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Local Catholic artist brings images of saints to life

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Cincinnati area artist John McCoy is painting the images of more than 62 saints at All Saints Parish in Alpena, Mich., where three parishes have been combined. McCoy, 24, had launched a freelance art career with the commission. (Courtesy Photo)
Cincinnati area artist John McCoy is painting the images of more than 62 saints at All Saints Parish in Alpena, Mich., where three parishes have been combined. McCoy, 24, had launched a freelance art career with the commission. (Courtesy Photo)

Not far from the shore of Lake Huron, more than 62 saints are gathering at All Saints Parish in Alpena, Mich., thanks to John McCoy, an artist from Greater Cincinnati.

Following his graduation from the Art Academy of Cincinnati with a four-year degree in illustration, McCoy, 24, launched a free-lance art career doing commissioned work for Catholic churches and organizations in the Cincinnati area.

“I did work for Franciscan Media — magazine illustration work — and then I did a portrait of St. James for St. James Parish in White Oak. A lot of my business comes from online. I have a website: www.johnmccoyart.com,” said the Independence, Ky. native whose parents, Janet and Daryl, supported his career choice.

“My mother taught art for several years at the University of Mount St. Joseph. She influenced what I chose to do,” McCoy said.

McCoy got the Michigan commission in early May after Father Joe Muszkiewicz, pastor of All Saints Parish in Alpena, was listening to the syndicated EWTN Open Line Show with guest, Father Larry Richards, on Baraga Radio, the local Catholic Radio Network affiliate in Northern Michigan. McCoy had called Sacred Heart Radio, Cincinnati’s Catholic Radio Network affiliate, seeking advice on how to promote and expand his freelance work.

Father Muszkiewicz contacted McCoy and a conversation began about doing work for the newly created All Saints Parish — a merger of four Alpena-area parishes. After being sent dimensions of St. Anne’s church building, one of the four merged parishes where the majority of Masses are celebrated and parish offices have been consolidated, McCoy sent sketches of what he planned.

“He envisioned a depiction of the Communion of Saints which would include the patron saints of the four merged parishes — St. Bernard, St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception, St. Anne and St. John the Baptist. I loved it!” Father Muszkiewicz said. “After further discussion, including consultation with the diocesan Worship Office and approval of Most Rev. Steven Raica, Bishop of the Diocese of Gaylord, McCoy was hired to bring the vision to life.”

There are 59 saints planned for the canvases now, and there are an additional three to be decided. The majority of the saints were selected by the pastor. Three of them were voted by on the parishioners, McCoy explained.

On Pentecost, 2015, the four Alpena parishes merged and Father Muszkiewicz was named pastor. Alpena is a city of about 10,000 in the northeast Lower Peninsula of Michigan.

“With the merger of parishes, there are growing pains as well as disappointments and hurt feelings,” Father Muszkiewicz said.”The nearly 2,000 families of the merged parish are learning to be one. Recognizing that art can often connect with, and draw people together, the decision was made to commission new art for All Saints Parish.”

McCoy said: “The one I’m working on in Michigan is a massive painting — 60’x 9′. The work portrays more than 62 Saints — life-size. You can follow the progress on YouTube.”

“The size — 60′ x 9′– is the total square footage but that is not how the piece will be installed,” McCoy said. “There are 10 canvases each being 6 x 9′ and in the sanctuary. Two sets of three of those canvasses will come together in one compositional space on the left and right of the altar. Behind the altar, the four remaining canvases will be displayed. The idea is that the saints depicted on all of these canvases will be facing the altar. The whole concept is that the people at Mass, combined with the Saints, are all facing the altar. It will be finished November 1 for all Saints Day. I it is acrylic on canvas.”

McCoy credited Father Thomas Nolker, pastor at St. James White Oak, whom he described as a distant relative with giving him his first break.

“The first painting I did was St. James. I knew Father Nolker and was at his 40th anniversary of the priesthood. They had these little flower arrangements at a dinner and I did a painting ofone of them and gave it to them. They liked it. So when they did the renovation of the church in 2013, he contacted me and said he wanted a portrait of the patron saint of the church. It’s inside the sanctuary. It’s 4′ x 5′ and it is acrylic on canvas,” McCoy said.

Other local work was a book cover a Taylor Mill, Ky., pastor; an illustration for a story for St. Anthony Messenger, a publication of Franciscan Media and another job at St. James White Oak. “I did a confessional panel for the door. Father Nolker told me nothing says ‘confessional’ on the door and they wanted that. It was a good opportunity to have a work of art that was symbolic of confession. It has a cross at the top, the Holy Spirit (a dove) in the middle, and the keys of St. Peter,” McCoy said.

“I don’t know if other work will come in from the work I’m doing now. I hope it could very well bring in other work. I am getting a lot of comments.”

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