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“Practicing Courage” by Margaret Matthews

Posted by:
March 10, 2020

Margaret Matthews is a junior at Pacific Lutheran University who lived in Virginia and Oregon before moving to Tacoma for college. She will graduate in 2021 with a BFA with a concentration in Sculpture. She is already putting her talents to use with a class project that was selected for public display.

Practicing Courage

In Mare Blocker’s 2D design course, required for all art majors, students participated in a competitive assignment to practice their art presentation skills. Pastor Jen Rude shared the idea of “practicing courage,” the theme of the semester for University Chapel. Pastor Jen wanted to commission a piece to represent practicing courage, and chose Margaret’s proposal to be constructed and displayed in the chapel.

Margaret said, “I chose to depict moments of everyday courage that I observe in those around me. The image on the piece about self harm was particularly personal, as I have had friends who struggle with it deeply. The sculpture is made mostly of MDF wood. The tree is a combination of tin foil, caulk, tape, paint, and paper. The flowers are paper with watercolor and hot glue.”

Photos by John Froschauer.

Artist Statement

This work signifies the power of taking that first step of courage. Little things or big, acts of courage are hard to do and need to be acknowledged and praised.

The triangles along the top represent military service, a lion, a bear’s paw, and the Hebrew word for courage.

The sides of the obelisk show four scenes. A woman going to school and working on her degree while also being a mom. A child standing up in front of a group of adults. A hand with self-harm scars on the wrist dropping a razor, and a domestic abuse victim reaching out and asking for help; the dot on the palm is a way for victims to silently ask for help while being watched by their abuser. The Black Dot Campaign never really took off, but the idea behind it is important.

Circling the piece are the words “Courage, dear heart.” from C.S. Lewis. The magnolia tree bursting out of it represents the new personal growth that comes as a result of those acts of courage.

The shape of the piece was heavily inspired by the ancient stele. Among other things, a stele was used as a memorial to immortalize the honorable acts of a ruler. Margaret thought this to be a fitting venue to display ways of practicing courage in our everyday lives. She hopes this piece inspires you and gives you hope and courage throughout the semester.