ONEIDA — When St. Joseph’s Church in Oneida completed its renovations for new facilities off the church’s foyer a few months ago, members of the parish were surprised to find themselves hitting a blank wall, literally. A wall that created a five-foot by three-foot niche now replaced where there had once been a doorway to the outside. To fill the empty space would take creativity and ingenuity: it would take the talent and artistry of parishioner Marge Hendry.
Hendry, a full-time artist, spends several hours a day focused on her craft. She was surprised when another parishioner of St. Joseph’s, Pat James, found out about her artistic abilities and approached her with the idea of creating a religious painting large enough to fill the new niche at the church. Hendry discussed the concept with Father Richard Kapral, the church’s pastor, who approved the idea and commissioned the artwork.
“Father Kapral’s only request for the painting was that its focus had to be on Our Lady. I love Our Lady and that gave me a starting point to begin sketching,” explained Hendry in a recent interview.
Hendry, who became a Catholic in 2002, was excited to begin the project. As ideas began to form in her mind for creating a painting of Mary and the infant Jesus, Hendry began researching and studying religious icons of Russian and Italian Renaissance painters. The technique of Middle Ages master painter Giotto di Bondone, a major artistic influence in the Renaissance period, captured Hendry’s attention and inspired her designs. Hendry also found ideas for the painting by people-watching during church services. “I watched a lot of young people, especially babies. I loved how they ran their fingers through their mother’s hair — it was such a natural gesture. That image stayed with me as I was sketching and the result was an intimate drawing of Jesus as an infant running his fingers through Mary’s hair and snuggling under her neck,” she said.
As Hendry began painting, she worked hard to keep her focus on the sentiment of the holy mother and child. “I did feel challenged at times like ‘Who did I think I was to do this painting,’ and I worried about things like the colors or how the angels should look, but I kept on going, being led by the Holy Spirit, because that was all I could do.”
The painting, which Hendry simply called, “Our Lady with the child Jesus,” took four months to complete. Once finished, Hendry affixed the five-foot by three-foot painting to the wall of the facility and trimmed it with cording to give it added dimension. “I was very proud it was done so simply. When I showed the painting to Father Kapral, he said it was ‘stunning.’”
Parishioners of St. Joseph have also admired the new artwork and Hendry looks forward to completing more projects for other churches in the future. “I can’t wait for the next project to begin,” stated Hendry.
For more information, email Marjorie Hendry at email@example.com.