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I was not prepared, when I arrived for my first visit twenty years ago. The description given was “a place of oddities.” I began to walk around, noticing the arrangements and relationships of the sculptures, watching the light and shadow play across the surfaces, touching the rocks, and sensing the energy coming from that touch. This place was not an oddity, but a place of mystery and faith. Why were there so many sculptures of Mary and why didn’t they look like anything I had seen before? Why did he choose to put them where they faced the rain and wind. Why did he want us to be able to touch them?
All these visits later, I still visit to ponder these questions and to be in this mystical space. When I was choosing fifteen images to exhibit from the thousands I have taken. I wanted to reflect on the groupings, the way the sculptures changed over time, the way they interacted with the light and shadow and the way the trees and plants reached out to touch them. Of course they would also show my own and my students experience of visiting. I used color, monochrome and Infrared cameras in this twenty year quest.
Orvidas chose Mary and his version of Mary because she understood loss and had experienced pain. She did not give in to despair, but held to hope, what I have come to call “stubborn faith.” Not a meek virgin, but a solid survivor of whatever came her way. Yes, tears run down her face—which always amaze me how he crafted these. She holds her heart because her connection is one of love. She holds onto the anchor and is grounded by the massive stones surrounding her. Mary understands our struggles and prays with calm reassurance. Her face seems calm with a hint of joy. Don’t miss the skull she stands on in the sculpture imaged in Leaning but Solid. In the sculptures and the groupings, she has a connection to her son—as she stands in combination with the crosses or the lamb in the main altar.
I had the chance in 2006, (see the next to last image) to discover his mother sitting in front of the house. An LCC International University student translated so we could have a conversation. Another LCC student translated to English alongside me a book about him. I came to understand Orvidas as a mystic seer, who listened to what was in the stones waiting to come out. The stones were waiting to show their full beauty and strength, just as Orvidas saw Lithuania ready to come out of the shadow of the Soviet hold.
Knowing these were created while under Soviet occupation you begin to hear. “Don’t give them your rocks. Don’t give them your foundation. Don’t lose faith. Survive. It is okay to cry, but do not give in to the system. Hold onto hope and faith and love knowing they will fall down but you will survive.” Thank you, Vilius, for creating a space that inspires me with every visit.