For those of us living in north Tucson at the base of the Santa Catalina Mountains and along Oracle Road, everywhere you look there is beauty that is beyond the capacity for humankind to have created. Amongst all this splendor is artwork created by humans for the purpose of enhancing the surroundings and facilitating a focal point for the deepening of spiritualness. I was reminded of this recently, when investigating the origin of the huge, wrought-iron Celtic Cross that adorns the Memorial Garden at my church, Mountain Shadows Presbyterian Church (visit mountainshadowschurch.org). The Cross is situated in a place that is framed by the Santa Catalina Mountains in the background. A nearby bench is provided for sitting and contemplating. My vital signs immediately realign and settle upon entering the garden.
As it turns out, the Celtic Cross was created and installed 10 years ago, in November 2013. In looking through archived church newsletters and talking to long-time congregants, I tracked down Chris Nast, the artist, and found that he is still creating metal artwork. With his office in downtown Tucson, I arranged to meet him and inquire about the making of the structure.
Chris recalled that he was approached by a team from my church that was charged with commissioning a unique piece of outdoor art for our newly forming Memorial Garden. The team knew of Chris due to his previous creation of the unique wrought iron twisted cross that adorns the entryway to Casa Adobes Congregational Church on south Oracle Road. With my church’s team settling on wanting a tall, metal Celtic Cross, Chris researched designs and began accumulating scrap iron pieces that he could weld together. He had no formal training in metalwork other than hands-on experience. Aside from the twisted cross, our Celtic Cross was one of his very early commissions. You can view more recent pieces of Chris’ metal artwork online at chrisnast.com.
The installed cross is spectacular. Its size is remarkably well suited for the space. A rust patina has emerged on the surface that seems to change color and texture based on the angle of the sun.
I invite you to stop by our Memorial Garden. Take the time to view the mountains in the background and embrace the sheer beauty of the combination of natural and human-made art. We are located at 3201 E. Mountainaire Drive (between Rancho Vistoso and Wilds on Oracle).