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Young person donates art in honour of Lady of the Rosary

By Anastazia Andrews, Holy Rosary

Young choir member of the National Shrine of the Lady of the Rosary Kaitlin Harris donated one of her artwork pieces to the parish. It took three months to complete. It is a framed portrait of our Blessed Mother, Mary, and has been placed in the Sanctuary. The parish celebrated its patronal feast over the weekend of October 7 and 8, and greatly appreciates the portrayal of its patron. In honour of this feast, Holy Rosary Church held several events including a weekday Triduum, recitation of the rosary before Sunday morning Mass, a procession and benediction, and a lunch sale. I sat down with Kaitlin to discuss her work.

Q: What is art to you?

My artistic journey embarked from an early age, where I engaged in creative endeavours utilising the miscellaneous materials that adorned my house. I reminisce about those school-free days when I immersed myself in instructional YouTube videos, mastering the art of crafting contraptions such as a Harry Potter-inspired wand meticulously conjured from a discarded paintbrush, bonded with hot glue, and adorned with vivid acrylic paint.

My foray into fine arts commenced around the age of 13, when my mother supplied me with charcoal and pencils for art class. Rather than adhering to the drudgery of homework, I found myself entranced by the study of portraiture. In those moments, I grappled with academic challenges and personal tribulations, and it was within the realm of art that I discovered a sanctuary, an escape from the exigencies of life.

In numerous facets, art assumed the role of a lifeline, pulling me from the precipice of desolation. The onset of the pandemic bestowed a unique interlude for introspection. My artistic prowess burgeoned during this period.

Immersing myself in a plethora of YouTube exposés chronicling the experiences of individuals navigating the labyrinthine corridors of art schools, I embarked on a transformative journey of self-discovery. It was during this juncture that I experienced a profound epiphany—an epiphany that galvanised my resolve to seek admission into an art institution. My aspiration was twofold: to augment my artistic acumen and forge connections with fellow creatives who, like me, harboured an insatiable passion to contribute their unique artistic visions to the world.

Q: What is your goal as an artist?

Art has also been a lifeline for me. Each stroke of my paintbrush against a blank canvas helps me to take out my frustrations and negative thoughts and turn them into a beautiful work of art that reminds me that there is beauty in the chaos of my emotions and overthinking.

Given these passions, I want to become an art therapist and help people discover their own callings through art in the way it has helped me. I would also like to aid young or marginalised people in understanding how to express their visions and frustrations regardless of artistic talent and contribute to their overall wellbeing in this way.

Q: What inspired you to do this piece, and why did you decide to donate this piece to your parish?

I’ve long held the desire to contribute to Holy Rosary Church in a meaningful manner. With a growing sense of confidence in my artistic abilities, I believed it was time to create a special painting for my community. This artwork was intended to be a tribute to the church that played a significant role in my upbringing and supported my family through various challenges.

Q: What was your process like?

I didn’t follow a specific step-by-step process; instead, I improvised as I progressed. My primary goal was to capture the church’s unique stained-glass beauty without merely replicating it. I wanted to incorporate the rose petals I collected during last year’s rosary procession. Staring at the painting constantly led to moments of dissatisfaction, prompting me to step away and return with a fresh perspective after a few weeks.

Several coincidences shaped this creative journey. When I needed a crucifix for the rosary around Mary’s neck, I didn’t want to cut an intact rosary. However, an old rosary on my windowsill unexpectedly fell apart, its rope frayed in many places. I interpreted this as a sign to use the crucifix from that rosary in my painting.

Q: Can you explain the use of dried roses?

The roses I collected during the procession spent several months

in my freezer before I revisited them. I meticulously researched and devised a plan for preserving and arranging them in a way that would complement my artwork. To thaw them, I placed the roses in glass dishes layered with paper towels, then added more dishes on top to keep them flat. This setup went into the fridge to ensure they didn’t dry out too rapidly.

One particularly aspect of this process was the moment I removed them from the fridge. The roses emitted a strong, fresh scent that lingered in my room and on my hands for weeks. When it came to preparing the petals, I coated some in a mixture of glue and water before applying resin, while others received only a resin coating, resulting in a delightful variety of colours and textures.

Q: What part of this piece are you most proud of?

I take immense pride in the entirety of this painting. What brings me the greatest satisfaction is the portrayal of Mary. I invested countless hours refining her image, repeatedly adjusting.

The most remarkable moment was a choice to alter her eye colour from brown to blue. Little did I anticipate that this simple change would imbue her gaze with an uncanny ability to follow observers from every angle when gazing upon the painting.

Holy Rosary Church is in East Port of Spain, a place that is too often negatively portrayed in the news. Kaitlin’s work suggests the quote from John’s gospel, “Nathaniel said to him, ‘Can anything good come out of Nazareth?’ Phillip said to him, ’Come and see’.” Jn 1:46.

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