Catholic Arts exhibit offers sacred images in many media at St. Vincent College
The Sixth Nationwide Juried Catholic Arts Exhibition, on display at St. Vincent College near Latrobe, is a testament to religious devotion.
Take, for example, the painting “Mary Magdalene,” an emotionally evocative rendition of the biblical figure by Kathleen Carr of Rockville, Md. The most obsessively revered of saints, Mary Magdalene became the embodiment of Christian devotion, which was defined as repentance.
Here, Carr depicts her holding a jar filled with spikenard oil in one hand. The other hand is held to her forehead in pensive repose.
Mary Magdalene, who famously converted from a life of prostitution, is traditionally depicted with a vessel of spikenard ointment, in reference to the Anointing of the Long Hair, one of the relatively few events reported by each of the four Gospels.
“She's reflecting here; both sorrowful and at the same time having a great, beautiful love of Christ,” Carr says of her composition. “I wanted to show the idea of completely giving yourself over and pouring yourself out. And, in a sense, that's kind of what artists do when working on their paintings.”
Carr is not alone in her enthusiastic devotion to both her art and her faith. Japanese painter Osamu Giovanni Tanimoto flew all the way from Firenze, Italy, where he is an instructor of drawing at the Sacred Art School of Firenze, for the exhibit's opening reception Oct. 30.
His painting “The Unexpected Feast” depicts St. Francis of Assisi giving bread to a grateful friar, based on a story in “The Life of St. Francis of Assisi.”
“I'm a convert, and my conversion came in an unexpected way,” Tanimoto says. “Personally, I felt linked to the friar in the painting, and the overwhelming joy he received from St. Francis' gift.”
A real standout work among all the paintings on display is “Medjugorje Musings” by the Rev Robert Keffer, a Benedictine monk of St. Vincent Archabbey who is a chaplain at both Excela Health Latrobe Hospital and Seton Hill University and an artist with a special interest in 20th-century art history and the surrealist movement.
The painting, which depicts the Virgin Mary in a surrealistic swirl of color and imagery, is based on the story of Our Lady of Medjugorje, the title given to the Blessed Virgin Mary by those who believe that she appeared in 1981 to six Herzegovinian children in Medjugorje, a town close to the border of Croatia.
“Salvador Dali has been kind of my hero for decades, and inspired this painting,” Keffer says of his work, which he says was inspired more specifically by Dali's later period of Scientific Religiosity.
To that end, Keffer depicts the Virgin Mary among a swirl of molecular activity, as if she is literally materializing in the valley of Medjugorje. Full of religious symbolism, Keffer says of the painting, “I wanted a strong version of our Lady. I didn't want it to be saccharine, but at the same time I wanted it to be feminine and beautiful.”
Not just paintings, but works in other media abound. They range from small jewelry pieces, such as a sterling-silver rendition of The Sacred Heart as a pendant by Rozalin Hummer of Leola, Lancaster County, to photographic works, such as “Daily Prayers,” a photograph on metallic paper by Suzanne Kapusta-Panchura of Greensburg.
Kapusta-Panchura's photograph was taken in Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. It features a tiered iron ring of votive candles taken just inside the entrance of the famous church in 2008. “I just happened to walk in there during a Mass, and when I saw that (votive holder), it was so humble and regal at the same time.”
The only drawing in the show, a red-chalk “Pieta Drawing” by Henry H. Wingate of Front Royal, Va., won the first prize of $1,000 in this juried art competition. The judge for the show was Denis R. McNamara, an architectural historian specializing in the theology of liturgical art and architecture, classicism and sacramental aesthetics.
McNamara chose the three top prize-winners and four honorable mentions among more than 100 entries from more than 50 artists from across the country, as well as three international submissions.
It's worth noting that the first-prize award is named for the late Brother Nathan Cochran (1957-2014), who established this exhibit series in 2001. Cochran set out to support artists who engage Catholic subject matter by providing a committed venue, notable jurors, a color-illustrated catalog and prizes that include monetary awards as well as exhibition display. The hope is that pastors and churches will furnish churches with new, original art.
Kurt Shaw is the Tribune-Review art critic. Reach him at email@example.com.