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Iowa Artist

Dana Leahy’s Project 66


Dana Leahy’s Project 66 is a series of mosaics based on the 66 books of the Bible.

Dana Leahy has devoted more than 10,000 hours of work putting together an incredible mosaic unpaid art project that is only half completed. Called Project 66, it’s based on the 66 books of the Bible, and, so far, she’s completed 34 books. When she started in 2006, she estimated she’d complete the project in 10 years.

Each colorful mosaic glass piece is cut with a wheeled glass cutter. Rather than using traditional mosaic squares, she can create unique images from a single 12-inch by 12-inch square. 

She puts intricate shapes on acrylic particle board, then carves words and images. She paints, stains, grouts and seals, finishing with lacquer, mounted on wood. Finished pieces take between 200 to 300 hours to complete and weigh from 5 to 60 pounds. Carved on the back is the name of the book, date completed and the mantra, “Soli Deo Gloria,” meaning “To God alone be the glory.”

To design the scene, she’ll choose a book of the Bible, but not in order. She reads and takes notes about the scriptures, then develops a thumbnail sketch.

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Initially, she admits she wasn’t highly motivated to read the Bible. 

“It’s been interpreted by millions of people. The Bible is more complicated and mysterious than I give it credit for.”

Some books, especially in the Old Testament, are full of hail, fire and brimstone. 

“There’s so much of God’s wrath and punishment. I almost recoil at the violence of it, especially first and second Kings. But there’s always a glimmer of hope.”

Leahy feels the essence of any faith is assimilating knowledge. 

“I try not to pluck out certain things. I don’t take it lightly,” she explains. 

All of the artwork is currently displayed at the Windsor Heights Lutheran Church. She’s not been paid for her efforts, time or materials. She says, “It’s a gift of my talent. The call to create one mosaic after the other — even though the purpose of the project is a mystery to me,” she reflects. 

She hopes the collection can be showcased in a traveling gallery. Last year, Augustana University featured 34 books on a special display.

Leahy creates other commissioned mosaics — designing a baptismal font, altar and lectern for another church. Creating other works keeps her mind fresh, “Working on commissioned projects and getting paid — I appreciate the monetary support.”

Throughout the process, her viewpoint about her faith has changed. 

“It’s not about the Lutheran way of life. I thought this would make me a better Christian. I realized we’re all sinners and all saints. This project expresses the love I feel for others and allows me to let go of my own brokenness,” she says.

As an artist, she feels obligated to give of her artistic gift. 

“Faith is a mosaic. All these pieces come together and how it translates into our beliefs and relationships. Any artistry is a leap of faith,” she says. 

Editor’s note: View the artwork during open church hours at Windsor Heights Lutheran Church in Windsor Heights. ♦

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