I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free. Michelangelo
The work of Francis Jansen, born in 1946 in a fishing village in the north of The Netherlands, has been likened to that of the classic sculptor, Michelangelo. She began life in the aftermath of World War II. Her father had been part of the Resistance Movement in war-torn Europe and her parents were forced into hiding for two years toward the end of the war. The family immigrated to Australia when Jansen was six years old and after completing her secondary education, she returned to Europe with her family in 1964, at the age of 18.
As a young adult she received training and worked in a variety of jobs, from hair stylist to laboratory technician and doctor’s assistant. In 1967, Jansen wed a United Nations diplomat and lived the next six years in Thailand during the Vietnam War. She had the opportunity to travel extensively throughout war-torn Asia, and was exposed to various cultures and value systems. Then in 1977, while in the process of divorce, Jansen and her four-year-old son immigrated to the United States. There she began a new life, first as owner and operator of a large natural foods restaurant, until the strenuous demands of entrepreneurship eventually compromised her health and well-being. This turning point led her to an in-depth exploration of the holistic healing arts, and Jansen began to experience firsthand the powerful role that emotional, mental, and spiritual health has on the physical body.
With new understanding and direction, Jansen embarked on backpacking ventures in the mountains of Southern California, where she learned to communicate with the elements, plants, and animals. Her experiences in nature led her to become an advocate and protector of the land. And she began to feel a particular kinship with “the stone people,” known in some Native American cultures as “the ancient ones” who hold the knowledge of the world.
“The question that has inspired all of my work has always been, ‘how can I assist the expression of the sacred here on earth?’ My sculptures are reminders for all of us of the sentience of all living things with which we are blessed to share this beautiful planet,” Jansen said.
In 1988, with no previous art training, Jansen began to sculpt in stone. She had the gift of sensing and envisioning beings in the stone, and so she set about the daunting task of learning how to carve and set them free.
A year later, Jansen traveled to Carrara, Italy. There she explored the exquisite marble quarries that have yielded white and blue-gray marble since the time of ancient Rome, used to create world famous sculptures and building décor, including Michelangelo’s David. The artist was drawn to a large, elongated block of marble, thirteen feet long and weighing eight tons. Within the stone, she saw a vision. It became her destiny to release it, to set it free.
“I had a real heart-opening, a feeling of ‘wow, this is beautiful,’ and right at that moment, I had the vision of a Native American man lying with his face on the ground, and felt compelled to bring the immense block of marble back to the United States,” Jansen said in an interview with Cable News Network.
In the year 1991, from January through September, she spent her days in her outdoor studio, on scaffolding, mindfully and lovingly sculpting with hammer and chisel. Each chink of the marble confirmed a growing awareness that she would reveal a being of special significance.
During what the artist described as an “arduous and euphoric birthing process,” her vision began to manifest itself into Eagle Man: a seven-ton, 12-foot tall marble monument.
“I literally fell in love with the being that dwelled within [the stone],” she remembered. “I knew this being was part of myself. He brought me to my knees to face my own un-forgiveness -- not just what I had been holding against others, but what had I been holding toward myself.”
Jansen, who is also a holistic therapist, recognized the life-changing message revealed through her art. “If every day we took responsibility for our own suffering and asked, ‘what hatred, what anguish, what pain am I still holding onto?’ we wouldn’t need to project it onto the world to reflect our suffering back to us.”
Overwhelmed with a sense of gratitude for what she’d been able to achieve and inspired by its potential to change the world, she created a non-profit foundation called Transformation Through Forgiveness. Jansen foresaw the monument that began as a block of marble in an Italian quarry as the anchor for a global movement of forgiveness and reconciliation.
Her original marble sculpture, unveiled in 1993, stood across the street from the Santa Barbara Mission on ancestral land of the Chumash, a Native American tribe that has inhabited the coast of California for the past 13,000 years. The Chumash population was devastated by the clash of cultures that occurred when Spain began settling the west coast of North America.
At the Santa Barbara Mission, Eagle Man became a symbol of reconciliation to atone the transgressions of early settlers. Afterward, Jansen was told by many in the community that the energy within the vicinity of the statue had shifted. The site became a popular local attraction where people deposited flowers, eagle feathers, forgiveness letters, fruit, and other gratitude objects and mementoes around the base of the statue. Couples were married there and drum and prayer circles gathered, along with other ceremonies and events.
“These are the kinds of things we as humans can do to reconcile and pull energy together, in search of forgiveness for our ancestors,” Jansen said. She realized that it would take more than herself alone to petition forgiveness for their transgressions, and just at that time Francis got an unexpected phone call from a man in The Netherlands who offered a generous donation to support this endeavor.
With the donor’s help, an exact, full-size bronze replica of Eagle Man was created to journey across the United States, as a symbol and gesture of forgiveness. Eagle Man takes the form of a half man, the sides of his body connected by an eagle draped across his head, mounted on a large turtle base. The first unveiling took place in 1998 on the Nez Perce Indian hunting grounds at Wallowa Lake in Joseph, Oregon. From there, the bronze monument embarked on a ceremonial pilgrimage “to encourage reflection, inspire compassion, create tolerance, and evoke humility,” according to Jansen. The next stop was Southern Oregon University in Ashland. From there, the monument would find its way to Tahlequah.