern equivalent. As with any paint job the preparation was quite laborious as the statue is set into a niche on a wall and couldn’t be taken down.
In the process the team also looked at the historical background to the statue – it was made by the famous Pellegrini company and given to the Sisters of Compassion in 1961, then set in place. The wall around the statue was created during the early 1970s by a retired City Council roading engineer Wilhelm Kraus, who was grateful for the care shown by the Home of Compassion to his daughter. At its opening and blessing, conducted by Bishop Owen Snedden and attended by 500 in September 1973, Wilhelm Kraus said the completion of the grotto was the fulfilment of a dream. He had visited Lourdes in 1958 and his work was guided by photographs and his memories.
Some 50 years later, whilst working on the restoration and during their work up on the scaffold Ian, Jenny and Robin got a feel for the importance of the grotto as a place of peace and beauty, remembrance and reflection. Several times visitors came up to talk to them about how important it was to them and to wish them well with the project.
‘It was a good team and I couldn’t have done it without Jenny and Robin’s help,’ says Ian Logan. ‘Robin comes from an engineering and project-management background so he provided expertise on the technical paint application side and Jenny’s knowledge of sculpture and attention to detail were a great asset. They also tweaked the layout of the scaffolding to make it much easier to work on the detailed areas of the statue such as the flowers at Mary’s feet or the Rosary beads.’
For their part Jenny and Robin saw this as a positive way to contribute their skills to maintaining a community asset. Both still feel very attached to Island Bay with Jenny having a long-lasting legacy as Chair of the Southern Environmental Association there as well.
Although Ian Logan has been visiting the Home of Compassion for a long time now – he even remembers going there as part of an Island Bay School trip way back in the 1960s – it was an exhibition he organised there to support a Children’s Hospital in Kyiv, Ukraine, that led indirectly to repainting the statue. During that exhibition in October 2022, he was asked if he could help with the project and he readily agreed – although being a teacher he needed to work it around the school term and his piano teaching commitments.
‘The Home of Compassion staff and sisters were so helpful and positive during our exhibition for Ukraine,’ he says. ‘I thought it was the least I could do. It was also a link to another community displaced and traumatised by war when we discovered how important this place was to the local Assyrian Christians in particular.’
There is still some way to go though as the shelter attached to the grotto will be redesigned and made more welcoming and the smaller statue of Bernadette also needs some attention. Now Jenny and Ian have turned their attention to an exhibition as part of the Island Bay Arts Trail in April where they will return to more familiar territory for them – Ian Logan with landscapes of the bay mostly and Jenny with her individual and fascinating bronze sculpture.