Exploring the Sacred
Beholding the Sacred
San Gabriel, CA
Saint Anthony's Church on busy San Gabriel Boulevard in San Gabriel is a real gem for anyone who appreciates the art of Isabel Piczek (1927-2016).
The sanctuary is adorned by the first murals that she painted after coming to the United States.
The Baldacchino is especially worth noting. It depicts the Holy Trinity: a youthful Jesus holds the cross with his left hand; his right-hand points to the Father. The Father holds a globe in his left-hand, and with his right, points to the Holy Spirit hovering above them. The Holy Spirit's head looks toward Jesus, thus completing the Trinitarian triangle. The dynamism of a Piczek piece is there, what is not is the angularity or geometric shapes that accompany their later work. The stained-glass windows, the murals of the Feeding of the Multitude and the Last Supper are more easily identifiable Piczek style.
Dedicated parishioners initiated restoration efforts in 2016. Isabel oversaw and was on hand for a portion of it. Just a few months before her death, she presented a talk on her work at Saint Anthony's at the rededication ceremony.
The following is an excerpt:
One afternoon I was painting a mural at the Cathedral in Las Vegas when suddenly a young man appeared at the foot of my scaffold, asking; ”How can I learn to paint large murals like this?”
“I am sorry but you can not learn it”, I answered. “You must be born with this power. It comes with you. Of course, you must learn the technique and the chemistry of the paints, however, in itself, that will not help you create great compositions – great works of art”.
“In other words”, said the young man, “it is a gift”. “Yes”, I said, “but remember, it is a gift that comes with a very high price. Once you are born with this gift your life and your choices are all set”.
And yet, what a life is waiting for you! A fabulous life that never leaves you in doubt as to what your task is at any moment. Your work takes you to new walls, new cities and new situations. It is never dull!
For that, you have to give up certain human comforts. You will not walk much on the floor but from scaffold to scaffold somewhere in mid-air. But from there you see so much more! You learn to love silence and the company of giants that you yourself put around you. You also learn to love the typical noises that big buildings make – churches, cathedrals, big halls – and the sound of the chimes or bells in most of these buildings as they break the grand silence every hour, reminding us of the “passing of time”, leaving behind its grandeur and sometimes irreversible sadness.
Saint Anthony's is located at
1901 S San Gabriel Blvd
San Gabriel, CA 91776