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ART At THANKS-GIVING SQUARE

Discover the story behind the artwork at Thanks-Giving Square.

The Spirit of Thanksgiving
John Hutton | 1975
Thanks-Giving Square, in the heart of dallas
Bjørn Wiinblad  | 1964
Golden Rule Mosaic
NOrman Rockwell | 1996
Thanksgiving Bells
Foundry | 1976

The Spirit of Thanksgiving

John Hutton | 1975

Media
References & Links

In the 1960 film from British Pathé below,  John Hutton’s techniques for glass engraving are demonstrated in his London studio.

Description

Above the entryway to the Chapel of Thanksgiving is “The Spirit of Thanksgiving” (sometimes referred to as “The Dove”), an engraved window by artist John Hutton. Representing the divine in some religions, the dove is a symbol used throughout history to depict beauty, peace, hope and thanksgiving. Clear glass was engraved using a rotating bur in the handpiece of an electric drill. Circular surface effects surround a deeply-cut, three-dimensional dove.

Process

Commissioned by the Thanks-Giving Foundation, John Hutton presented three sketches showing variations on the dove. Design “A” was selected for the final artwork and a small mockup was created in his London studio. In a note dated December 30, 1972, Hutton described the three options presented.

“It is essential, I feel, that the bird represented should be clearly recognizable as a dove or the whole point of the idea of the dove is lost. Design “A” is for me the representation of the dove as an embodiment of expanding joy in thanksgiving – a shimmering sense of Being. Design “B” shows the dove in flight – the oval whirl around it suggesting the world and the small spirals representing the different religions and beliefs of man. Design “C” represents the dove as a more active agent emanating rays of strength and vitality – in fact, the dove as a Giver.”

Representatives from The Thanks-Giving Foundation visited John Hutton in his London studio during completion of the piece in April 1975. In the video below, Hutton describes his process and showcases the techniques.

Artist Statement

The observer will see the dove above the door chiefly by approaching over a one-hundred-foot bridge on a gradual slope. After being distracted by the view below, including the rushing water, the observer will start examining the entrance ahead of him into the relatively dark Chapel from fifty to seventy-five feet and see an engraving above the door. With the curved surface of the Chapel behind it with a ceiling of stained glass visible, the figure will be hard to read with bright sunlight reflecting the outside buildings to the south.

With the curving and rising shape of the Chapel, the dove will be the sole figure. Perhaps the dove bears the Chapel on its back. Perhaps the lines of the building rising in the spirit of the dove. Perhaps we suddenly realize “a fluttering of the divine wings”.

The dove appears at important moments – as creation and as deliverance and covenant. These seem to be the moments of direct intervention of the Holy Spirit and are more important than the more frequent appearance of angels as messengers.

Perhaps the dove indicates the presence of God at all times (which we do not see because we are not seeking). The dove indicates God is always present – a miracle in the here and now – the divine sparkle of every moment. The partially visible, partially invisible spirit is not only always near, but in each person if we recognize and declare it (Tinkerbell effect).

The dove would be electric in effect with possible distortion in action. We are aware of it in an instantaneous moment. It would be the highest and truest revelation of life – a bare contact with truth – a flash. It is gratitude surrounded by ultimate goodness.

The air around the dove indicates infinity of space as the dove would indicate eternity of life. These two concepts coincide in the symbol. Breath, air, spirit all indicate divine sustenance – as long as we can breathe we have tangible evidence of the Holy Spirit surrounding us. Gratitude “with each pulse” for the God who sustains us in space and time.


These notes on the dove as the spirit of God refer to Biblical references and their interpretation in the Old and New Testament sense (New Testament interpretations will be noted NT). Biblical references will be given in the Revised Standard Version unless noted otherwise.

The spirit is interpreted as a dove in the sense of:

1. The hovering of the spirit of God (Genesis 1:2).

“The earth was without form and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep; and the Spirit of God was moving over the face of the waters.”

2. The appearance of the dove with Noah in the flood (Genesis 8:8-12).

“Then he sent forth a dove from him, to see if the waters had subsided from the face of the ground; but the dove found no place to set her foot, and she returned to him to the ark, for the waters were still on the face of the whole earth. So he put forth his hand and took her and brought her into the ark with him. He waited another seven days, and again he sent forth the dove out of the ark; and the dove came back to him in the evening, and lo, in her mouth a freshly plucked olive leaf; so Noah knew that the waters had subsided from the earth. Then he waited another seven days, and sent forth the dove; and she did not return to him any more.”

3. “I will pour out my spirit on mankind” (Joel 2:28-32)

“And it shall come to pass afterward that I will pour out my spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions. Even upon the menservants and maidservants in those days, I will pour out my spirit.” And I will give portents in the heavens and on the earth, blood and fire and columns of smoke. The sun shall be turned to darkness, and the moon to blood, before the great and terrible day of the Lord comes. And it shall come to pass that all who call upon the name of the Lord shall be delivered; for in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there shall be those who escape, as the Lord has said, and among the survivors shall be those whom the Lord calls.”

4. Israel (The people of God) are designated by a dove (Psalms 74:19)

“Do not deliver the soul of thy dove to the wild beasts; do not forget the life of thy poor for ever.”

“Enter in the power of the spirit” would be the sense of this large vertical glass entry into the folds of a concrete shell with the spirit represented by a dove over the entry.

The spirit would be the Holy Spirit of God as understood by Jewish and Christian authorities “Not since earliest days has the world been so spirit conscious as today”. The “charismatic movement” refers to charisma which is Greek for the spirit (or spirit of love).

Spirit is the full power of God projected into daily life – all of it. It is the presence of God with man fully aware. The effect is a blinding flash yet somehow gentle. It is illusive to the human senses. It is a spark of infinity and eternity and perfection and so utterly beyond human comprehension and control. The concept of the spirit is vas and yet for human beings it is easier and less aweful than the presence of God himself. It is associated with creation and healing and deliverance and hope – the good news which always seems to be saying, “fear not”. It is renewal – spring – infant children – a miracle which is here and yet somehow understandable. The spirit is an important attribute of the Jewish concept of God which was a concept of deity that could not be attacked since the Jewish neighbors had idols that could be destroyed.


The dove is a figure of speech for something unexplainable and the depiction of it must leave open to the imagination all of the above ideas as well as suggesting some of them. Some of the characteristics of the dove are these:

1. Movement – power of flight (Psalms 55:6-7)

“And I say, ‘O that I had wings like a dove! I would fly away and be at rest; yeah, I would wander afar, I would lodge in the wilderness.’”

2. Its loyalty to its mate and its gentleness makes it synonymous for a loved one (Song of Solomon 2:14; 5:2; 6:9)

“O my dove, in the clefts of the rock, in the covert of the cliff, let me see your face, let me hear your voice, for your voice is sweet, and your face is comely.”

“I slept, but my heart was awake. Hark! My beloved is knocking. Open to me, my sister, my love, my dove, my perfect one; for my head is wet with dew, my locks with drops of the night.”

“My dove, my perfect one, is only one, the darling of her mother, flawless to her that bore her. The maidens saw her and called her happy; the queens and concubines also, and they praised her.”

3. The eyes of the dove are referred to (Song of Solomon 1:15; 4:1; 5:12)

“Behold, you are beautiful, my love; behold, you are beautiful; your eyes are doves”.*

“Behold, you are beautiful, my love, behold, you are beautiful! Your eyes are doves behind your veil. Your hair is like a flock of goats, moving down the slopes of Gilead.”

“His eyes are like doves beside springs of water, bathed in milk, fitly set.”

4. The sound of the dove is referred to as moaning (Isaiah 38:14; 59:11)

“Like a swallow or a crane I clamor, I moan like a dove. My eyes are weary with looking upward. O Lord, I am oppressed; be thou my security!”

“We all growl like bears, we moan and moan like doves; we look for justice, but there is none; for salvation, but it is far from us.”

“The divine voice cooing like a dove is referred to in the Talmund commentary by Rabbi Jose (BER 3a). The voice of the turtledove in The Song of Solomon 2:12 is interpreted as “the voice of the Holy Spirit of redemption (Targum)”

5. In general the dove and the pigeon are acceptable as sacrifice and are a symbol of virtue and reason (Philo).


This full statement was written by John Hutton on May 25, 1973. * Edits were written on the statement after typing.

Architecture

Pritzker Architecture Prize winner Philip Johnson was commissioned to bring the vision of Thanks-Giving Square to life. The Square is set fifteen feet below ground level with a four-foot wall blocking the sight of automobiles to create a serene, green island. At the western end of Thanks-Giving Square rises the bell tower where the processional experience begins. Walkways provide areas to sit and meditate.

Water plays a prominent role in the landscape, with active fountains masking city noise and leading visitors to the Center Court of Praise with its calm pools and Hall of Thanksgiving.

At the east end of Thanks-Giving Square stands the interfaith Chapel of Thanksgiving, a curving white structure symbolizing the ancient spiral of life and suggesting the infinite upward reach of the human spirit. A 100-foot-long bridge crosses the Great Fountain to arrive at the Chapel, which serves as a gathering place and a spiritual center for the daily life of the city.

Overt Religious symbolism is intentionally absent from the decoration of Thanks-Giving Square. Granite markers include references from Scripture, and the 100th Psalm is featured prominently in quotes and messages as delineated by Hindu, Jewish, Christian and Muslim authorities. Expressions of thanksgiving can be seen in mosaic, stained glass, engraving, and graphic art adorning the walls and windows throughout Thanks-Giving Square.

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