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art and faith

oil painting woman with stairway

Mary as Jacob’s Ladder

By Virgin Mary, Art and Faith, Painting

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.

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Commissioned Oil Painting of Saint Matthew's Cathedral in Washington DC ©Michelle Arnold Paine 2021

St Matthew’s Cathedral Painting Washington DC

By Architecture, Commissions

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?

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oil painting of woman in a church

New Marian painting: Interrogatio

By Painting, Figures, Architecture, Virgin Mary, Art and Faith

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.

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Church Interior Drawings: Waiting

By Drawing, Architecture, Art and Faith

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.

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gold mixed media painting contemporary icon

Contemporary Icons: Gold Silhouettes

By Painting, Figures, Art and Faith, Virgin Mary

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.

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Spiritual Nudes: Theology and Empathy in Monoprints

By Figures, Printmaking, Virgin Mary, Press and Publications

Her figures, far from the classical ideal of beauty, retain the brokenness of humanity, a brokenness that is both spiritual and physical. At the same time, Paine preserves their dignity and value, arguing that man’s design is not wholly evil. In each of these figures the signs of life and death are evident, like permanent and deep marks that cannot be wiped away.

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Saint Joseph Maumee Watercolor

By Painting, Commissions, Art and Faith, Architecture

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…

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notre dame drawing in process

Notre Dame Cathedral Drawing

By Art and Faith, Architecture, Drawing

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.

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Architectural Paintings Sacred Spaces Presence

Sacred Architecture Paintings: Building Inspiration

By Exhibits and Events, Painting, Architecture, Italy, Art and Faith

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.

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oil painting Basilica of St Benedict after the earthquakes

The Monks of Norcia: Re-Building Tradition after the Earthquakes

By Italy, Architecture, Art and Faith, Exhibits and Events

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.

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Orvieto and the Feast of Corpus Domini: Incarnation and the Arts

By Italy, Art and Faith

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.

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Annunciation/Birth

By Art and Faith, Virgin Mary, Motherhood and Art-Making, PaintingNo Comments

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…

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Annunciation after Duccio, Oil on Canvas, 6x6, ©Michelle Arnold Paine

Annunciation after Duccio

By Painting, Italy, Art and Faith, Virgin MaryNo Comments

What is the purpose of “copying” a work of art? Franklin Enspruch phrases it like this in a review of Wendy Artin’s series of watercolors of the Elgin Marbles: “She is at once paying the sculptures due homage, studying them for artistic clues, and using them to reach upward in ambition and scale.”

Somehow, in entering in to someone else’s creation, one often emerges at the other end with a clearer, renewed sense of voice and direction.

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Our Lady of the Barren Tree

The Call to Beauty –

By Italy, Art and Faith, Painting, Virgin MaryNo Comments

Cardus has just published another of my paintings in their online journal Comment.

Our Lady of the Barren Tree is an image of hope: the strange beauty of winter, in which it requries faith to believe that trees and grass are only “sleeping” and will return with new life and growth.
The tree, the vine, the branches – these images evoke the memory of Eve in the garden of Eden whose disobedience eventually brought on the exile of humanity from paradise. Eve’s disobedience was eventually redeemed in the act of Mary’s obedient “May it be to me as you have said”.

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