Local Artist: Sven Ortquist

The local Catholic Cathedral has a collection of carved reliefs done by a local artist named Sven Ortquist.  I believe he is half Samoan and half Scandinavian, so he is brown just like me.  I can’t help but think that our brownness ties us together somehow…

I do not know if he is alive still.  I have made a few inquiries and have heard that he is both living and deceased.  If he is still around, I would like to meet him.  Regardless, a piece of him is in each of these gifts.  My pictures can’t begin to capture the level of detail and the 3D quality.  It’s just something you have to see for yourself.  Ortquist is famous for incorporating Samoan facial features into his carvings of Jesus, as seen here.  There are about a dozen or so of these plaques throughout the nave depicting the moments leading up to the crucifixion of Jesus.  I am not sure what the numbers mean, but they may correspond to the stations of the Via Dolorosa/Stations of the Cross.  I will try and get a complete set of pix one of these days to share.  Better yet, come see for yourself.  Admission is free.

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7 Responses to Local Artist: Sven Ortquist

  1. Aunt Camille says:

    Bill, what wonderful art! I hope to see the full collection in person some day. 🙂 Thanks for sharing these. And how cool is that about Apollo 13?! I had no idea.

    It’s great to have you back on the blog, Bill! Please keep it up. I love reading your anecdotes!

  2. Lorraine says:

    I agree with Aunt Camille, I have been popping in every now and again for blog updates. This is very interesting stuff and someday maybe if it is okay I would like to visit. Keep up the good work!!

  3. beth vanrheenen says:

    Being half Catholic, I tell you with 50% certainty that every Catholic church has visual representations of the “stations of the cross,” which as you said are from the Via Dolorosa. There are always 14 of them. I’m glad that you’re getting more and more into your new home and its culture. I think that’s a good sign that you are happy. We all hope so!
    Auntie B

  4. Helmy says:

    Hi there, this is Sven Ortquist daughter. My dad moved to Washington state due to health reasons but he is doing well. If you need to get a hold of him please email me at ortquist1@hotmail.com
    Thanks for sharing his work.
    P.S. Sven is half Samoan and Swedish.

    • blevans29 says:

      Helmy, I LOVE your father’s work!!! The world should get a chance to see what he is able to do with his talents. Please look out for my email that will be coming your way later today.


    • Gary says:

      Talofa Helmy,
      Good to know that your father is doing well – kalofae i si toeaina. My father was very close to Sven during their younger days in Apia. Your father has carved a number of brilliant and incredible pieces that have touched the lives of thousands. Some of those carvings included the bust / image of David O’McKay who was an apostle for the LDS church and later became a prophet for the same church. There is a great story behind that which I’m sure your father can share. He also carved a number of samoan legends which are located on all the posts of a Samoan Fale Tali Malo (David O’ McKay House) in Sauniatu. Photos of these carvings were later depicted on postal stamps for the govt of W. Samoa back in the 70s. My father willed to me the orginal carving of a Samoan Kava ceremony which was later replicated for others to put in their homes. Anyway, I am writing to see if by chance your father would have any photos that my father may have left for him to use to produce carvings. I was told that Sven had a gift and was guided by the spirit in producing incredible pieces of people such as David O’McKay. Can you check if he still has photos of my father and grandfather?
      Appreciate it – Thanks
      G. Kamauoha

  5. Johnny says:

    Yes, the works of art in American Samoa’s first and only cathedral are beautiful and reflective of the Samoan culture. Sven did a great job.

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