Artist captures Jacob’s spirit in birthday present
by Stuart Goldschen
There’s a spirit about Jacob Wetterling, described variously as love, joy, sensitivity, kindness, activity and creativity. Many see it in Jacob’s smile.
It’s in his eyes, his cheeks and his mouth as he holds his dog, poses with a large fish he caught, wields a hockey stick and kicks a soccer ball.
It’s in his face as he rocks as an infant in a suspended seat jumper, grasps a strung balloon on an outing with his grandfather, and stands lovingly near his father and mother, his brother and sisters.
That spirit has been captured poignantly and recorded in a detailed montage of drawings by a local artist who carries Jacob’s Hope in his heart. It will be given to Jacob in care of his parents on his 12th birthday tomorrow, Feb. 17.
The birthday present is a 30-by-40-inch, glass-covered pencil drawing montage of Jacob’s life and the entire Wetterling family. It was drawn by Jim Hendershot, associate professor of art at St. John’s University and a nationally-renowned artist.
Hendershot said he created the project to portray Jacob’s character without regard to his abduction. He said he drew the montage from family photographs and artistic works by Jacob.
“It’s Jacob, it’s his life, it’s Jacob’s spirit,” Hendershot said. “This is something Jacob can pass on to his grandchildren, something wonderful for him to look back on.”
Hendershot, 48, began the project in late December after Jerry and Patty Wetterling approved the idea. He said he did not know the family before Jacob’s abduction.
“I had a need for an outlet to do something more than I could do in the little time I could spend in the (Friends of Jacob) office,” Hendershot said. “As an artist you feel all these creative energies going through your head, and I was constantly thinking of things I wanted to do.”
He called the Wetterlings “beautiful people” who possess a “very personal, wonderful feeling of giving. ”
He said, “I feel they’ve given to me instead of me giving to them.”
Hendershot said he did not want any public recognition for his work, which he described as a personal effort between him and the Wetterlings. He said it “wasn’t meant to be splashy” and that ” not many people know about it.”
The montage will include as many as 12 major areas of focus to match Jacob’s age, Hendershot explained. Other smaller drawings will depict Jacob’s own artistic talent, and there will be a special message to Jacob in the work.
Hendershot said Jacob is very creative and had done a couple of artistic things that are “just incredible.”
“There’s a sensitivity and a creative aspect I see in him and his work,” he said. “And that beautiful smile. In every photograph he seems to be such a focus, regardless of who’s in it. It’s very natural.”
Hendershot said the montage is not like his customary work because he did not want to “take liberties” with the photographs and drawings he was using. He said, however, “it will be very, very complex and have a tremendous amount of activity.”
“Even though it’s representational, there’s a lot of abstraction involved,” he explained. “The more you look, the more you see. It’ll be a constant visual experience.”
The work will be set in a wooden frame containing gold and silver flecks that harmonize with the Wetterlings’ house decor, Hendershot said.
Hendershot is a graduate of the Cleveland Institute of Art and Syracuse University in New York. He has exhibited widely and was commissioned in 1976 to do a major work for the 50th anniversary of the Minnesota Museum of Art in St. Paul. He lives in St. Cloud with his wife and two children, ages 16 and 11.
Hendershot said he was planning to do a smaller etching print for the Wettterling family in the near future in an effort to join the community in sustaining the spirit of Jacob’s Hope.
“I really feel a tremendous something from this community in this whole thing,” he said. “I don’t think I could be more respectful or more proud of the community. It’s wonderful.”
Hendershot urged people to continue their support and to keep up the hope.
“People have to realize we have to still work together and rally around the family and support them – that we still need to keep going,” he said. “In my heart I feel Jacob is alive, and I feel he’s going to come back.”
“Happy birthday, Jacob,” he added, “and hurry home.”