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?
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?
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.
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…
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.
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.
I am pleased to be able to share the completed painting for Saint Thomas Aquinas Parish in Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts. I worked on this painting through the spring and finally finished in July. I love being able to share my love for church architecture with a living community. The painting has been printed into notecards for sale for the benefit of the parish.