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Conroy transforms statue of Jesus

The statue of the risen Christ as it looks inside Assumption Catholic Church in Morris. Sue Dieter/Hancock Record1 / 2
The statue was in Della Conroy's studio as she painted it at the request of the church. Submitted photo2 / 2

During the season of Lent, artist Della Conroy spent some extra time with Jesus. Figuratively.

Conroy painted a statue of the risen Christ for Assumption Catholic Church in Morris. She recently completed the project. The statue hangs in an alcove-type area to the congregation's left inside the church.

"It makes me think of Easter," Conroy said of the statue. "I did it during Lent. The whole goal was to get the risen Christ in church for Easter."

"It's beautiful, she did a great job," said the Rev. Todd Schneider, the priest at Assumption.

The statue had been hung at the church at least at one time during its history. Schneider and Conroy are uncertain of the age of the statue but Conroy believes it may have been at the church in the 1960s.

"I think it's around 5 feet tall," Conroy said of the wooden statue. "It said on the back that it was hand carved in Italy."

The statue was clear with no color until Conroy painted it.

Schneider said it was time to display it again.

The statue was removed from storage and brought to Conroy's studio in Hancock. Schneider had a definite vision for how the statue should be painted.

He wanted Conroy to paint with dye and he chose the colors.

Conroy hadn't painted with dye before. "I was really excited to try it out," she said.

"I didn't want to use oil or acrylic paint," Schneider said. He has seen statues painted with dye and he did some additional research.

"There are many, many colors," Conroy said. "I got the basic colors and mixed it for the colors (Schneider) wanted."

Schneider chose a deep red for what he described as the ministry robe or inner garment. He chose a deep green for the cope.

"I just used the colors I thought would look good," Schneider said. Artists will select different colors to depict the risen Christ and there may be some definite reasons for those choices, Schneider said.

He chose the colors because he wanted the statue to be bright. "I thought the (church) could use some color in it," Schneider said.

Conroy focused on one section for paint at a time. She started with a cloth and finished with a brush.

"It was in my studio for several weeks. All the kids that came for piano lessons would come and look at it and see the progress," Conroy said. "They'd ask 'how is Jesus coming along?'"

Conroy said the work progressed more quickly than she anticipated. "I estimated it would take about 20 hours and it only took seven hours," she said.