He loved with all his heart…his beautiful wife Melinda, his family, his church, his God, his life and art. Indeed, Father Steve Wilson (July 2, 1965 - February 14, 2022), rector of Grace Episcopal Church in Carthage, was the personification of love in a mortal man. How poignant that his leaving our company would be on Valentine’s—our day for celebrating love.
I best knew Father Steve through our shared love of art and our art-filled conversations.
After I became the Executive Director-Curator of artCentral, I suggested to Father Steve that we should mount a multi-media exhibition featuring the art makers in the parish. We did! With his blessing and enthusiastic support, fifteen “Artists of Grace” filled the galleries of artCentral with their remarkable creations made of glass and clay, pencil and paint and paper and photos, fiber and wood.
Our next artful collaboration was “Mary, Full of Grace”, the first of my two paintings Father Steve commissioned for the church’s permanent collection.
Our discussions that preceded this work gave me a greater understanding of the depth of Father Steve. The vastness of his mind remains beyond my comprehension. How could one person acquire and retain and store at-the-ready so much detailed knowledge in so many genres—especially in art?
While a walking, talking Wikipedia of art, as a patron he was the ideal. Concisely expressing his preferences up front, he gave me a photo he favored—an image of a mother and her young child—accompanied with his simple wishes, “The mother and child, on a blue background, of course, and with some form of at least minimalist haloes.”
More art opportunities came my way via Father Steve—producing a set of tiles featuring my photographs of the stained glass windows of Grace; participating in the Olde World Market as an artist vendor; and including beautiful Grace Church in my series of Landmarks of Carthage paintings.
Father Steve’s most recent commission was the last we shared. Initially I was very reluctant to accept his request—the crucified Christ in the arms of his mother Mary. The subject seemed too hard. How could I possibly find the beauty in the devastating sorrow of the "Pietà" (The Pity)?
Father Steve sat in the library at artCentral and talked to me about his love for the paintings of William Bouguereau, especially Bouguereau’s "Pietà". Finally, we agreed. Bouguereau’s interpretation would serve as my compositional reference and inspiration rendered by me with a stylistic resonance to my earlier "Mary, Full of Grace".
“Walk in love as Christ loved us and gave himself for us….” I ponder these words now and I think of how Father Steve practiced the example of his teacher. He walked in love among us. He gave himself for us. Now in his sorely felt absence we all are imbued with the abiding love of this mortal man who loved so many so deeply and so well—this man who loved art.
There is much art to love throughout the Hyde House galleries. VERDANT will continue on view through March 12, 2022, at 1110 East Thirteenth Street in Carthage. Weekend Gallery Hours are Fridays and Saturdays, 12:00-5:00 p.m. For more information visit www.artcentralcarthage.org or ArtCentralCarthage on Facebook, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call (417) 358-4404.