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Sculpture a concerted effort of church to use religious art in facility's design


COLUMBIA, S.C. (BP) — It may sound “fishy,” but Shandon Baptist Church now has a 1,500-pound whale in its outdoor baptistry.

A 9-foot-tall sculpture depicting the biblical story of Jonah and the whale was dedicated Dec. 2 by the Columbia, S.C., congregation.

Columbia native Robert Allison crafted what some have dubbed “a whale of a sculpture,” encompassing more than 125 bronze pieces welded together.

Dick Lincoln, pastor of Shandon, is making a concerted effort to incorporate various forms of religious art that tell biblical stories into the design of the church’s new facility. Shandon, which recently celebrated its centennial anniversary, commissioned the artwork last January.

Allison, a graduate of the University of South Carolina who now resides in Colorado, reportedly had something of a supernatural experience while crafting the sculpture for Shandon.

“Usually I work from a picture or if none is available, most of my faces look the same,” Allison said. “Obviously, I didn’t have a picture of Jonah. But as I worked on the piece, the face just came out and didn’t look like any other face I’ve ever sculpted.

“I’m pretty sure someone else guided my hands,” the artist said.