This year for Christmas, Topeka artist Melissa Rau wanted to create a sculpture that depicted what Mary and baby Jesus were really like.
“I have thought a lot about what the reality of the birth of Jesus would have been, and kind of just felt moved to express that in reality,” Rau said. “Mary is usually depicted with a white veil and in a blue tunic, and in reality that would have been more in the brown tones. A lot of times the baby Jesus is seen as this curly-haired blond, and the reality of the situation was he really was not.”
The result of Rau’s reflections and efforts is housed at Countryside United Methodist Church, 3221 S.W. Burlingame Road. The sculpture is the third one she has made for the church — the first being an angel and the second Jesus bearing a cross.
Rau said she isn’t a biblical scholar, but she tries to hit the mark when it comes to making her sculptures realistic. She said she spends time researching her subjects before she starts sculpting.
Rau, who has been sculpting seriously for about 10 years, said the sculpture took her between two and three months to complete.
Mary and baby Jesus are made of polymer clay and a metal and wire armature.
Making the sculptures for the church, of which Rau has been a member for several years, is a way for her to contribute, she said.
“I really feel through my art that I can educate people on the times (and) what they wore,” Rau said. “I also want to reach out to people, and make them feel what it would be like to stand next to Mary and baby Jesus or what it would be like actually seeing Jesus bearing the cross. I want them to have a personal relationship with that individual.”
Rau said she hopes people are touched by the sculpture and realize “how real and human of a process that (birth) was.”
“Mary had gone through an awful lot for a 15-year-old girl, and she gave birth to our savior,” Rau said. “We owe her a lot (and) a debt of gratitude. Jesus was an infant and she had a tiny infant to take care of.”