This summer I have been participating in a series of conversations about Art and Synodality. Sponsored by the Catholic Artist Connection, the conversations are in conjunction with the Catholic Church’s three year conversation on listening and walking together in its Synod on Synodality.
In Genesis 1:27 the author tells us that God creates man and woman “in the image of God.” The woman’s reflection in the mirror is a metaphor for woman created in the image of God. She and the child within her reflect the glory of God just as a mirror reflects light.
To me, Mary dances the Magnificat. The Magnificat is Mary’s song of Thanksgiving after the angel Gabriel comes to tell her she will become the mother of the Messiah (the Annunciation). When I read Mary’s Magnificat song in Luke 1:46-55, the language is so exuberant that I can’t imagine her standing still.
The Annunciation has been one of my favorite images for many years. My paintings seek to create modern interpretations of Mary. In preparation for this endeavor I took on a studio exercise creating small studies of famous Annunciation images. These Annunciation master studies are a study of art history as well as a meditation.
My new painting “Closed Door to Paradise” explores the relationship between Eve and Mary. The painting shows the door to heaven, to Paradise, closed after Adam and Eve took of the forbidden fruit of the tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Eve’s doubt led to the closing of the door to Paradise. God forced them to flee the garden afterwards. They left the Garden of Eden and the harmony of life there and humankind has suffered from sin ever since.
The narrative thread of a tree continues throughout the entire Bible. The tree grow in Genesis, but by the time we get to Isaiah it has been cut down and only a stump remains. However, there is still hope that from the roots a shoot, a small branch will grow again and bear fruit. The image references the words of the prophet Ezekiel, “I the Lord … have dried up the green tree, and have made the dry tree to flourish” (17:24)… And then, towards the end of the Gospel narratives, we come to the tree of the cross.
“Mary the Dawn” represents the the Annunciation, the moment of the Incarnation when Mary welcomed Christ into our world. The title references the first line of a medieval hymn “Mary the Dawn, Christ the perfect day”. The “dawn” spoken of in the poem signals that Mary was sign pointing the way to Christ.
In my early 20s I spent eight semesters in Italy spread out over six years. During that period I embarked on a spiritual journey from an academic encounter with Catholic art to being received into the Catholic Church and receiving Confirmation and First Communion in the Cathedral of Orvieto. On this Feast of Corpus Domini, 2022, I share this short essay from while I was preparing for Confirmation in 2001 and a more recent video in which I share the importance of the Eucharist in my journey to the Catholic Church.
Ascent/Descent is a contemporary interpretation of the Virgin Mary as Jacob’s Ladder. This reading of Genesis 28 views Jacob’s vision of the stairway ascending to heaven as a pre-figuration of the Virgin Birth. Mary was the fulfillment of the LORD’s promise in this passage “I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.” Through Jesus’ salvation (brought forth by Mary) we are able to ascend to heaven, and through Mary, Jesus descended to earth. Mary was the vehicle, the connection between heaven and earth which allowed salvation to come.
I have often gone several years without creating prints, but I always return to it. Reflecting on how I have arrived at this new collection, I now realize that it has taken many years of research and practice to arrive at this point where I am able to create monotypes in my home studio whenever I desire. I spent a lot of time researching how to create a non-toxic, space-saving monotype process. Spurred on by a desire to retreat from oil painting during my pregnancies, I enlisted the help of artist friends to brainstorm.
Processing the 20th anniversary of September 11th this weekend has led me to reflect that living abroad at that moment was in fact formative to my politics, my worldview, and my faith. I’m sharing my journal from the moments after September 11th in Orvieto in the hopes that it may be an encouragement to someone in the midst of divisive times.
The complex architectural space of St. Matthew’s Cathedral was particularly challenging. For instance, a variety of materials (mosaics, marble, plaster, gilding, wood) cover Historic St. Matthew’s Cathedral in DC. How do I paint each element in a way that contributes to the whole painting? How do I communicate the shimmering array of textures and colors within this beautiful cathedral?
Pienza is a hilltop town, and past this doorway the ground drops steeply into stairs. To me this painting represents how we look at the future in this moment. We see something beautiful, but hazy right now. Because of the pandemic, it is difficult to discern how far off that landscape may actually be and how we might arrive there.
My newest Marian painting “Interrogatio: Inquiry” depicts that moment of questioning “How can this be?” when the angel announced the Christ’s coming to Mary at the Annunciation. Mary’s vulnerability before God is represented here by the nude female figure. The grand space of the architecture represents God’s overpowering presence. The architecture also becomes a metaphor for Mary herself, often referred to in medieval texts as the Temple or dwelling place of the Lord because of her role in the Incarnation.
In a similar way, I returned to the shapes and images from my time in Assisi many times. I felt a sense of mystery in the images of rhythms of dark and light. Through drawing and painting I explored the arches of an alleyway multiple times. For me it was not simple documentation of medieval architecture. To me these passageways were like my pilgrimages themselves -a path to something beyond what was visible.
These thumbnail sketches of Saint Matthew’s Cathedral, Washington DC, lay out the plans for my first commission project of 2021. It’s exciting to start a new project at the beginning of a new year. Full of vision, possibility, options, agility. Creating thumbnail sketches like these intimate studies is like peeking around the corner at a fork in the path. Where would this take us? Will this plan accomplish our goals?
The arch in this painting is called the “Porta Postierla”, which leads out of the clifftop town of Orvieto, Italy and down towards the train station. The road criss-crosses the path of the funicular which is the way most tourists arrive in Orvieto. But when I lived there I loved to use the slower, medieval path.
Original artwork is an investment. It is important to know the proper methods of framing works on paper in order to conserve them for future generations. One-of-a-kind original art can never be replaced, so it deserves the very best treatment from creation to presentation.
I created these church interior drawings as studies for a previous series of paintings of cathedral architecture. Each intimate drawing explores the space and emotion of the beauty of sacred space. As a result, they hold new poignancy during this time of the COVID-19 pandemic. During this time many of us have been separated from our houses of worship and faith communities due to social distancing regulations.
Since I recently began painting figures on metal leaf , I thought the “Red, White and Blue” exhibit would be a good moment to continue the challenge. In the drawings I leave the backgrond completely blank, allowing the lines to carry all of the expressive power of the figure. In a similar way, in the gold silhouettes I am using the gold for the negative space.
My newest series of Gold Silhouette paintings are meant to be contemporary icons, modern interpretations of traditional icons. Whether architecture or figure, even landscape, my work has always centered on a theme of convergence between heaven and earth. Similarly, these new mixed media pieces juxtapose the expressive minimalist quality of my figure drawings with the other-worldly materials of metal leaf and paint inspired by iconography.
After I painted the Historic Church of Saint Rose in Perrysburg last year, a local family suggested a painting of Saint Joseph Parish across the river as a special anniversary gift. Her parents were married at St. Joseph Parish in Maumee, Ohio. Since they are still parishioners there, she thought a painting of the historic church would be a memorable gift to celebrate their years together. The architecture of churches communicates the eternal, where God comes to earth…
One of the miracles of creative collaboration is the momentum it creates, continuing to create new work beyond what was originally envisioned. After the model session, once my drawing was photographed and titled and shared, Olivia wrote this poem in response to the drawing.
The figure in the mirror is attentive, ready, waiting, poised in the act of creating. Her world is not limited to the objects before her – the mirror, the window, the branch. Within them, through them, she sees more: she sees deeper into a physical world than would be considered possible at first glance
A few days before Easter we all watched in shock as fire enveloped a great monument of Christian architecture, Notre Dame Cathedral of Paris. Just a few days before I had discussed with my two homeschool co-op classes about Pope Benedict XVI’s charge to be “custodians of beauty”. In his address to artists in 2009 he tasked artists with the responsibility of being “custodians of beauty”. I strongly believe the call is to all of us.
In 2016 an earthquake and aftershocks crumbled many parts of the town of Norcia, birthplace of Saint Benedict, founder of Western monasticism. The Monks of Norcia and their rebuilding become symbols of hope in the Catholic church.
The medieval city of Civita di Bagnoregio is a place of mysterious layers, buildings destroyed by earthquakes and time, where you can see the evolution of the centuries of construction and destruction. In the process of layering new paintings on top of old I found metaphors for both the place itself and memories of it.
Teaching and Art-Making. Teaching and Art-Making: Classical Education Paints A Door to the Past. Recent paintings and a return to teaching serve as a reminder of the past and…
Last spring a friend approached me wanting to gift a print of the church to her daughter for First Communion. I thought it was a great idea and got busy. I published pictures of the watercolor in progress and set up pre-orders for prints of the painting and it was a big hit!
The group of yoga illustrations can be viewed at: https://www.instagram.com/explore/tags/33yogiillustrations/. A beautiful collection of artworks inspired by Katy Sainz’s Instagram feed, it really becomes an art exhibit, just like a group show in a gallery exhibit it is organized around a theme.
School is starting, and this is only the third year of my (somewhat middle-aged) life when I have not somehow been professionally involved in that event. Lots changed for…
The exteriors of local churches shape the landscape of daily life-about-town, but their interiors have helped shape spiritual lives for centuries. In Europe, cavernous sacred spaces were built for throngs of religious activity, but now hold only shadows of those presences. The shapes of archways reaching towards heaven, the rhythm of dark and light passing through complex spaces inspire a sense of quiet awe and shadowy mystery.
These new paintings have become my own reflection on the work of rebuilding tradition. One commemorates the Basilica as it looked before the earthquake. The second depicts it in its currently ruined state. One painting was commissioned by a Catholic, the other by a Protestant, and so together they are a witness to the influence of the great Saint Benedict on Christian life.
When I was a child I wanted to be an architect. I understood early on how built space shapes our human experience. I channel this love of architecture into my work…
In every model, old or young, large or small, male or female, I see one God’s amazing creations. In the process of drawing I try to capture just one small portion of the magnificence, delicacy, and beauty of what He made.
Orvieto was the birthplace for the feast of the Eucharist, called Corpus Domini, and one of the major feasts of the Catholic church. The Cathedral of Orvieto holds a treasure – a number of them, really, including frescos by Luca Signorelli, Gentile di Fabriano, and Fra Angelico. But its spiritual treasure is a relic from the Miracle of Bolsena, the miracle which was the final impetus in the church’s decision to institute the festival of Corpus Domini: “Body of the Lord”. This feast is a reminder to artists and non-artists alike that Art and Beauty can model the Incarnation in the world.
There are some experiences in life that stay with us far, far deeper and longer than measurable space and time would warrant. In my early 20s I spent three years working for the Gordon-in-Orvieto program in Orvieto, Italy. The experiences and the people continue to live so vividly within me that the distance of time and space does not seem possible.
With spring officially here, and winter un-officially sticking around, “Inside Out[side]” is an appropriate exhibit title for this time of year. I have two paintings hanging in the show by…
As a part of Park Street Arts, my series of architectural interiors will be on view at Park Street Church in the heart of Boston until October 19, 2013. This exhibit of paintings and prints is entitled Pilgrimage. The one-point perspective which dominates the compositions implies a destination. Our lives here on earth are the journey to that destination, a pilgrimage journey towards God.
The Gallery at Barrington Center for the Arts is featuring the work of faculty and alumni at Gordon College this fall. I was honored to be included in such an impressive lineup of artists, including faculty members Bruce Herman, Tanja Butler, Jean Sbarra, Jim Zingarelli, and alumni Rosemary Scott-Fishburn, Ben MacAdam, Jon MacAdam, Bryn Gillette, Anthony Falcetta, and many others!
The Feast of the Annunciation was moved to April 8 this year, since March 25 fell during Holy week. The Annunciation celebrates the moment when the angel Gabriel announces to Mary that she will bear the Savior. This series of Annunciation master studies I have shared over the last months is about waiting, and the expectation of new life. At times this “new life” has been a metaphor for new beginnings, forgiveness, spiritual renewal, but in 2012 the time of waiting was literal, as I waited, in pregnancy, for my baby girl to be born…
On display now at the Ashland Public Library is a series of my prints and paintings entitled Convergence. The title “Convergence” has two origins, and these two meanings themselves “converge” in the paintings. In part, “convergence” describes how, in ecclesiastical architecture in particular, celestial and terrestrial converge in built space.
This Annunciation transcription will be included in the exhibit Compassion: The Good Samaritan, opening at Adams ArtSpace, Harvard College, Cambridge this weekend.
The Annunciation is the moment when God comes to earth – when human and divine come together to become incarnate in Jesus, Savior of the world. The Incarnation, God’s greatest act of compassion.