Meet the modern Michelangelo
This young American sculptor creates works of impressive beauty in the great Catholic tradition.
When you think of great sculptors, Michelangelo is the first that comes to mind. It’s no wonder, then, that it inspires great modern sculptors like Christopher Alles.
“When Christopher Alles thinks of sculpture, he thinks of Michelangelo,” he shared in a documentary about Catholic artisans.
The Renaissance artist’s deep faith was evident in so many of his masterpieces. Many of Alles’ creations are also overtly religious. The Oregon native sculpted a life-size figure of St. Charles Borromeo, the patron saint of bishops, for St. Charles Borromeo Church in Montgomery Township, New Jersey.
For Alles, 29, who works out of a studio in Manhattan, the connection between faith and art “is quite natural.” An artist, he says, “is a secular monk in a way. You are in the world, but you’re sort of seeing all things in the light of Christ and in the light of this spiritual encounter that you’re having.
So who is Christopher Alles, exactly? He is a sculptor specializing in figurative and sacred art. His work is truly impressive in its beauty.
Like so many great artists, the starry Italian artistic tradition shaped him. After attending college for a year, he dropped out and began formal training in classical art in Florence, Italy, where he assisted artist Dony MacManus on a monumental altar relief of 16 figures for a chapel. from medical school in Rome.
He continued his apprenticeship under the direction of the sculptor Tomasz Misztal, with whom he studied the great European way of sculpture and produced his first almost life-size figure. He also took a drawing master class with Vitaly Borovic, director of drawing at the Imperial Academy of Fine Arts in St. Petersburg, Russia.
Christopher has been commissioned with work across the United States ranging from small scale portraiture to architectural sculpture to monumental figurative sculpture. His work has been featured in the New York Post, The New Criterion and Catholic New York, and of course he is a featured artist in the documentary, masterpieces.
He received the Stanford White Award in the “Arts and Crafts” category for his sculptural contribution to the recently constructed Baldacchino at St. Michael’s Church in Midtown Manhattan.
As if all that wasn’t enough, Alles is the father of baby triplets.
Alles shares her work on her Instagram account, where you can see finished works as well as pieces in progress.
We had the chance to interview this extraordinarily talented artist, and here is what he told us.
What prompted you to do sacred art?
When it comes to creating culture and art, you have to love something to do something. When a decision had to be made as to what type of art I would do, it was clear that it had to be in the realm of Catholic sacred art. This does not exclude other subjects for me, but the highest expression of any culture is the sacred, and in the case of Christian culture, it is the mass. All other art forms and expressions in the West stem from the art of the mass. .
What is your favorite medium to work on?
As a general rule, I like to work with clay. He is obviously very flexible to work with; it’s easy to make changes and the water-based clay responds instantly to your touch. It’s a great way to sculpt. Usually, once the clay is modelled, the works are molded and then cast in bronze or other materials for their final stage.
If you could sculpt anything, what would your dream project be?
This is a difficult question. There are so many things. I would like to do a monumental work of Blessed Charles of Austria. It would be a little more of a civic project, but it would also be a natural church-related project because it is blessed. The context of such a piece, however, would make more sense in Austria or Hungary.
Do you pray while you work? Can you share how prayer affects your artistic process?
Ora et labora. Prayer is always an aspect of the work, it emerges naturally as one progresses. There are no special prayers before my work except morning offerings and a request for the intercession of Saint Castorius, patron saint of sculptors. While I am working, I may be praying without knowing it. Each time one enters into the contemplation of a higher order, it is prayer.
Is there a passage of Scripture or a quote from a saint that guides your life?
Recently, Saint Joseph has played a major role in my work. Not just because much of my recent work has been depictions of him, but also because of his example of leadership and fatherhood. As a father myself, I draw on his intercession and guidance to lead my family through the difficult times and uncertainties of life. He is also the patron saint of artisans and workers in general, so he is a particularly powerful intercessor for the success of my work.