Art images life and lends perspective in a way that captures the imagination and reveals what is true. Art generates awareness with an unforgettable message. Dominican Artists are called to help the truth of the Gospel emerge in the present day – preaching truth, challenging today’s heresies, and opening hearts to God’s message through their creative lens.
Pope Francis’s prayer for August was for the Artist. He reflected that the Arts give expression to the beauty of the faith and proclaim the Gospel message of the grandeur of God’s creation.
When the Dominican Artists met this past month the theme of their meeting was RESPONSE (responding to the signs of the times through Art). Aneesah McNamee, OP created the logo (see sidebar) which quotes Toni Morrison: This is precisely the time when Artists go to work. There is no time for despair, no place for self pity, no need for silence, no room for fear. We speak. We write. We do language. That is how civilizations heal.
Together the Artists prayed a prayer by Courtney Martin: This is your assignment: Feel all the things. Feel the hard things. The inexplicable things, the things that make you disavow humanity’s capacity for redemption … Pick up your pen, pick up your paintbrush, pick up your damn chin. Put your two calloused hands on the turntables, in the clay, on the strings. Get behind the camera – Look for that pinprick of light. Look for the truth… Focus on that light. Enlarge it. Reveal the fierce urgency of now.
A sampling of the work of Artists follows – it is not the last word, even for these particular Artists. It is Artistic witness to messages of truth and justice -simply a sampling for reflection and thought.
Christmas card by Aneesah McNamee, OP focusing on the universe, human and plant life. The piece heralds Creation and Incarnation as one, signaling the active presence of God within all creation – blessing it, sustaining it, filling it with the wonder and immediacy of God’s presence.
Janice Holkup, OP preaches about immigration by visually reminding us of the greater truth that all humanity is one. We are interconnected and lifegiving to one another – there is no real separation.
A work of art takes on a life of its own after it is created. This fact became evident to me when I tried to photograph this work. No matter where I stood or positioned myself I was reflected in the photograph of the face of this piece. The mirrored face and I were part of each other.
The United States is a nation of immigrants with the exception of the Native Americans who lived here for centuries before this ‘new world’ was discovered and claimed by European explorers. Immigrants, both documented and undocumented, become a part of this country when they arrive. Our lives are bound together in the many strands of life, economic, social, religious etc.
As legislation addressing Immigration is deliberated, the Artist, through this piece, challenges her viewers to remember their interconnection with immigrants and to know that what benefits the immigrants and their families benefits us and our families; what hurts and divides the immigrants and their families also hurts and divides us. The Artist reminds us that it is time to pray for a deepened understanding which recognizes that all of creation is interconnected.
In making the presentation, Sister Barbara Schwarz, OP (Amityville), President, said that Sister Janet’s paintings
reflect the voice of God found in nature. Painting is her passion,
and spirituality is very much woven into her art.
Sister Janet’s art calls us to wonder at the beauty and fruitfulness of earth and summons us to care and protect all of God’s creation.
Barbara Cervenka, OP
Sister Barbara writes,
My most recent series of paintings are based on photographs brought by the Hubble Space Telescope. We are the first generation to see these images, to be able to look back so far in time and space. The universe presented to us is beautiful – light storms exploding billions of years ago, millions of galaxies, the birth of stars. These star maps show us incomprehensible depths of time and an unbelievable immensity of space, yet they coexist with the minute miracles of earth – the opening of flowers, the symmetry of plants, the perfect geometry of skeleton and shell, the fragile monuments hand-built on earth. In the dark mirrors of these paintings we too can see ourselves reflected.
I painted these pieces as a meditation, a contemporary form of “illumination” and a celebration of these images of light that have come to us in these days as a gift.
Artist, Barbara Cervenka, OP has also used her Artistic gift and expertise to support and promote poor communities and Artists, allowing them to become resilient and to grow in accomplishment and independence. Sister Barbara recognizes less fortunate women Artists.
Sister Barbara writes in witness:
In 1989, I visited Peru for the first time, coming to Pamplona Alta. Pamplona Alta, one of the shantytowns (or pueblos jovenes) surrounding Lima, was home to nearly a quarter of a million people. But its dwellings were made of cardboard and reed mats, and vulnerable to the intense heat of summer, the dampness of winter, the sand and dirt of the foothills of the Andes.
I became interested in the work of some of the women who made pictures of cloth, called cuadros. I bought and collected them and organized their artwork into an exhibition that has traveled to many places in the US and Canada, and have continued for the next nearly thirty years to sell the pieces to support the women and their families. I’ve returned to Peru many times to work with these women and other groups of artists.
Over the years, Con/Vida, a small not-for-profit organization begun by Mame Jackson and myself, has continued to work with the women who make cuadros. We exhibit and sell their work. We estimate that we have been able to return nearly half a million dollars to Pamplona Alta, providing support for nearly thirty families.
We all begin work but rarely know where that work, those relationships will lead. It’s been a privilege to be able to return to Peru, and see that work so well begun, now continues to bring life and support where it is so needed.
These are just a few examples of Art through which the Dominican Artists remind us that God can be found and reverenced in all of creation. They show us that when we view creation with imagination and creativity, the world is transformed. We are grateful to them.
At the conclusion of their annual meeting, they ended with the following prayer:
O God, stir us to walk transforming journeys on the cutting edge of life at the heart of the church and in service of the world. This we ask in the name of our creating God.