AGAPE MURAL AT MAGNIFICAT HIGH SCHOOL
ROCKY RIVER, OHIO

Acrylic and gold leaf

April, 2019

MORE ABOUT THIS MURAL

This mural was a response to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ pastoral letter, Open Wide Our Hearts, which calls on Catholics to have a louder voice in their objection to 21st Century racism. I painted this mural in my high school to increase awareness in Catholic schools about racism and African American history as well as to highlight important, yet little-known African and African American leaders and saints in Catholicism. You can learn more about this mural in my artist statement, my interview with America Magazine, or by listening to my podcast with Jesuitical from America Media linked up top in Publications.

PORTRAIT COMMISSIONED BY

ST. ANTHONY OF PADUA CHURCH

ATLANTA, GEORGIA

Acrylic and gold leaf

June 2019

MORE ABOUT THIS PAINTING

A YOUTHFUL ST. ANTHONY

Firstly, St. Anthony is portrayed as a teenager. I have been contemplating for some time now why Catholic artists almost always depict saints as middle-aged, when in reality the saints grew in their holiness throughout the entirety of their lives. Thus, I decided to portray St. Anthony as a young adult, particularly because I was inspired by his interest in the Church at such a young age. He joined the religious order of St. Augustine at age 15, and was ordained a priest some years later. I thought that it would be interesting to portray St. Anthony at this period of his life, emphasizing the joy and passion of a young man beginning his spiritual journey in the Church

HIS CLOTHING

St. Anthony is also not wearing the traditional clothing of his time, but a tan-colored sweatshirt. I enjoy painting saints wearing modern clothing because it emphasizes the call that we all have to live in the same level of holiness of the saints. I chose a tan sweatshirt because I recognize how important clothing is to Franciscans, and didn’t want to disrespect the vow to simplicity and poverty that St. Anthony made when he joined the Franciscans. Thus, the shape and color of the sweatshirt was done intentionally to reference those traditional robes.

THE SACRED HEART

Ever since I painted the original mural at my school depicting five Black saints and Church leaders holding the Sacred Heart, the Sacred Heart has become a signature symbol that I use in my artwork. For this piece, I placed the Heart close to the heart of St. Anthony to represent how Christ was at the center of St. Anthony’s life and holiness. I chose to have a lily stalk growing out of the Sacred Heart to call back to the Catholic iconography of St. Anthony. I know that my artistic style strays away from what would be considered traditional Catholic art, but I do like to reference the beauty and importance of Catholic tradition in my art when I can. The lily is a symbol of purity in traditional Christian art, but has been adopted as a popular symbol in the artwork of St. Anthony. St. Anthony is often portrayed with baby Jesus and a lily stalk in his arms, so I emulated those iconic symbols by having a lily growing out of the Sacred Heart

THE SEA

The background of this painting is a subtle reference to the story that St. Anthony once preached to the fish when no one else would listen to his preaching. I loved reading about this story when I began researching about St. Anthony’s life for this piece, and thought that highlighting that story fit well alongside the image of a passionate and energetic young St. Anthony.

SOLIDARITY

I was inspired to center this piece around the idea of solidarity because of the quote by St. Anthony that is written around his halo: “Let your words teach and your actions speak.” When I first read this quote, I understood it in regards to the idea of solidarity, and how Catholic solidarity is centered on the premise that we must do more than just “talk the talk,” but that solidarity literally is “walking the walk.” This is an idea that I personally can relate to, as I am a white person trying my best to walk in solidarity with African Americans as I create my art for racial justice. It’s also an idea that I thought was fitting to represent with St. Anthony, as he taught about the importance of taking action, and was also a white person. I represented this by having St. Anthony hold hands with African Americans, an image that I feel defines what solidarity means. St. Anthony’s words around his head are the “words that teach”, and his action of holding hands is the “action that speaks.”

MURAL COMMISSIONED BY LAKEWOOD CATHOLIC ACADEMY SCHOOL
LAKEWOOD, OHIO

Acrylic and gold leaf
July 2019

MORE ABOUT THIS MURAL

This past year, I painted a mural for a semester-long project in my junior theology class at Magnificat High School. I was inspired by the call we have as Catholics defined in Catholic Social Teaching to dismantle racism, so I created it with the intent to strengthen the Catholic Church’s voice against racism. My overall aim for the mural was to educate my school on the lives of these saints that aren’t widely known, and also raise school-wide awareness of the systemic racism that African Americans currently face in the United States. I am now currently continuing to create art that strives to bring our Church and our country closer to racial justice through representation and education about often underrepresented saints of color.

Lakewood Catholic Academy viewed the mural at Magnificat, and asked if I could create one in their school as well. I am so grateful for the opportunity that this community has offered me to further the impact of my work, and am honored to share my art with all of you.

 

The intent of this mural is to increase representation and education about the lives of saints of color across the world. I believe that it is so important for Catholic schools to teach their students about the lives of saints outside of the selective few that are normally represented, so I chose to paint six saints from different areas of the world to correspond with the designated language of each house. Each saint would have spoken the language of their house or are from a region that currently speaks that house’s language. As can be read in the biographies below, I tried to choose saints whose lives emulated the meaning of each house to further identify the saints with their houses.

THE FLOWERS

Each saint is presenting to the Sacred Heart a flower that is the color of their house and is native to their country of origin. This represents that living our lives for Christ, as these saints did, is the best gift that we can give Him. Furthermore, the way we “gift” our lives to Christ looks different for everybody, just as the flowers the saints hold look vastly different. We are simply called to live for Christ in our own way, not changing ourselves to fit a mold of what we think it looks like to be holy. Additionally, we can be inspired by the lives of the saints represented, as they were all holy people, but their lives all look different because they lived according to the individual talents and strengths that they were gifted with from God. 

THE PHRASE

Finally, written in the sky is the phrase, “We see in you, the glory of the Lord.” This phrase is taken from a song that is sung at St. Adalbert’s, which was the first Black Catholic parish in Cleveland, where the models for my mural at Magnificat are from. I will forever be grateful for the impact that they continue to have on me, and wanted to give reference to the community that allowed my Catholic art to gain footing. I wanted to use the phrase for this mural because I loved the double-meaning behind it. The “we” can be the LCA community seeing the glory of the Lord in the inspiring lives of the saints represented. However, the “we” can also be the saints, as they see the glory of the Lord in the people of the LCA community as you all strive for holiness in your own ways. This way, we recognize the important truth that we are called to see God in ordinary people, and because of that, we are also called to love all people accordingly. It’s a difficult undertaking, but by loving others as we would Christ, we can grow in our own journeys to sainthood.

OUR LADY OF MONTSERRAT AND
SR THEA BOWMAN
Acrylic and gold leaf
November 2019 (original and prints)
MORE ABOUT THIS PAINTING
OUR LADY OF MONTSERRAT

For this painting, I wanted to paint a Madonna (because of my school’s Marian identity) and also stay committed to racial justice within my Catholic art. I love the many Black Madonnas and their part in Catholic tradition, so I chose to paint one of them, Our Lady of Montserrat—the famous Black Madonna statue in the Santa Maria de Montserrat monastery in Catalonia, Spain. The monastery is a common place for Catholics to pilgrimage to see Our Lady of Montserrat. Our Lady is known as the statue that St. Ignatius of Loyola took an annual pilgrimage to before founding the Society of Jesus. She is the patron saint of Catalonia, and is one of the most celebrated images in Spain. 

SR. THEA BOWMAN

To use as a model for this iconic statue, I decided to use a picture of Sr. Thea Bowman, who is currently in the process of canonization herself (her title presently is Servant of God). I chose Sr. Thea because, like the Virgin Mary, she acted as a mother figure for the Church throughout her life. She was a lively and committed teacher in Catholic schools for most of her life, earning her doctorate in English language and literature and teaching at the Catholic University of America for some time. She later emerged as a prophetic voice for Black Catholics in America. Travelling around the U.S. educating and speaking about racism within the Catholic Church, she served as a prominent speaker on behalf of Black Catholics during the 1980s. In 1989, she famously led all of the United States bishops in the song, “We Shall Overcome,” after powerfully speaking her truth as a Black Catholic. She took the Church under her joyful wing, teaching them and guiding them through her vibrant personality and song.

WHY THE BOTH OF THEM?

I adore Sr. Thea and wanted to include her alongside Our Lady of Montserrat so that both a mother figure who is well established in Catholic Tradition and one who has recently impacted the Church can be celebrated in this painting. My hope is that both of these powerful women are a reminder of the unconditional, motherly love of God that is ever-present and of the beautiful role women have played and continue to play in the Church’s history.

A CALL TO RACIAL JUSTICE FOR INFANT MORTALITY

Along with the importance of representing People of Color—especially those who are women—in Catholic artwork, I want to emphasize the call Catholics have to engage in racial justice in society. That’s why I created this piece centered on the intention of the disproportionately higher rate of infant mortality for Black women. The Virgin Mary has felt the maternal pain of losing a child through the crucifixion of Christ, thus it is widely accepted that those who have lost a child are to look to Mary as someone who can feel their distinct pain. That is why this painting of the Madonna is dedicated to how racism has created such alarming infant mortality statistics for Black families in America—the mortality rate for Black infants is more than twice that of white infants in the U.S. (Harvard School of Public Health). The infant mortality rate is linked to the many other ways that racism affects the country, such as the racial wealth gap and housing & healthcare discrimination. One statistic does not do this reality justice, so I hope that this artwork reminds and inspires all who see it to continue to stay educated and inform others on the different ways racism has pervaded the U.S.—especially how it has devastated Black mothers across the country. The Virgin Mary hears their cries and knows their pain; Catholics are called to do the same.

NUESTRA SEÑORA DE SUYAPA

Acrylic and gold leaf
June 2019 (Gift)