On April 9, the Gentile Gallery was transformed into the art exhibit of Franciscan alumna and current Artist in Residence Blair Gordy Piras. Around a dozen of Piras’s drawings and the painting are hanging in the Gallery and will be on display for some time.
Linus Meldrum, who holds a master of fine arts in painting and printmaking from The Yale School of Art, started the evening off introducing Piras.
“When Blair was in my art classes a few years ago, I recognized in her a true Image Maker,” said Meldrum.
Piras then gave a talk explaining the exhibit which she had entitled “The Vocation of a Catholic Artist.”
Two of the most important aspects of painting, according to Piras are “contemplation and prayer to the Holy Spirit.”
Several of the paintings Piras painted while studying in Italy were on display in her exhibit. One of the paintings, named “Agnus Dei,” depicted the Blessed Mother with the childish forms of Jesus and St. John the Baptist. Piras explained how she prepared for painting by research, including the reading of the Scriptures. The scene in the painting is set in the city of Florence, which location Piras chose to honor her time there.
Piras spoke on how she had loved art from a very early age, though it was not until she studied art at college that she felt she could become an artist. “As a child, I did not understand my capacity for creativity,” said Piras.
While at the university, Piras said she took a couple art classes. She spoke of her time at Franciscan and how it formed her as not only an artist but also as a Catholic. She was a humanities and Catholic culture major, but she knew she wanted to pursue art in a serious way.
After graduating from the university, Piras traveled to Florence, Italy, where she studied at the Sacred Art School for two years. While there, she learned a great deal about what it meant to be a Catholic artist. “Through art history tours, classes and personal research, I learned the attributes of the saints and signs and symbols of Christian art,” said Piras.
Piras is currently the artist in residence at Franciscan. She is teaching a couple art classes this semester. In the future, she wants to paint commissions for churches and create more sacred and devotional art.
Gracie Lawler, a junior history major, said, “It was lovely to hear her discuss the layers of study and contemplation that was required for each image. It was inspiring to hear her talk about as an artist being open to the Holy Spirit as her guide.”