All my life – I am now 72 – I was a seeker, looking for something that is beyond the merely physical. I was always wondering and questioning.
I was 8 or 9, sitting on the sand dunes in Montauk, New York with a small box of paint and some paper. I was awe-struck at the clouds and the waves, and experienced something that was much more than what I was merely seeing. I remember just putting down lines, shapes, colors. I was always asking why I did not draw things that could be recognized. Now I look back and recognize that it was God – God as Love was present through nature.
The search continued. I was on a journey that would lead me down through different paths: studying chemistry in college and reading Thomas Merton, which led me to become a consecrated sister in 1959. Later, I studied fine arts, art education and art history. I was always searching for what could be, for “more,” and often thinking I had found the pearl – but it was not so.
In 1985, I was teaching at Preston High School in New York. For me teaching was always more than explaining the principles and elements of drawing, or how to mix colors. Rembrandt and Van Gogh have always been my great companions on the way, but the greatest was Frederick Franck, who defined “seeing/drawing” as a way of meditation, a way of getting in touch with the visible world around us, and through it with ourselves. At Preston, I continued trying to develop awareness, attention, seeing and not merely looking, working from the artist within with the students and with myself.
Everyone loved being in the art classes. Yet for me, as an artist and educator, something was still missing. Within me there was restlessness.
That year I met the Focolare. It marked a new beginning, I had found the precious pearl, the ideal that God who is Love had planted within me in the sand dunes of Montauk.
Everything began to slowly change. All I said, all I drew, all I painted would have to come from the heart, seeking to do God’s will in the present moment.
I continued to teach elements of art and art history, but now seeing and loving first of all Jesus in each student, and seeing their work in a new light came first. All had to be done in unity and harmony to build a united world. I realized with time that this allowed the “inner artist” in many of them to blossom.
School was my first responsibility, and my own artwork was done once a week, primarily painting lyrical abstract landscapes in watercolors. Now as a retired art teacher I can spend part of my day in my studio. By living the spirituality of unity, I realized that my work should be a reflection of unity. Chiara Lubich once said that the artist is one who knows how to express what is within, and that the content of art is beauty. Beauty is harmony, and harmony means the highest unity.
My art could no longer be about me, but must mirror God’s love and beauty. I need to work in silence so that I can enter into that nothingness that is asked of me, so that the luminous light of unity may shine forth. This is my vocation as artist, a God-given gift, a gift to be shared.
My choice of colors now is a reflection of this newfound light in my life: instead of darker colors often in contrast with each other as I often used before, now I use colors that are in harmony with each other and blend to give life to a more luminous image that reflects the beauty of God’s creation.
I hope that my paintings are a gift for the viewers. I am truly only at the beginning of this way of working.