Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

A Change of Art after Years as a Teacher, Nun Finds That Paintings Light Way

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

A Change of Art after Years as a Teacher, Nun Finds That Paintings Light Way

Article excerpt

Walk down the wooden steps into the concrete basement of the Dominican convent on Sappington Road and you will find a room filled with light and artwork - landscapes, portraits, abstracts.

Northern light streams through a picture window framing a wooded hillside. The paintings and drawings flow from Sister Pauline Blandina's pencils and brushes.

In 1991, her community, the Dominican Sisters of Sparkill, gave Blandina, then 51, permission to change careers to art from teaching. After more than 30 years of playing with watercolors on vacations and retreats, she signed up for her first art course and began painting daily, as a job. Each year since, her skill, output and sales have grown. In February, Fontbonne College will display Blandina's landscapes under the title "Well Being." The title comes from her watercolor of an apple tree in its prime, a tangle of sturdy black trunk and branches covered with red fruit and green leaves filtering the sun into blocks of gold. Ask her to see it and she will zip on her motorized cart to the spot where it hangs. An automobile accident 21 years ago left Blandina partly paralyzed from her waist down. Once, she found relaxation and inspiration hiking or riding a bike; now, she studies nature from a wheelchair with a paint brush. "Don't focus on my disability. Focus on the art," Blandina says. Around the room, at the convent at St. Elizabeth of Hungary church, hang watercolors of nature that her art teacher, Bob Lewis of St. Louis Community College at Meramec, said "show a sense of felicity." In addition to watercolors, she paints with oils. On one wall hangs four pictures that tell New Testament stories using only hands or hands and feet. One shows Jesus sharing water with the Samaritan woman. In another, Jesus washes an apostle's feet. In the third, Jesus pulls a drowning Peter from the sea. In the fourth, a woman is cured by touching Jesus' robe. Blandina hopes the designs will become stained-glass windows someday. On an easel sits a portrait of Jesus - a Jesus whose eyes hold strength and comfort - in shades of brown and white. Blandina confides, with a laugh, that her Jesus "has Gregory Peck's eyebrows." Asked how a woman robbed of the ability to walk can fill canvases with peace, Blandina responds, "Ringrazio a Dio," Italian for "Give thanks to God." As a girl growing up in Richmond Heights, she heard her grandmother, a Sicilian immigrant, exclaim "Ringrazio a Dio" over things large and small. …

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