From "New sculptures of saints adorn Ellettsville’s Masonic lodge" By Rachel Bunn in the Bloomington Herald Times today:
For years, after finishing his work as a cutter at Bybee Stone Co., Tom Dixon would head to a corner of the parking lot near the Ellettsville Masonic Lodge.
Inside a tent, he spent nearly a decade chipping away at blocks of limestone, forming two figures — St. John the Baptist and St. John the Evangelist — that are now proudly adorning the Masonic Lodge.
“I reached a major goal in my life to be able to do this,” Dixon said of the sculptures. “I think everything worked out perfectly.”
In 2002, Dixon had just moved to town, renting an apartment near the Ellettsville Masonic Lodge. The lodge was expanding its historic building into the lot beside it, and he walked across the street to offer his help.
“I was looking for something to do, not for money or anything,” Dixon said.
His initial idea was to add to simple, sculpted panels to the building, but lodge members worried that it would leave holes in the building’s facade while they were being completed.
Members came up with the sculpture idea, leaving alcoves in the side of the building for two statues: one of St. John the Baptist and the other of St. John the Evangelist, the patron saints of the Masons.
Meeting over several Tuesdays, the Masons and Dixon developed ideas for the building, sketching things on napkins at times. When it came to the statues, it was decided that they would be large, standing at about 6 feet tall, just slightly smaller than Dixon himself.
Though the Masons provided the subjects, they gave Dixon free rein over the style for the saints, which he choose to complete in Renaissance-style, with St. John the Evangelist styled after Italian artist Donatello’s work.
The first drawings that Dixon made of the figures were what he worked from for 10 years as he painstakingly carved details of the statues, including the inner sleeves and lines on the palms of the figures’ hands.
For sculptures, the tools are still the same as they were thousands of years ago, with Dixon forming the figures using chisels and files, though getting the modern aid of an air hammer. By nature, sculpting anything takes time, but other things kept the statues under construction while the rest of the building was complete.
Work was delayed for several years when the Dixon family hit a rough patch. First, Dixon’s father died, then his wife, Nancy, was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. And Dixon had an undiagnosed corn allergy, which led to coughing so much he tore the retinas in both eyes, and a ruptured appendix all in the span of about three years. In addition, Dixon was donating his time to the statues, which became scarce when Bybee had several large orders one summer.
Still, he pressed on, and two weeks ago, were placed in the frames facing Sale Street in downtown Ellettsville.
“Every time I drive by there, I get a royal charge out of it,” Dixon said.
Dick Jacobs, trustee of the Ellettsville Masons, helped connect Dixon with the Masons a decade ago, and seemed pleased to have the statues finally out in the public.
“They’re absolutely beautiful,” Jacobs said. “Tom did a nice job. We’re glad to have them in the position that they are in.”
Other Masons agree. Steven Devine, worshipful master of the Ellettsville Masons, praised Dixon’s dedication and craftsman ship, calling the attention to detail in the hands of the statues “awesome.”
“With him taking the time to do that, they came out phenomenal,” Devine said.
The statues are the last pieces of the expanded lodge, which laid its cornerstone in 2004. For Devine, seeing the building in its complete state is a reminder of the love and dedication to the Masons in Ellettsville.
“Anything we can do to beautify the street even more makes Ellettsville that more attractive,” he said.
But for the artist, Dixon, there’s something even more special about seeing his work finally on display.
Usually there is always something that you could have done better, but in this case, Dixon there’s nothing he would have done differently.
“You want to do something really special — you know you can do it, you just want the opportunity,” Dixon said. “Now, when I die, I can die happy.' H/T Roger Neptune