In 2002, I was offered an opportunity to restore a badly damaged statue for St. John’s in Westminster, MD. At the time I was working hard on a stop-motion animated short film that I had conceived, and I was attending a small non-denominational church. I wasn’t catholic and sure didn’t understand the communion of saints, but when I saw the statue I was quite taken with it. I had never restored anything before but I decided to give it a shot.
I began to research the saint, Therese of Liseiux. I was searching for the historical woman, I wanted to recreate her, as much as possible, even down to trying to achieve skin tones from that part of France. I researched the material that habits where made of and took all of these elements with me into the painting process. Once the sculpture was restored and painting was near finished, I began the detail work of the face and hands. I was astonished by her faith, especially in her final agony and her death by tuberculosis at such a young age. I wanted to portray a hint of this sickness in her eyes.
One night, late and alone in the workshop, while finishing the eyes, I felt a presence. You know the feeling you get when you suspect that someone is standing behind you? At first I was unnerved by it, though I was quickly peaceful and I realized that it was Therese. I began to speak to her and a joy overtook me. Several certainties flooded into me… first, I was deeply loved by those in Heaven, especially this woman, Therese, and I also new that I was going to be Catholic!
I began to wonder who it was that was really being restored? Here I was trying to fix an image of a beautiful saint and I was, all along (though I didn’t know it), beginning to be made whole.
Great sacred art has this power. This is why I wish to create it and restore it.