Antoni Rząsa

The Artwork of Antoni Rząsa

Born in February of 1919 in Futoma, a village located at the foot of the Carpathian Mountains, Antoni Rząsa was a Polish sculptor whose works were inspired by native folk art. He was born in an area where Catholic churches, having been erected since the sixteenth-century, were later  surrounded by Orthodox temples. The art of creating both practical and spiritual objects from wood was a common and flourishing tradition in Poland’s Subcarpathian Voivodeship.

Attracted by the characteristics of wood and its carving, Rząsa carried on local tradition and began combining the religious experience with the folk art of the region. His work presented to the viewer an uncharacteristic understanding of faith, suffering and humor. Rzasa’s figures of weeping Marys and Crucified Christs captivated both priests and atheists with their gestures and openness to more than one interpretation. In addition to his iconic figures, Rząsa also created figures drawn from family experiences and a series of carved chairs and benches with elements of flora and fauna.  

Antino Rząsa graduated from the High School of Fine Arts in Zakopane,  a southern Polish town in the region of Podhale. In 1938, he studied at the city’s School of Wood Industry under Polish sculptor Antoni Kenar, who was reforming the educational system by placing an emphasis on traditional folk art and its connection to contemporary art. In his own work, Kenar combined elements of the Podhale region with influences from Cubism and Art Déco.

In 1939, Rząsa’s studies were suspended with the outbreak of World War II. He joined the local guerrilla group in 1940 within which he served as a messenger runner. During his war service, Rząsa received notice that his mother had died in 1941. He returned to Zakopane in 1948 and resumed his studies under the guidance of Antoni Kenar at the School of Wood Industry. Rząsa graduated in 1952, the same year his father died. Invited by Kenar to teach sculpture at the school, he taught and lectured there until 1973. During his tenure, the school was renamed the Antoni Kenar Art School Complex after Kenar’s death in 1959.

Antoni Rząsa created the majority of his work through the creation of multiple series revolving around themes both secular and religious. His first series was the “Days of War” which covered a two year period from 1956 to 1958. In 1960, Rząsa started the one-year “Saint Annes”cycle and also began a twelve-year cycle entitled “The Pietas”. The most prolific of his series was “The Cycle of Crosses” which include six cycles created over a period of thirteen years from 1962 to 1975. 

Rząsa’s first group showing was the 1952 “Utility in Art” exhibition held in Zakopane. Other group exhibitions followed regularly In Berlin, Geneva, London, Warsaw, Shanghai and Beijing. In 1963, Rząsa had two solo exhibitions: the Artist and Viewer Gallery in Warsaw’s Łazienki Park and Kraków’s PAX Gallery. Other solo presentations included an exhibition at Warsaw’s Gallery of Sculpture in 1966, two shows in Zakopane in 1968 and 1973, and a 1972 solo exhibition in Chester, England. Polish directors Anna Micińska and Grzegorz Dubowski premiered their short 1973 biographical film “Portret Antoniego Rząsy (The Portrait of Antoni Rząsa)” at the Kraków Film Festival where they each were given a bronze award for their directorial work. 

In 1974, Antoni Rząsa with his wife Halina and son Marcin began construction of a home and gallery on Bogdańskiego Street in Zakopane. The next year, he showed his new work at a solo exhibition in Kraków’s Gallery of Contemporary Art. In 1976, Rząsa began his last Cycle of Crosses entitled “The Women of Ravensbrück” in honor of the one hundred and thirty thousand, mostly female, prisoners at that concentration camp. In July of the same year, the newly opened Antoni Rząsa Gallery on Bogdańskiego Street had its first exhibition.

On the twenty-sixth of January in 1980, Antoni Rząsa died and was buried in the Cemetery for People of Merit at the Pęksowy Brzyzk Cemetery in Zakopane. He was survived by his son Marcin and wife Halina Rząsa, who died on the fourteenth of December in the same year. Rząsa’s work is included in the collections of the Polish Army Museum; the National Museums in Warsaw, Kraków, and Poznań; the Reconciliation Chapel of the Ark of the Lord Church in Kraków-Fieńczyce; and in private collections in the United States, Denmark, Belgium, France, Italy and the Vatican. The Antoni Rząsa Gallery is currently managed by Marcin Rząsa and family.

The Antoni Rząsa Gallery website contains images of Rząsa’s work, testimonials from his friends, and contact information. The site address is:

Top Insert Image: Krystyna Gorazdowska, “Antoni Rząsa”, Date Unknown, Gelatin Silver Print

Second Insert Image: Antoni Rząsa, “Thoughtful”, 1960, Wood, 67.5 x 29 x 21.5 cm.

Third Insert Image: Antoni Rząsa, “Pieta Tobruku”, 1960, Polychrome Wood, 121 x 81 x 45 cm

Bottom Insert Image: Antoni Rząsa, “Pieta Tobruku”, 1960, Reverse, Polychrome Wood, 121 x 81 x 45 cm

Gizan Katō

Gizan Katō, “Jigen”, 2019, Carved Wooden Figure, 110.2 cm without Metal Stand, Private Collection

Born in Tokyo in 1968, Gizan Katō is a contemporary Japanese sculptor that works with Buddhist themes and classical stories. He studied under the Busshi (sculptor of Buddist statues) Shubun Iwamatsu, who is descended from Takamura Koun. An Imperial Household Artist, Takamura was a modernist in the field of wood carving and greatly respected professor at the Tokyo School of Fine Arts. It was he who created the statue of Japanese samurai Kusunoki Masashige which stands in front of the Tokyo Imperial Palace. 

With the understanding that he is both Japanese and Busshi, Gizan Katō focuses his work on the aesthetic roots of Japan, its history, tradition and culture, and the Buddhist realization of material existence’s impermanence. Gizan, as a modern sculptor, explores though his work the meaning of these cultural roots to contemporary art.

Instead of a sketch on paper, Gizan’s creative process begins with a model in plaster or clay. He next employs calipers to make a point-to-point transfer of the model to the wood that will form the actual sculpture.This lengthly and exacting technique requires both concentration and patience. Through this time-absorbing process, Gizan is able to reflect on his work’s expression of both longevity and dignity.

Gizan Katō’s first show was at the Takashimaya Exhibition in 2008. In 2016, he presented work at the Hakuin Exhibition held at the Tohoku History Museum. Gizan exhibited his work in several shows in 2017 including the “Amazing Craftsmanship Exhibition” at Tokyo’s Mitsui Memorial Museum, the Gifu Prefectural Museum of Contemporary Ceramics, Osaka’s Abeno Harukas Museum, and the Yamaguchi Prefectural Art Museum. A solo exhibition of Gizan’s work was held at the Nihonbashi Takashimaya X Gallery in 2019.

In 2011, Gizan, with Buddhist master Miura Yayama, participated in the Buddha Statue Dedication Project, an activity pf prayer and remembrance that carried Buddha statues to the disaster area in Toboku. He was also active in the 2019 Typhoon Number Nineteen Charity Exhibition and the 2020 Signs of a New Era Charity Project.

Gizan Katō’s “Jigen (Manifestation)” is a 110.2 centimeter carved wooden figure which sits on a metal stand. He represents the physical form of an intangible subject, either religious need or secular interest, that a person deeply craves. This subject, need or interest, is that which supports a human being’s existence among greater humanity. Even in our age of accelerated development in technology, the subject supports each human and it will perpetually conserve humanity for years forward.

Gizan’s “Jigen” was auctioned at Christie’s in September of 2020 and sold for 312,500 USD. The figure was exhibited at the Hiratsuka Museum of Art in the Kanagawa Prefecture of Japan from April of 2022 to March of 2023.

Gizan Katō’s website can be found at:

Note: Japanese naming conventions arrange names with the surname first and the given name second. Thus, Gizan Katō is a member of the Gizan family and was given the birth name of Katō, meaning ‘increasing wisteria’.

Second Insert Image: Gizan Katō and Yozan Miura, Leafing by Miyoko Washio, “Buddha Statue”, Cypress Wood, Crystal, Red Agate, 70 x 95 x 80 cm, Private Collection

Bottom Insert Image: Gizan Katō, “Jigen”, 2019, Carved Wooden Figure, Detail, 110.2 cm without Metal Stand, Private Collection

Egyptian Arched Harp

Egyptian Arched Harp (Shoulder Harp), circa 1390-1295 BCE, Wood, Diagonal Length 82 cm, Soundbox Length 36 cm, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

The Eighteenth Dynasty of Egypt, spanning the period from 1550 to 1292 BCE,  is classified as the first dynasty of the New Kingdom, which was the era when ancient Egypt reached the peak of its power. This dynasty included the reigns of pharaohs such as Tutankhamun who ruled Egypt at a young age; Hatshepsut, the longest reigning woman pharaoh of an indigenous dynasty; and Akhenaten, the heretic pharaoh, who ruled with  his principle wife Nefertiti. Unique among the Egyptian dynasties, the Eighteenth Dynasty had two women who ruled as sole pharaoh: Hatshepsut, who ruled from 1470 to 1458 BCE, and Neferneferuaten, usually identified as Nefertiti, whose short reign extended from 1334 to 1332 BCE.

Arched harps were already in use during the Old Kingdom and remained the foremost string instruments until the end of the Middle Kingdom. From the New Kingdom onward, Egyptian arched harps co-existed with a great variety of harps in different shapes and sizes. During the later part of the New Kingdom, musicians experimented with new forms which could accommodate more  strings, eventually progressing from the arched bow harp with four or five strings to the classic full-sized arched harp with a leather soundboard and twenty-two strings. 

The smaller, more portable ancient Egyptian bowed shoulder harp became briefly more popular from about the reign of Tuthmosis III, who ruled from 1479 to 1425 BCE. The arched shoulder harp with the curved neck, preserved in New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art’s collection, is dated from 1390 to 1295 BCE. This harp has twelve strings and an open, slightly waisted sound box, whose opening was once covered with skin. Rope tuning rings under each string gave a buzzing sound to the soft-sounding tone produced. Topping the arched frame of the harp is a carved head of a Nubian captive who appears to be bound by the strings of the harp. 

This type of portable, boat-shaped arched harp was a favorite during the New Kingdom and is shown in the hands of processional female musicians performing alone or in ensembles with singers, wind instruments, rattles, and sistrums, small rattling percussion instruments made of brass or bronze. Prior to the Middle Kingdom, depictions of harpists feature men as the chief musicians. Harps and other instruments were used for praise singing and entertainment at festivals, temple rituals, court functions, funerals, and military events. Today, arched harps derived from these ancient Egyptian forms are still used in parts of Africa and Asia

Jason Van Duyn

Jason Van Duyn, Van Duyn Woodwork: Wooden Cremation Urn

Van Duyn Woodwork in Edenton, North Carolina,  has been crafting wooden vessels, unrs, bowls and sculptures since 1649. The  cremation urns are handmade, turned primarily of various southern domestic hardwoods.  These hardwoods are sourced typically at the end of their life cycle; often the tree has died from disease, advanced age, storm damage, and pests. In many cases various interesting textures, tones, and patterns have developed as a result of those conditions. Each urn is sealed with a hand-threaded finial and is finished with Danish oil.

Their site is

Ibis Coffin

Ibis Coffin, 305-33 BCE, Wood, Silver, Gold Leaf, Gesso, Rock Crystal, Animal Remains, Linen, Pigment, 19 x 8 x 22 Inches, Brooklyn Museum, New York

This Ptolemaic Period ibis coffin was probably from the Tuna el-Gebel area of Egypt.  The coffin is in the from of a standing figure of an ibis serving as container for mummified ibis; the wooden body of the coffin is entirely surface gilded. There is a resin covering the gilt in places which may be the remains of a varnish. The figure has a onventionalized tail indicated by black paint over the gilt and the top of its body is cut for a cover which runs entire length of body.

The figure’s head and feet is cast in silver; the eyes are of crystal outlined in gold. The head has an incised necklace at base of neck. The figure is mounted on an oblong wooden base, apparently original, of rough work. The mummified ibis lies within the figure’s body, in an intact condition.

Animal mummies were routinely placed in some type of container once the animal had been wrapped in linen. The more ordinary containers were specially designed or reused pottery jars. Such objects have been found by the tens of thousands in so-called animal cemeteries at a number of sites in Egypt.

At times elaborate coffins were crafted to hold the animal mummies. Just as human coffins were anthropoid, so animal coffins took the form of the animal contained. The ibis mummy held by this coffin was placed within through the detachable lid on the back. The gilding of the body and the exquisite detailing of the head, legs, and feet make this example one of the finest of its kind.

The Wood Dragon

Chinese Carved and Painted Wooden Dragon, 1880, Wood, 11 x 34 x 13 Inches

This Chinese sea dragon is from the late 19th century, most likely being a temple carving for above a doorway. It portrays an undulating movement in its form, with the head turned back to the scaled, serpentine body. The mouth is open in a smile and the eyes are large with eyelashes. It is painted in strong reds and greens with gilt highlights.

Izumi Sukeyuki

Izumi Sukeyuki, Snake and Frog Kimono, Wood Inlayed with Horn and Shakudo, Meiji Era, Late 19th Century, Japan

Sukeyuki lived in Omi Province, present-day Shiga Prefecture, in the town of Bamba. He was a master carver of butsudan or family Buddhist altars. On a visit to Hida-Takayama he was amazed to see the okimono and netsuke by the carver Sukemizu, and resolved to start carving similar pieces. Famous for his frog netsuke, Sukeyuki also used the Go or art name Gamatei Sukeyuki.

Sukeyuki’s kimono in the form of a hungry snake conversing with a plump frog, is carved from a single piece of wood. The eyesare  inlaid in horn and the snake’s tongue is made of shakudo. It is signed on the reverse with an inlaid seal form wood plaque,

Yoruba Ere Ibeji Figures

Yoruba Ere Ibeji Figures

The Yoruba have one of the highest rates of twining in the world. It is estimated that out of every 1,000 births, 45-50 result in twins. Twins are revered among the Yoruba and come into this world with the protection of the orisha deity named Shango who is evoked at the baby’s naming ceremony when he or she is a few months old.

Due to the low birth weight of twins and the high infant mortality rates in Nigeria, many twin babies do not live long. If a baby dies during childbirth, in the months leading up to the naming ceremony, the parents will seek consultation with an Ifá diviner, a Babalawo. If the Babalawo ascertains a spiritual cause, he will help the parents find a carver to create an Ere ibeji figure.

An Ere ibeji is a wooden carving of a male or female figure once used by the Yoruba. The figure is thought to be a focal point for the spiritual energy of the deceased twin who, according to Yoruba traditional thought, resides in the supernatural realm where he/she is cared for by a spiritual mother.

Lagunilla Figure

Lagunilla Figure of a Man, John Bourne Collection, Walters Art Museum

Lagunillas figures often portray men, usually in a seated position with elbows resting on bent knees and forearms crossed on top of each other. The torso leans forward, and the face gazes downward. This figure’s loins are wrapped in a relatively wide hip cloth of unadorned fabric. He wears a textile or plant fiber triple-strand band around his head, a forelock of hair falling below the band. His face is extensively painted with black designs, including masklike half circles around his eyes and whisker-like motifs extending outward from the corners of his mouth.

Susan Clinard

Sculptures by Susan Clinard

Following a degree in Sculpture and Cultural Anthropology from the University of Michigan, Susan moved to Chicago in 1995 where her gift for storytelling took root. While exhibiting her art at multiple venues throughout the city Susan also taught stone carving at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, sculpture at the Palette and Chisel Academy, and Gallery 37.

Susan’s sculptures reflect her strong desire to honor nature’s pure form. Whether she is sculpting from life or carving wood, Susan strives to reveal nature’s truths, distorted or with perfect symmetry. She also finds inspiration in humanity’s constant cycle of tearing down and rebuilding. Her work explores that duality between the ugly and the beautiful: she cannot see one without the other: they are one and the same.

In 2007 Susan and her family moved to Connecticut where she is currently busy making art for various gallery exhibitions as well as public and private commissions. She has also been the Artist in Residence at the Eli Whitney Museum for the last five years.

Michal Solarski

Workshop of Sacred Art:  Photography by Michal Solarski

In the south of Poland, a small Silesian town is home to a unique form of manufacturing that most rarely think about: religious sculptures. For more than 100 years, the Workshop of Sacral Art, founded by Kazimierz Schaefer in 1898, has been producing concrete and plaster statues of saints using traditional methods.

Now 117 years later, the factory is currently run by Schaefer’s granddaughter Barbara. More than 250 models of religious figures of differing sizes, including statues of Christ, popes and saints, as well as re-creations of the Christmas nativity scene, are being sold both locally and globally.

At its peak, the factory employed dozens of workers, but now only consists of five individuals. Despite the recent recession and competition caused by an influx of cheap plastic figures made in China, this manufacturing has endured, and the quality and aesthetic value of its creations remain second to none.

Yoshitoshi Kanemaki

Skeletal Sculptures by Yoshitoshi Kanemaki

Based out of Chiba Prefecture, Japanese sculptor Yoshitoshi Kanemaki carves life-size sculptures from camphor wood, but with a twist of mortality and transience. The disturbing pieces hinge often hinge on grotesque as the combination of the bulging weight and density of wood heightens the certainty of death that looms over all his creations.

Laura Bacon

Willow Sculptures by Laura Bacon

British Sculptor, Laura Ellen Bacon (born 1976) works raw materials into large-scale or ‘human-scale’ artworks, in both interior and landscape settings. Working with predominately natural materials and her bare hands, her works embrace, surround or engulf architectural and natural structures.

Her work has been described as ‘startling but beckoning’; ‘monumental yet intimate’; ‘frenzied yet calm’.  Laura’s particular use of materials emerges from a compulsive desire to work them into a formed space of some kind, using a language of materials that seems strangely familiar to the natural world.

“I began making my early works upon dry stone walls and evolved to work within trees, riverbanks and hedges, allowing the chosen structure (be it organic or man-made) to become host. I am still powerfully driven to create spaces of some kind and over a decade into my work, my passions continue to merge creatively with architecture.

The forms that I make have a closeness with their host structure or the fabric of a building; their oozing energy spills from gutters, their ‘muscular’ forms nuzzle up to the glass and their gripping weave locks onto the strength of the walls. Whilst the scale and impact varies from striking to subtle (sometimes only visible upon a quizzical double take), I relish the opportunity to let a building ‘feed’ the form, as if some part of the building is exhaling into the work.”

Kenneth Erik Moffatt

Kenneth Erik Moffatt, “God and Goddess of Teviot with Their Kelpies”

Kenneth Erik Moffatt is a sculptor and free style carver of wood living and working in Teviothead, England. He works directly into the wood, without any  preparatory drawings, adding to the carvings as his inspiration dictates.

Top Three Photos: Roof Corbel, Oak. The head of the River God Teivi, crowned with the moon and oak leaves. Interwoven in his flowing hair, are two leaping salmon, based upon “Border Reiver” graffiti, from the walls of the prison cells in Carlisle castle.

Fourth and Fifth Photos: Roof Corbel, Oak. The head of the River Goddess, embodiment of the Celtic Goddess Sulis, crowned with the Moon, hazel leaves and nuts, and adorned at the throat with hazel catkins. Also present are her two attendant spirits, a bird, and the mischievous squirrel “ratatosk,” one of the inhabitants of the “Tree of Life.”  The nine sacred hazel trees, are representative of the spring where the waters rise in Scottish folk legend.

Bottom Two Photos: Roof Corbels, Oak. Kelpies. Water Horses.

David C. Roy

Kinetic Sculptures by David C Roy

Since graduating in 1974 from Boston University with a degree in physics, artist David C. Roy has been fascinated by the motion and mechanics of kinetic sculptures. Roy is a self-taught woodworker who designs limited edition wall-mounted sculptures powered by various mechanical wind-up mechanisms without the aid of electricity. Each piece can run for about 5-18 hours unassisted on a single wind, with his latest piece Dimensions capable of whirling around for a whopping 40+ hours.

From his Connecticut studio Roy has produced over 150 one-of-a-kind designs over the last thirty years, many of which he currently sells as editions through his website. Visit his site to see the archive of past works and the current works for sale: