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This artist carves Madonna and Child in amazing varieties.

A Few words about our Christmas cover. Were he never to carve another Madonna and Child, posterity would probably remember Joachim J. Wagner not only for the elegance of his work but for the extent of his output. At last count there were 56 such carvings. Many famous artists would consider this a substantial oeuvre. One is all the more impressed, therefore, to find that Wagner started carving as recently as 1989.

And no, he's not a prodigy just out of art school. When the Nazi trains, crammed with people doomed to the concentration camps, stopped in his hometown of Bautzen, Germany, young Joachim tried to give them a little water to drink, until the butt of an SS soldier's rifle put an end to such charity.

Wagner had no better luck with the new East German Communists. After he challenged them openly at a meeting, he was forced to flee the country the next day.

He eventually reached America, went to college, became an environmental engineer traveled the world doing research.

In the late 1980s, he lost his job -- the Reagan era was not a great time for an environmental expert -- and two of his bothers died. Depressed, he turned to carving. His inspiration came from, among other things, a plaster statue of the Madonna he had bought in Brazil.

He has made mothers and sons of most nationalities. The one on the cover is Austrian. Others range from Israeli to Somalian. They reveal a striking talent and an amazing empathy for the diversity of peoples.

Twelve Madonna and Child sculptures, splendidly photographed, are reproduced in "The Faces of Mary in Our Times," a 1994 art calendar published by the Syracuse Catholic Press Association. Each year, the Syracuse group selects one artist (artists are invited to submit photos of their work). Their address: 421 South Warren St., Syracuse, NY 13202.

Wagner, meanwhile, is forging ahead with more ambitious projects, including church commissions. His address: B 3370, RD #3, Cazenovia, NY 13035.
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Title Annotation:Joachim J. Wagner
Author:Fox, Tom
Publication:National Catholic Reporter
Article Type:Cover Story
Date:Dec 24, 1993
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