by Gael Mooney, painter
“The residency organized by Fr. Paul Anel of Heart’s Home was comprised of nine artists from the Ukraine and the United States, including visual artists, musicians and dancers. Key to its success was our guide Fr. Paul Anel and the other members of the Heart’s Home who welcomed us with open arms into their home in Pignans and their extended community of friends and volunteers, many of whom accompanied us on our daily excursions in the area.
Fr. Paul promised this would be a cultural extravaganza and pilgrimage. It was that and much more, providing a rich exchange between the artists, our hosts and their friends, and an encounter with many of the most important treasures of medieval, modern and contemporary art and architecture that the region has to offer.
Some of the highlights included a visit to the Picasso Museum and Hans Hartung and Anna-Eva Bergman Foundation in Antibes, the Matisse Chapel at Vence (where we had the great privilege of celebrating a Mass) and nearby Maeght Foundation, the Cistercian Abbey of Le Thoronet and the extraordinary site of the Chateau La Coste which, as both a working vineyard and center that houses many acclaimed site specific works of contemporary art and architecture stands as a monument to art, nature, the sacred and their inter-relationship.
Through visits to the seaside, to the forest and mountain of Saint-Maximin-la Sainte-Baume (where Mary Magdalene spent the latter part of her life) and the Chateau Noir — a cherished motif that was frequented by Cezanne —we also immersed ourselves in the beauty of the French Riviera countryside which has inspired so many extraordinary works of art.
Daily Mass and prayer – typically sung by our Ukranian sisters – was a constant reminder of the hidden source of beauty that sustains us in our lives and art. In fact, singing and laughter were a key component throughout and constant reminder of the outpouring of joy that is so central to our calling as artists, even in the midst of human strife and suffering, such as that going on in the Ukraine right now.
I was attracted to this residency because of its unique intersection of art, culture, and the Mission of Heart’s Home based upon my personal conviction that all three are intimately interrelated. My painting requires that I spend long periods of time working in isolation. The challenge for me is always about how to attain the larger vision of things from which we are able to glimpse something of the reality’s heights and depths, its hidden unity, harmony and mystery. Through its rich interweaving of art, culture, religion and fellowship, this residency has had a transforming impact on my eyes, my mind and my heart, helping me to glimpse something of that larger vision of things that reveals the multifaceted dimensions of beauty that are the source of inspiration for my life and art.”