Thursday, August 16, 2012

Touchdown Jesus ready for NFL season opener but Purple Jesus?

Ohio town ready to welcome Jesus statue with open arms

By Sheila McLaughlin
Thursday, August 16, 2012
Nathan Kessler moves the unfinished right hand past the finished left foot of a Jesus stature that will replace the "Touchdown Jesus" stature in Monroe, Ohio, that was struck by lightening in 2010. (By Tony Jones Gannett)

CLAYTON, Ohio – Right now Jesus is in pieces — seven of them — in a small factory about 70 miles north of Cincinnati.

This statue is replacing the iconic sculpture nicknamed "Touchdown Jesus" — a waist-up, butter-cream-colored replica with arms raised high — that burned to the ground after a lightning strike in June 2010.

The new piece will represent a full-length Jesus with arms outstretched as if beckoning people to him.

It already has a nickname, too, according to sculptor Tom Tsuchiya, although its official title is LuxMundi, which is Latin for "Light of the World."

"It's 'Hug Me Jesus,' " Tsuchiya said Thursday. "Some blogger called it that, and I loved it. That's what it's all about — a let's-all-be-friends message. Love one another."

Replacing the first statue has seen its share of delays. Tsuchiya started sculpting the replacement two years ago. The statue was supposed to be up in summer 2011.

Then a fabricating company that was first hired to construct the pieces went out of business.

The church hired Display Dynamics in February. By then, the steel frame for the new statue had been up outside the church for five months.

Everyone involved was getting antsy, said Veit Von Parker, Display Dynamics CEO.

Part of the challenge was re-engineering all the pieces to fit the existing steel frame and 11-foot concrete base, he said. The statue itself will be about 52 feet tall.

"One of the things we had to do was settle everyone down. The biggest challenge was getting everyone to respect the process," said Von Parker, whose 18-year-old company designs and builds custom exhibits and interactive displays for museums, zoos and entertainment venues across the country.

And they had to agree on a color. No more creamy butter hues. This one will be the color of concrete.

On Thursday, large foam pieces of Jesus took up a third of the floor of Display Dynamics' 65,000-square-foot fabricating shop.

Tsuchiya was busy filling in parts of the foam sculptures to refine them.

Display Dynamics workers were spray-coating one of Jesus' arms with gray polymer that contains tiny terra-cotta specs to play off the color of the church's roof. A section with the bottom of Jesus' robe and left foot was the only finished piece.

The foam pieces were milled using computerized machinery after Tsuchiya's life-size sculpture was scanned into a computer.

Von Parker said Display Dynamics hopes to deliver the pieces, weighing 7 tons, to the Solid Rock Church on six flatbed trucks around September 10 and begin on-site construction.

The pieces, which are supported inside by round and square steel tubing, will be bolted and welded to the existing frame in front of the church.

That will take two to three weeks, using cranes, booms and 80-foot lifts for workers, Von Parker said.

Chances are "Hug Me Jesus" won't meet the same fate as "Touchdown Jesus."

The structure is designed to withstand wind shears of 110 mph. A lightning-suppression system will send any electric arc into the statue's base to be distributed into the soil.

"We've got a Class 1 fire rating on it," Von Parker said. "So it will not burn."


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