Catholic Sacred Art in Puerto Rico

St. Francis Xavier, Patron Saint of Missionaries

In celebration of St.Francis Xavier

"En el Nombre del Padre..." San Francisco Javier Baptizing, retablo painting by AVonnHartung, in Parroquia San Francisco Javier (Trujillo Alto, Puerto Rico)This painting shows the humble Jesuit missionary baptizing a youth

St. Francis Xavier brought more than 30,000 souls into the Faith. Known as the “Apostle of the Indies” and “Apostle of Japan”, he is said to have converted more people than anyone else has done since Saint Paul.

 

This Painting/Retablo was commissioned by Padre Julio Victor García in 2002 for Iglesia San Francisco Javier (Trujillo Alto, Puerto Rico). It measures 6 feet in width by 11 feet in height and is my original design, built from solid mahogany, painted in acrylic and gilded with gold and copper leaf.

The vertical format symbolizes this world, our Church and the witness of the life and evangelizing work of San Francisco Javier.

The frame, through its striking presence displays the Sign of the Cross with which we as Christians identify ourselves in and through Baptism. It represents the tireless work of St. Francis, from sunrise to sunset, and the eternal truth, the Alpha and Omega of Christ. It acts as a window through which we enter to find further truths.

St. Francis Xavier is portrayed baptizing a youth who symbolizes the future church whose people are seen coming to the Faith.

The Holy Family is represented by any and all who do the Will of the Father in bringing young souls to be saved.

The Children brought forth by their Godparents engage us in reflection and contemplative prayer.

The Holy Trinity: Above the head of St. Francis is depicted the sacred image of The Holy Trinity, originally written (painted) by the great 15th century Russian iconographer Andre Rublev. Its inclusion is meant to draw us into the mystery of God,and to remind us of God’s love. It also prophetically reminds us of Jesus’ words as expressed in John 15: 26-27 (“When the Advocate comes whom I will send you from the Father, the Spirit of truth that proceeds from the Father, he will testify to me. And you also testify, because you have been with me from the beginning.”)

The Background: Surrounding this cascade of divinity with its luminous light and vapors, are luxurious examples of Holy Creation as expressed in the abundance of nature – by the breadfruit and mango trees, symbolizing Love, Beauty and Resurrection, and by the depiction of the dove which is drawn closer, and the serpent which is driven away.

“They who pray with faith have fervor and fervor is the fire of prayer. This mysterious fire has the power of consuming all our faults and imperfections, and of giving to our actions, vitality, beauty and merit.” (Francis Xavier)

 

Through Him all things were made Jn 1:3

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 It was 49 years ago that we first received an image of ourselves from the Moon. In the process of sending a man to the moon for the first time, Joseph Allen, one of the astronauts who was involved in the planning process recalls:

“Among all the arguments that were made for and against traveling to the Moon, nobody mentioned the possibility that the best reason would be simply to observe ourselves.”

Undeniably, that turned out to be the reason. In other words to see ourselves from outside as planet. Thus, when we received the photo of our planet, it was a global revelation that changed the way we think. Thereafter our consciousness has never been the same. Specifically, we saw ourselves as we really are; that is, alone in the vast darkness of space; small, delicate, resplendent with life and divine beauty. Through Him all things were made.

To clarify, it was not until the beginning of the 70’s that we began to think about ethics and care of the environment. Generally, only mystics and environmentalists had commented on this. However, since then everything has changed. Significantly, the world has responded with a lot of important reflections. Moreover, we now have the scientific tools, the philosophical and ethical thinking to begin to reason about our responsibility regarding the environment.

On Earth as it is in Heaven

 

Laudato Si’ spells it all out

Correspondingly, I  painted this Work (Oil painting on wood panel, 42 x 57″) when I was a member of the Justice and Peace Commission of C.O.R. here in San Juan, Puerto Rico back in 1992. Certainly, I was inspired in part because of the deteriorating environmental conditions on this most delicate island. Specifically, the thoughtless over-development and pollution that was going on, and furthermore the destruction of local communities. Unquestionably Pope Francis’ Encyclical Laudato Si’ On Care for our Common Home spelled it all out completely. Undeniably,its message was clear and eloquently stated. Hence, it was a theological clarification of what all the science said. Furthermore, for me Hurricane Maria explicitly slammed down the proof of it!

Two possibilities

To summarize, the painting is rhetorical in concept and presents us with two possibilities. That is, one in harmony with God’s Creation. In other words, a future of justice, peace and sustainability. The other of plunder, chaos, endless war and an ultimate collapse of nature and life on our planet home as we know it. Earth is painted in the form of an egg. This is to metaphorically symbolize the fragility of Earth’s ecosystem as well as her natural abundance and fertility. The metaphor of the egg is also used to show a covenant broken and the resultant rupture of earth’s fragile ecology as well as humanity’s fall from grace. Indeed, this has been caused by a flawed linear economic system based on the misuse of power and wealth, symbolized by the unholy use of GOLD.

Caring for the environment is a moral issue

There is no doubt about this. We humans have the tools to destroy or save civilization, because God created us with that capability. But he also created us with free will.

Caring for the environment is a moral issue. Through Him all things were made. Pope St. John Paul II emphasized the priority of ethics over technology, and spirit over matter. If we destroy the earth, we destroy the divine creation, we destroy ourselves.

Is that God’s plan? Is that our plan?

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Por medio de él todas las cosas fueron creadas (Jn 1:3)

Fue hace 49 años que hemos recibido por primera vez una imagen de nosotros mismos desde la Luna. En el proceso de enviar a un hombre a la luna por primera vez, Joseph Allen, uno de los astronautas que estuvo involucrado en el proceso de planificación, recuerda:

 

     “Entre todos los argumentos que se hicieron a favor y en contra de viajar a la Luna, nadie mencionó la posibilidad de que la mejor razón sea simplemente observarnos a nosotros mismos”.

Y, esa resultó ser la razón, para vernos desde afuera como planeta. Cuando recibimos la foto de nuestro planeta, fue una revelación mundial que cambió la forma de pensar. A partir de entonces, nuestra conciencia nunca ha sido el mismo. Nos vimos como realmente somos; solo en la inmensa oscuridad del espacio; Pequeño, delicado, resplandeciente de vida, divina belleza.

No fue hasta principios de los años 70 que comenzamos a pensar en la ética y el cuidado del medio ambiente. Esto sólo fue comentado por los místicos y los ambientalistas, pero desde entonces todo ha cambiado. El mundo ha respondido con una gran cantidad de reflexiones importantes. Ahora tenemos las herramientas científicas y el pensamiento filosófico y ético para comenzar a razonar acerca de nuestra responsabilidad con respecto al medio ambiente.

Through Him all things were made
Así en la Tierra como en el Cielo

 

Laudato Si’ lo explicó todo

Pinté esta obra (pintura al óleo sobre panel de madera, 42 x 57 ″) cuando era miembro de la Comisión de Justicia y Paz de C.O.R. aquí en San Juan, Puerto Rico en 1992, inspirado en parte por el deterioro de las condiciones ambientales en esta isla tan delicada, el sobredesarrollo y la contaminación irreflexivos que ocurrían, y la destrucción de las comunidades locales. La encíclica del Papa Francisco Laudato Si’ Sobre el Cuidado de la Casa Común lo explicó todo por completo. Su mensaje fue claro y dijo de forma elocuente. Fue una aclaración teológica de lo que decía toda la ciencia, y para mí, ¡el huracán María aplastó la prueba de ello!

Dos posibilidades

La pintura es retórica en el concepto y nos presenta dos posibilidades: una en armonía con la Creación de Dios, un futuro de justicia, paz y sostenibilidad. El otro del saqueo, el caos, la guerra sin fin y el colapso final de la naturaleza y la vida en nuestro planeta, tal como lo conocemos. La Tierra está pintada en forma de huevo, simbolizando metafóricamente la fragilidad del ecosistema de la Tierra, así como su abundancia y fertilidad natural. La metáfora del huevo también se utiliza para mostrar un pacto roto y la ruptura resultante de la frágil ecología de la tierra y la caída de la humanidad en desgracia causada por un sistema económico lineal defectuoso basado en el abuso del poder y la riqueza, simbolizado por el uso profano de oro.

Una cuestión moral

No hay duda acerca de esto. Nosotros, los humanos tenemos las herramientas para destruir o salvar a la civilización, porque Dios nos creó con esa capacidad. Pero también nos creó con libre albedrío.

Cuidar el medio ambiente es una cuestión moral. Papa San Juan Pablo II hizo hincapié en la prioridad de la ética sobre la técnica, y el espíritu sobre la materia. Si destruimos la tierra, destruimos la creación divina, nos destruimos a nosotros mismos.

 ¿Es ese el plan de Dios? ¿Es ese nuestro plan?

 

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St. Joseph, Protector

St. Joseph, Protector

 My most recent wood sculpture, carved through the period of the hurricanes Irma and MARIA. Approximately 3 feet high, carved in Tropical Cedar because of the desired color and its resistance to termites here in Puerto Rico. For Capilla Maria Auxiliadora, a small chapel in rural Carolina, Puerto Rico.

I’ve carved St. Joseph as a protector and a traveler; a stand-up guy who was always looking out for his wife and child, ready to defend them along the way of life which was full of dangers. He was a man of deep Faith who received his revelations through DREAMS: that Mary was the mother of God and that he should get out of Bethlehem and go to Egypt to escape the danger of Herod who wanted to kill the newborn King. Of course, we know he was a carpenter and must have been a wonderful father.

St. Joseph, Protector

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On the Road to Sainthood

This Saturday April 29th we celebrate the 16th anniversary of “Blessed Charlie’s” Beatification by His Holiness St. John Paul II.

One more miracle will qualify him for Sainthood.

Blessed Carlos Manuel Rodríguez Santiago portrait by AVonnHartung_at Pontifical North American College Vatican
Blessed Carlos Manuel Rodríguez Santiago

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.

I was subsequently interviewed by EWTN (Eternal Word Television Network)

 

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)

Learn more about Blessed “Charlie” and this portrait

Forever Young, Siempre Joven, Christ Among Us

A 27 sq ft work of art by A.VonnHartung for the students of Colegio (High School) San Juan Bosco at Parroquia Maria Auxiliadora, Cantera, San Juan, Puerto Rico (Párroco Padre Colacho SDB).

Commissioned by the Director and Theology Professor, Padre Jorge Santiago SDB .

Was installed in the main hallway of the school on the Feast Day of San Juan Bosco 31 January 2017.

The painting expresses an Epiphany of Faith, Joy, Love of Community and Learning, so much evident in the Christ-filled spirit of the school.

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La pintura expresa una Epifanía de Fe, Alegría, Amor a la Comunidad y Aprendizaje, tan evidente en el espíritu lleno de Cristo de la escuela.

Director of School Padre Jorge Antonio Santiago SDB with artist Arturo Vonn Hartung and Felix “Junior” Rodriguez

Doors of Mercy

Commissioned by the Archbishop of San Juan, S.E.R. Monseñor Roberto González Nieves for the arch above the main doors of Catedral San Juan Bautista in San Juan, Puerto Rico to commemorate Pope Francis’ declared Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy 2015-2016.

Cristo Abriendo Las Puertas de Misericordia_AVonnHartung
                                                     Painting by A.Vonn Hartung

Our Merciful Christ opens the Doors of Mercy and Forgiveness to all who pass through them with repentant hearts.

The waves bow down to our Lord as when He calmed the Sea of Galilee, also representing the Island of Puerto Rico as well as Earth “Our Common Home“, an Island in the vast darkness and empty space of the endless universe which surrounds us.

The Doors open onto the paradise that is Heaven, the reward of all the faithful and repentant souls.

Christ Opening the Doors of Mercy at Catedral San Juan Bautista
Christ Opening the Doors of Mercy at Catedral San Juan Bautista
InstallingMisericordiaCatedralSJ
Installing painting at Catedral San Juan Bautista

 

 

On Earth as in Heaven

On Earth as it is in Heaven

In response to our Holy Father Pope Francis’ call to dialog and action on Climate Change in his Encyclical Laudato Si’ On Care for Our Common Home, I offer this metaphorical painting, On Earth as it is in Heaven,  as a visual prayer to raise consciousness and to encourage dialog.

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The title of the painting “On Earth as it is in Heaven”  is taken from the prayer Christ Jesus taught us. That is, the Lord’s Prayer, Thy Kingdom Come, Thy Will Be Done, On Earth as it is in Heaven.

The painting is rhetorical in concept and presents us with only two possibilities.

One in harmony with God’s Creation. In other words, a future of justice, peace and sustainability in the natural world. Conversely, the other of plunder, chaos, and endless war. Subsequently, an ultimate collapse of nature and life on our planet home as we know it.

Moreover, the painting asks a question of the viewer, each one of us, whatever our religion or beliefs. Which future do we want to live in, leave to our children and future generations?

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And they saw the tomb was empty…(Mark 16)

When Jesus was resurrected, becoming for us The Christ, in that moment the world was changed for his believers forever! Earth burst into blossom. Earth glowed with light in the deep dark night of time. Everything, all creation was illuminated with divine light, hope.

AS SUCH I PAINTED THE STATIONS OF THE RESURRECTION (Via Lucis-The Way of Light)

And they saw the tomb was empty_ViaLucis1_painting on glass by AVonnHartung
And they saw the tomb was empty

The intense color is meant to bring this miraculous change into our consciousness. The colors are super infused with hue. Each color becomes the heightened essence of itself. To the uninformed eye these “stained glass” windows on the Resurrection might look fantasia-like. They’re meant to be however,  simple in form and basic in color.

 

"Mary Magdalene encounters the risen Jesus" ViaLucis2 painting on glass by AVonnHartung
Mary Magdalene encounters the risen Jesus

The figures show emotion in their gestures, their exaggerated movements. This is to show that reality was turned on its head.

Something so unbelievable had occurred that it changed consciousness forever. The world became full of hope, full of meaning because death had lost its power, its grip on humanity. Hallelujah! He has risen!

"After the Resurrection Jesus appears to the women" ViaLucs3 painting on glass by AVonnHartung
After the Resurrection Jesus appears to the women

These 14 Stations of the Resurrection (Via Lucis) adorn the upper reaches of the nave of Capilla San Juan Bosco in Orocovis (Barrio Gato), Puerto Rico. They were commissioned by Padre Jorge Santiago Cartagena, SDB. Twelve similar windows were also commissioned by Padre Jose Luis Gómez, SDB for the church San Juan Bosco in Villa Palmeras, San Juan.

In 1998 Father Sabino Palumbieri, Salesian priest and professor of theological anthropology in Rome, “proposed the creation of a new set of stations [to complement the Stations of the Cross] centered upon the resurrection and the events following it so as to emphasize the positive hopeful aspect of the Christian story which, though not absent from the Stations of the Cross, is obscured by their emphasis upon suffering. The first major public celebration of this devotion was in 1990…”
It was officially sanctioned by the Vatican in 2001. (From Wikipedia-“Stations of the Resurrection”)

Television Interview with A.Vonn Hartung

Update: See the video interview

EWTN (Eternal Word Television Network) will be airing an interview on March 5, 2015 with A.Vonn Hartung about Blessed Carlos Manuel Rodríguez Santiago, and Vonn’s experience painting the portrait that is at the Vatican.

THE CHURCH IN PUERTO RICO (30 minute duration)
Thursday March 5 at 3:00 am & 6:30 pm Eastern Time
[Puerto Rico time: 4:00 am and 7:30 pm]

The first 15 minutes of the program is a conversion story about a young man who turned his life around and is now studying for the priesthood; the second part is the interview with Vonn.

The EWTN program can be seen on–
Liberty Cablevision Channel 103 ( in Puerto Rico)
Dish Network Channel 261
DirecTV Channel 350
ROKU

Please visit the EWTN website for channel listings in your local area.
http://www.ewtn.com

Blessed Carlos Manuel Rodríguez Santiago portrait by AVonnHartung_at Pontifical North American College Vatican
“Blessed Carlos Manuel Rodríguez Santiago”
Oil portrait-
at Pontifical North American College, Vatican

 

This is the oil portrait of Blessed Carlos Manuel Rodriguez Santiago by A.Vonn Hartung © 2001, presented to the Pontifical North American College at the Vatican on the occasion of the beatification of Carlos Manuel on 29 april 2001, and is on permanent display there in the Hall of Saints.

To learn more