Rip and his son Chad have recently returned from a trip to Italy, where they studied the work of Renaissance masters Michelangelo and Bernini, among others. After this trip, Rip is more passionate than ever to transfer his fresh inspiration into the Ascending Christ monument he is currently sculpting.

According to Rip, “I studied figurative sculpture in Italy in 2001, but on this trip I realized how much my capacity had grown over the last decade of working on the human form. I was able to see things in the old masters works with more artistically mature eyes, including subtle nuances that I’m very excited to incorporate into my own work moving forward. My commitment to continually develop and pursue excellence in my art was reaffirmed as I looked at the greatness of these David_von_Michelangeloartist works. It is a pursuit—you never really achieve it, but this is how the growth happens. It was especially wonderful this time to share and teach my son Chad what I was observing as we toured. The joy of watching a young artist become inspired and to be a part of that development is equally gratifying. I believe we really haven’t learned anything until we can teach it to another. One candle lighting another makes the room brighter for everyone.”

This is the third commission Rip has received from the Diocese of Wichita. He was selected after a nationwide search more than a year ago to create two original sculptures as part of the 18-month renovation of the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception.Ascension “Mary and Joseph” and “The Crucifixion” each stand over seven feet in height.

“The Ascension of Christ is the third monument completes the circle. We began with Mary standing with Joseph, looking across the cathedral to her Son on the cross, we then portrayed Christ’s decision and sacrifice with the Crucifixion—now we’ll demonstrate the victorious Christ ascending triumphantly into heaven.”

The Ascension Cemetery is located ten miles from the Cathedral in Wichita. It is visited by over 10,000 people annually. The new sculpture will be placed at the north end of a plaza on the cemetery grounds. It is a gathering place for ceremony and remembrance. The design of the contemporary plaza includes 12 black marble columns varying in height, representing the 12 tribes of Israel. The columns gradually rise toward the tallest in the center, which stands at a height of 18 feet. The Ascending Christ will be placed atop this column, standing a dramatic 30 feet in the air above the plaza below.

Chad Caswell will act as Rip’s assistant during the sculpting on the Ascending Christ. “Over  the next few months of work we will relive our trip as we develop the clay figure of Christ and peruse our best efforts.”

Be sure to visit the Gallery and watch the process as Rip sculpts this magnificent monument.