We have a beautiful new piece of art at St. Dunstan’s, a marble sculpture of St. Francis, which now resides next to the Memorial Garden. The artist for this piece is Bill Sunderland, who died three years ago. He was a member of Church of the Atonement in Sandy Springs on Highpoint Road. For many years St. Francis resided on the church grounds. Atonement closed at the beginning of this year, and the property was sold to St. Martin’s School. They did not want the sculpture.
So Bill’s widow, Gina Sunderland, knowing that several of their Atonement friends now worship at St. Dunstan’s, contacted Elizabeth Wong Mark and asked if we would like to have it. Elizabeth presented it to the vestry, which enthusiastically said yes. Yesterday Elizabeth and Bruce Lafitte moved St. Francis to his new home.
Many thanks to Gina for this beautiful work of art. And thanks to Elizabeth and Bruce for bringing it to St. Dunstan’s. Below is an excerpt from Bill Sutherland’s obituary, which tells a little about his background.
“Growing up as an asthmatic, Bill’s childhood pursuits were limited to quiet activities. At age 7, given a bar of soap and a pen knife, he began transforming bars of soap into delicate carvings of animals and by age 12 won a national contest sponsored by Proctor & Gamble.
“Over time he progressed to larger creations in clay, wood and stone. As an adult he built a thriving cleaning business which he sold in 1989 in order to pursue his lifetime passion for sculpting. He traveled to Pietrasanta, Italy, to study under Pasquael Martini at the Lynn Streeter Marble and Art Institute.
“With this tutelage, he became an accomplished artist, skilled in the techniques of pneumatic tools. During his life, since that first bar of soap, Bill created well over 2000 works of art on a wide variety of subjects, inspired most often by his love of children and animals. His works are displayed from Georgia to Maryland to Scotland and have received numerous awards and accolades.
“One of his most cherished commissions was “Friends Forever”, a seated bear and fox, that memorializes the 16 Kindergarten children and their teacher killed in 1996. It is displayed in the town square in Dunblane, Scotland, where the victims are buried. Another is “Memories of Gray”, a life sized Italian marble creation of a young cadet embracing his pony, that honors the history and former military tradition of Bill’s alma mater, McDonogh School in Maryland.
“An artist in residence of Tate GA where he had his studio, he gave the community “Learning is Fun” that depicts a small boy reading to eleven animals. Carved from a 22 ton block of Georgia marble, it resides in front of the Pickens County Library in Jasper GA.
“It has been said that in an age of tumult and terror where we yearn for tranquility, Bill Sunderland did not torture our souls; he touched the other side of our humanity. Compassion and simplicity was his soul. Out of solid stone he brought forth the honesty of animals, the faith and innocence of children, immortalized forever.
“We are fortunate that the small boy in Baltimore discovered his passion for sculpting and honed his skills so today we can enjoy the simplicity and touching love that his works display.
“Bill became his life’s desire, a master of marble, a sculptor of stone, with a heart of gold.”
Next time you’re near the church stop in and admire this new art which we are now privileged to have.