‘Do This in Memory of Me’ Eucharistic art exhibit highlights mystery of Jesus’ real presence

The “Do This in Memory of Me” exhibit, part of the US Eucharistic Revival, is showcasing sacred art at the Knights of Columbus’ Blessed Michael McGivney Pilgrimage Centre in New Haven, Connecticut.

Jul 05, 2024

Left to right: ‘The Entombment’ and ‘Lamb of God,’ by Robert Armetta (NCR photo/Courtesy of St Edmund's Retreat and Robert Armetta)

By Joseph Pronechen
The “Do This in Memory of Me” exhibit, part of the US Eucharistic Revival, is showcasing sacred art at the Knights of Columbus’ Blessed Michael McGivney Pilgrimage Centre in New Haven, Connecticut. The exhibit features 109 pieces selected from over 660 entries and includes various styles like traditional paintings, watercolours, charcoals, reliefs, sculptures, and some modern art.

Organised by St Edmund’s Sacred Art Institute, the exhibit aims to deepen visitors’ connection to the Eucharist and Jesus’ Real Presence. The exhibition has been well-received, highlighting a public hunger for sacred art and promoting contemporary sacred artists. The show includes prizes for the top two artists, supported by the National Eucharistic Congress and the National Eucharistic Revival team.

The art not only depicts the Eucharist but also saints and elements of Catholic theology, with many visitors finding the experience meditative and prayerful. The goal is to renew passion for the Eucharistic Lord through the power of sacred art.

Call to Meditation
Top prize went to Robert Armetta for his oil painting titled, ‘The Entombment’. Measuring more than six feet wide, the life-size painting forms a pair with a Crucifixion painting, ‘Lamb of God’.

The founder and former director of the Long Island Academy of Fine Art, Armetta studied at the best art schools in the United States and Europe. “This turn or this focus on sacred art is something that is a recent development, although that's not entirely true, but it’s something that I’ve been more focused on as of late,” he told the Register.

In both paintings, there are wounds present, “but they’re not overly emphasised, and this was done deliberately,” he added.

The artist was interested in drawing people in to meditate: “I want them to see the sacrificial Lamb of God Who willingly laid down His life for us. I want the viewer to meditate on this and ask, ‘Why?’ Sometimes, the gore can be a distraction and maybe even a roadblock for some to see Jesus resigned to His destiny. One approach is not better than the other; each depicts a distinct facet of a very complex reality. In the painting Entombment, my concern was I want the viewer to focus on the soon-to-be-resurrected Jesus, unencumbered by potentially distracting details.”

He would like his sacred art to do what the best of sacred art has always done: to move the heart of the viewer, redirect their gaze to Christ and what Jesus has done for them and what it means to them as children of God, whether or not they’re religious, whether in the church or outside of sacred spaces.

“There’s something really potent about the power of sacred art, because it reflects and points to the single most potent force there is, and that is God.” He hopes “that the spirit of God can move through these images and powerfully impact and change the lives of those who behold them, those who gaze upon these images. … And what higher calling can any artist have than to essentially use the gift that God has given them? To direct or redirect the hearts and the eyes of the people who see and experience what they do to the giver of that gift, back to God.”

Armetta shared a thought about winning: “This is what God has for me. Winning this award is just confirmation that I’m truly doing what I’ve been called to do.”

Visual Homilies
Second prize went to Kate Capato for her 36-by-24 oil painting, ‘The Woman at the Well’. Capato has been painting professionally since 2010 and full time the last seven years. “I do primarily sacred art, mostly because I feel called to spread our Catholic faith through painting,” she told the Register.

A traditional artist whose studies include time in Florence, Italy, the Cradle of the Renaissance where its major artists lived at one time or another, Capato’s oil paintings include traditional subjects like the Annunciation, Christ the King and the Holy Family.

Capato explained how ‘The Woman at the Well’ fits the theme of the whole exhibit. “That image resonated with the theme, too, because it shows that moment where the woman at the well recognises Jesus. He’s saying to her, ‘I am what will quench your thirst.’ And so it’s her gaze of, ‘You’re Him. You’re the Messiah.’ Seeing Him physically in front of you, it’s more about the recognition of who He is before you that can tie us in Eucharistically as well. It may not be as explicit as the Last Supper, but it has that effect of recognising God made flesh in Christ in that recognition moment; and also how, I believe, like many things, she has a foreshadowing of what’s to come. He talks about how he will be what satisfies her.”

What does she hope the viewer’s reaction would be?

“I would hope that they relate to the ‘Woman at the Well’, which I think many people do, even just reading the Scripture,” she answered. “I would hope that this image helps them really put themselves in her place. God willing, they don’t have five other spouses like she did. But we do, in a sense, when we cling to something that is not of Christ — a different idol. So again, that is another reason to have her pour out that water. I hope that people recognise it and say, ‘Oh, what do I need to let go of to see Christ before me and receive … the water that will satisfy.’”

Her aim is “creating visual homilies,” referencing her studies at Florence’s sacred art school. “It’s our duty to not just paint something, but to know the faith well and then pray with it. So I really feel it’s a mission, every work that I create, to really express whatever it is that the Lord has called me to for that individual work.”

Her process involves going to adoration, “and I’ll sketch things out there often,” she said, “or simply I’ll bring them up at Mass or say a Rosary with [the intention] of how the Lord will work through it and whoever seizes upon it, that they come closer to Him. So really just continually giving it back to the Lord, to use how He would like for His kingdom.”

It is Beautiful
Third-prize-winner Neal Hughes painted ‘Agnus Dei’, capturing the moment during Solemn Mass in the Tridentine Rite when the priest elevates the Host as deacons, subdeacons and altar servers watch in adoration. Although not having done much religious art previously, he chose this particular subject thinking of the Eucharist within the High Mass and Benediction, with all the incense.

“Our faith does have a lot of beauty in it, the traditions, the more ceremonial aspects to the Mass,” he told the Register. “Hopefully, it will inspire someone to look into that a little, because it is beautiful.” For this painting, he drew inspiration from beautiful churches — and an altar in particular.

Hughes was also inspired by attending Benediction growing up in southern New Jersey. “And I always like the beauty of the church itself,” he said. His family regularly attended a Miraculous Medal novena nearby where there was also Benediction and incense. “That’s what came to mind.”

Capato added, “I really feel like the Holy Spirit is inspiring the Church as a whole to bring more beauty back into our churches and to our homes. Beauty is essential.”

Eucharistic art combo
The show runs at the McGivney Centre through August 25, 2024, and a small grouping of the exhibit’s artwork will be displayed at the Eucharistic Congress in Indianapolis. --Register

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