Blessed Carlos Manuel Rodríguez Santiago

Thirteen years ago today on April 29, 2001, Carlos Manuel Rodríguez Santiago was beatified by His Holiness (now Saint) John Paul II. “He was the first Puerto Rican, the first Caribbean-born layperson and the first layperson in the history of the United States to be beatified.

At the core of Blessed Carlos’ spirituality (Pope John Paul II  said) was his faith in the Resurrection. He promoted the Easter Vigil as the defining moment of Christian spiritual life, repeating often, “We live for that night.” (Vivimos para esa Noche)

BlessedCarlosManuel Rodriguez2_vonn hartung
Blessed Carlos Manuel Rodríguez
Oil portrait by A. Vonn Hartung 2001

In 2001 I was deeply honored and humbled to be commissioned by the archbishop of San Juan, Monsignor Roberto González Nieves, to paint the official portrait of Blessed Carlos Manuel Rodríguez, to be given as a gift from Puerto Rico to the Pontifical North American College in Vatican City where it is exhibited in the Hall of Saints.

The Portrait is painted with various symbolic elements which express a visual prayer that “speaks to the eye” of what it was that helped bring Blessed Carlos Manuel to such an intimate connectedness to our Lord and Savior. The absolute serenity and joy in Charlie’s look is the faith that we seek, the faith that seeks us.

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El Jíbaro

Today is Earth Day. What better moment to pay homage to the noble “El Jíbaro”, the Puerto Rican cultural icon! “El Jíbaro” symbolizes to me the “salt of the Earth”

"El Jíbaro" oil portrait by AVonnHartung
“El Jíbaro”
Oil portrait by A.Vonn Hartung

“El Jibaro” is a painting inspired by my neighbors who have cultivated the land of their ancestors from the beginning.

Don Pepe represents for me all those who still cultivate the land; living links to our past, sustenance today and hope for abundance and sustainability in the future.

This painting was inspired by my neighbor Don Pepe “el Múcaro” (the Owl) O’Neill, who I am proud to call my friend. May he rest in peace!

(16″x20″ oil portrait, artist’s collection)

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He is Risen

VonnHartung_He is Risen_woodcarvingThis carved tabernacle door depicts the hillside of Jerusalem where Jesus was buried. The rising sun shows it to be Easter morning as the three women skip down the path together in an expression of great joy upon realizing that Jesus has risen.

The grave is empty, sculpted out to serve as the handle of the door, so each time the priest opens the tabernacle, he must put his hand into the empty tomb.

 

Commissioned in 1992 by Padre Jorge Castillejo Lluisiá for Casa de Niños Manuel Fernández Juncos, San Juan, Puerto Rico

The Agony of Crucifixion

Agony of Crucifixion woodcarving by A.Vonn Hartung
Agony of Crucifixion
woodcarving by A.Vonn Hartung
I carved this crucified Christ after an in-depth study of the book  A Doctor at Calvary by Pierre Barbet M.D.

 

The main results of the study show in the carving the effects of asphyxiation symptoms where all the muscles of the body cramp up due to lack of oxygen and cause massive cramps resulting in agonizing death.

 

This wood sculpture is approximately life-size, carved in linden wood (circa 1981)  for St. John’s Catholic Church in Montville, Connecticut. It was commissioned by Msgr. Bronislaw Gadarowski.

La Madre Dolorosa

La Madre Dolorosa (Sorrowful Mother) woodcarving by A.Vonn Hartung
La Madre Dolorosa
(Sorrowful Mother)
woodcarving by A.Vonn Hartung

La Madre Dolorosa (Our Sorrowful Mother) is a high-relief wood carving expressing the agony of Jesus through his mother Mary:  the betrayal by Judas, the arrest, torturous scourging, trial, carrying of the cross, crucifixion and death at Golgotha.

She contemplates the seven sorrows of her life, represented by the seven swords piercing her heart.

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Stations of the Cross

THESE STATIONS OF THE CROSS paintings show the process of conversion as Jesus was put to the test and tormented. His persecutors came to understand who he was.

The stations express a perspective that emphasizes the effect Jesus had on those present during his ordeal of carrying his own cross to his crucifixion on Calvary. As the bystanders are pulled into his suffering we follow by observing closely, the actual Revelatory conversion of the principal Roman soldier.  We see how the outpouring of grief and compassion of others around him begin to melt away his own cruelty and indifference.

Jesus takes up his cross, ViaCrucis station 2 painting by A.Vonn Hartung
Jesus takes up his cross
ViaCrucis station 2 painting by A.Vonn Hartung

See how he marvels at the deep and complete faith of Veronica as she wipes the face of our Lord. Others also are going through the steps of conversion from confusion and despair to an awakening clarity as seen most visibly in the others behind Veronica.

ViaCrucis station 6 painting "Veronica wipes the face of Jesus" by A.VonnHartung
ViaCrucis 6 painting by A.VonnHartung 2002

We understand how the soldier at the foot of the cross could finally come to the realization that they had crucified “The Son of God”.  (Mk 15:39)

 

 About the paintings

These Stations of the Cross were painted for Santa Rosa de Lima Church in Guaynabo (Barrio Amelia), Puerto Rico.  The artist conceived them with the community in mind and they include much of the spiritual and cultural qualities of Puerto Rico. Each Station measures 4-ft by 8-ft, painted in acrylic and gilded in copper and gold. They surround and crown the nave of the church.

Commissioned by Padre Antonio “Tito” José Vázquez

Photos by Greger Norrevik