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A Colorful New Take on Sacred Art

Creator:
Published:
June 21, 2024
June 21, 2024
Watch this video to learn about modern Catholic art created by a young painter committed to using her talents for God's glory.

Mattie Karr is a young artist who set out to do something different with sacred art. When her parish priest asked her for help creating new art for the church, she had a clear vision of what she wanted to do. Despite some initial hesitation from parishioners, Mattie found a powerful way to bring them into the creative process — and the art itself. The resulting murals elevated the beauty of the church and represented the community within it.

Mattie shares, "This is definitely like a time capsule kind of a thing for our church. These are the faces of the people who are going to this church, who are part of this community in 2024, a ton of different ethnicities, a ton of different cultures. That's the life of our church. That is literally who's here. It's so beautiful to be able to reflect that in the paintings."

Video Transcript

Mattie Karr: I'm Catholic, and I really love God, and it's really weird to people, you know?

I'm telling Jesus, like, do something with these, really. I want miracles. I want people to look at these paintings, and I want to see physical healings happen from people looking at these paintings. Literally, I think it's possible.

I started this project not with the intent of doing this full-time at all. I had no studio at the time. I had no place to do it. I had a full-time job making good money, just doing sales, and I assumed that I would just be working on this on nights and weekends. I was just feeling very dissatisfied with my job. It was a great company, but I was not doing anything creative. I remember somebody asking me like, "Oh, do you think you'll be with your company for the next 10 years or something?" And I just remember that question just struck me, because I was like, "Wait a second. What am I doing?"

This is where I worked before I quit my job.

Producer Josh: So where is your face covering as you go in?

Mattie: I know.

Former boss: Caitlyn, could you get a music thing that has the word “shame” as her walk-in music?

Mattie: No. Yeah. Here comes Mattie, the girl who quit.

So here's Mattie Karr Creative. This is my studio.

Father Anthony: Some people are like, "What are you going to do? What are you changing? Father, we don't like change." The clinging to the traditions of things, and that's fine. I appreciate that, but I just really appreciate their patience and trusting me enough to do this work.

Mattie: He had shared with me as we were envisioning how important it was for him to make sure that I don't hear any sort of feedback from the parishioners because there could be a lot of resistance to the change going on.

I just remember in the moment being like, "Well, I need models for these paintings. Why don't we just use parishioners?" So these are the photos. Just photoshopped together all the people from the parish who volunteered for us.

Every single person, when I would direct them to have an experience with the Holy Spirit, would do something completely different. This guy, I told him to just put his hands over his heart, and he just goes with his hands like this, and they were so beautiful. I was just saying a little bit more casual, but he just did this very reverent, and I was like, "Okay, I have got to keep you in that."

This couple right here, these two, she's just so beaming, smiling, so happy, and then her husband is just this stoic strength, and he's just like, "Okay, I'm receiving," and then these two little girls, they're their granddaughters. Faith and Hope are their names, which is perfect.

This is definitely like a time capsule kind of a thing for our church. These are the faces of the people who are going to this church, who are part of this community in 2024, a ton of different ethnicities, a ton of different cultures. That's the life of our church. That is literally who's here. It's so beautiful to be able to reflect that in the paintings. Our church building looks very much like our church community.

Well, Father's a master homily giver, so I think that your interviews are kind of like homilies too.

Father Anthony: So you're saying that my homilies are kind of interviews?

Mattie: Maybe.

Father Anthony: You have in this artwork a depiction of the reality, of the concrete tangible. That's why I love the fact that I can look up there and I can actually name names in the parishioners, but you also have the spiritual reality that undergirds that and that is alive and what brings life to those things.

Mattie: I talked to Father Anthony after a Mass one day, and I told him, "Oh, I do art. I'm an artist." He doesn't even look at any of my artwork to see if I'm any good. He just pulls me in and starts telling me these visions that he has for these paintings to go up at the church with Pentecost and Jesus being presented in the temple, and I just remember so vividly seeing red, blue, red, blue. I don't typically think in color. I don't typically think about the colors first. I'm typically thinking about the composition, the lines, how the people look. It was just so clear in my head that it was going to be that bold, and so I kind of made these color studies to show Father Anthony what it could look like, and I wasn't sure if he would be up for it.

Father Anthony: I never imagined it being so bold as far as the colors. I mean, Mattie and I were joking, artists of old that went through a blue phase or something like that. It was like, "Well, you just went through your teal phase and your red phase in a matter of moments."

Mattie: These are very bold paintings. You definitely don't see this monochromatic color scheme — red, blue. Even in our paintings, there's some really beautiful vibrant colors, but it's not over everything, and so this was definitely a risk of a choice to do, because you don't typically see paintings like this.

This is a painting that I did recently. Actually, this was just going to be a study to test out some colors. It's a limited color palette where I only use... It's called the Zorn palette. I just use black, red, yellow, and white. Those are the only colors in this, and you mix them and stuff. I'm finishing up this painting today. Hopefully we'll get that finished, and both of them together are kind of like this statement about doubt, but specifically with the Eucharist.

I have... It's kind of like Aslan. This is St. Raphael in the Book of Tobit, which, if I explained everything in this, it would take up the whole video.

This is Sacred Heart of Jesus. This is an image that's kind of inspired by Zechariah 2:5. This one is also a really popular one. It's my oldest print that I sell. It's the hemorrhaging woman. This is one of my favorites. I drew this right after Mass one day. I have the original in one of my books.

Yeah, that's the original.

Father Anthony: The best thing in the whole world has been just getting the first one up on the wall, and then people finally saying, "Oh, oh, I see it now. That's good, Father. That's really good."

Mattie: People are coming here specifically to see the paintings and people who have never been to Holy Name before. I've had people commenting things like, "Oh, I actually hate the Church. I've been away from the Church for a really long time, but if this church was down the street from me, I would go to church every single Sunday," and I'm like, this is wild.

A lot of people have wounds from the Church. It's from church members who are hypocrites. They hate what they think the Church is. They hate what they think God is, and I think Jesus knows that. He's always calling. He's always speaking to us in ways that are tender. I hope that beauty can be this really kind, tender bridge between people and the Church, that these paintings can be that kind of alluring arm of Jesus.

Having to let go of what I thought was my identity and comfort. Letting go of being comfortable, being respected, on a superficial level has allowed me to receive a lot more of an authentic life. More freedom to just be myself. I'm doing what I was called to do and that's very satisfying.

Creators:
Grotto
Published:
June 21, 2024
June 21, 2024
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