Mission San Diego Will Host Hubbell Art Exhibition


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SAN DIEGO — As part of a yearlong commemoration of its founding 250 years ago, Mission San Diego will be spotlighting some of its artistic treasures.

An art exhibition titled “Spirituality in Art: The James Hubbell Collection at Mission San Diego” is scheduled for the weekend of June 21-23.

Over the years, Mission San Diego has commissioned 20 artworks from renowned local artist Hubbell, including 19 sculptures and one double French door with leaded glass. The parish’s collection of Hubbell’s art includes a statue of St. Junipero Serra in front of the mission church, a grotto of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the basilica coat of arms above the church’s front door, and busts of the patron saints of the first nine California missions.

“Mr. Hubbell believes that art connects people spiritually with their surroundings and this is certainly evident here at Mission San Diego,” said Father Peter Escalante, pastor. “There is a type of mystical expression in his style as we see people gazing at his works for long periods of time and taking photographs as they wander through the mission grounds.”

He added, “His art beautifully complements the already present historical and sacred spirit of

these surroundings.”

During the weekend, visitors to Mission San Diego will be able to admire all of the artworks in the collection, taking a self-guided tour with the assistance of a printed map and the mission’s docents, who will offer insights on each of the pieces and answer questions about them.

La Sala, a large meeting room on the mission grounds, will be transformed into a special exhibit area. Two wood-carved angels, which are typically housed in La Capilla, the mission’s small chapel, will be relocated there for the weekend.

They will be joined by the leaded-glass French doors, which will be temporarily removed from the rectory, so that visitors can enjoy their artistry.

The rest of Hubbell’s artworks will remain in place at their current locations.

Also in La Sala will be a display of sketches and maquettes that Hubbell used to guide his work on the full-size sculptures. A clip from a documentary about the artist and the spiritual aspects of his work also will be playing on a loop throughout the weekend.

Jetsy Rickling, a Mission San Diego parishioner, is serving as co-chair of the “Spirituality in Art” event with her husband, Brian. She praised Hubbell’s work as having an “earthy feel, kind of organic,” and said his art invites people of various denominations and faith traditions “to have a conversation with the divine.”

Hubbell’s sculptures of the saints are clearly the result of much research and reflection on how best to depict these holy men and women, Rickling said. The finished products give “a feel for what these saints were really like,” she said.

As examples, she pointed out the serenity of Hubbell’s Santa Clara de Asís, located among the patron saint busts along the covered walkway to the southeast of the mission entrance, and the fox that accompanies animal-loving San Francisco de Asís in two separate sculptures on the mission grounds, one among the collection of saint busts and another that is part of a set of four sculptures installed above the entrance to La Capilla. Hubbell’s ties to Mission San Diego date back to the 1970s, when he befriended the parish’s then pastor, Msgr. I. Brent Egan. The monsignor commissioned the majority of the Hubbell artworks at the mission, beginning with the statue of St. Junipero Serra near the mission entrance, which was completed in 1974, and concluding with the Our Lady of Guadalupe grotto, which was completed in 1982.

“The artist doesn’t get jobs unless there’s people that see the value in the artwork,” said Hubbell, now 87, crediting Msgr. Egan with making his work at Mission San Diego possible.

Those assignments also represented a first in his artistic career. Previously, he hadn’t produced large sculptures out of clay. But, subsequently, he has been able to do more of this type of work.

“It opened that door for me,” he said.

Hubbell was later commissioned in 1998 by Msgr. Thomas Prendergast, then pastor of Mission San Diego, to create a sculpture of St. Anthony of Padua and surrounding brickwork in the Rose Garden west of the mission church. In 2001, the artist also sculpted a new Our Lady of Guadalupe for the grotto, after the original had been damaged beyond repair.

Hubbell finds it somewhat “unusual” that this one location has come to be the home of so many examples of his work. He is happy with the finished products, but unable to select a favorite from among them, explaining that they are “like my children” and “they’re all different and you learn from every one” of them.

Based at his studio near Julian, California, Hubbell has created thousands of artworks since the early 1960s with wood, clay, stained glass, metal and other materials. He has also provided the architectural designs for several private homes and for the non-denominational Sea Ranch Chapel in California. He is the recipient of many awards and recognitions.

The “Spirituality in Art” weekend will include two fundraising receptions. A VIP preview party and “Sunset Supper with the Saints” will be held from 5:30-9 p.m., Friday, June 21, and will include a catered cocktail party and dinner, as well as a self-guided tour with docents. Tickets are $2,500 per couple.

The following evening, a reception with beer, wine and hors d’oeuvres will be held from 4:30-8 p.m. This event will also include a tour. Tickets are $35 each before June 8 and $40 after. Funds raised through both events will support ongoing restoration efforts at Mission San Diego.

For more information, visit www.missionsandiego.org.

The Southern Cross

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