ARTS: Shards of Redemption

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In a word-intoxicated culture in which Christians struggle with how to communicate the message of redemption, Sheila Lichacz creates images that stun the eyes and stir the spirit. Viewers have tasted her impressions of God in museums such as the Museum of Modern Art of Latin America in Washington, D.C. Her most recent exhibit, "The Spirit and Soul of Latin America," appeared at the Center for the Fine Arts in Miami. The Panamanian-American's works, bearing titles such as Miracle at Cana, And I Will Raise Him Up, and 30 Pieces of Silver, impart a redemptive message with clarity and simplicity.

Before beginning a work (pastels or oils or montages with pre-Columbian potsherds), Lichacz inscribes each canvas with the letters AMDG, an abbreviation of the Latin phrase meaning "To the Greater Glory of God." Her work is different from traditional religious art. An Associated Press reporter wrote, "It is spiritual without being realistic in any sense of the biblical tableaux favored by artists in other eras."

For example, the clay pots in her painting Dancing at Cana seem to come to life and communicate the joy of the Cana wedding feast--a style inviting viewers to meditate on and even absorb the themes of her works: the emotional struggle on the cross, the awe of the resurrection, and the surprise of creation.

SUCCESS AMID BATTLE

Lichacz's work springs from her faith, and also from her Panamanian heritage. Born in an adobe hut in Monagrillo, Panama, she grew up playing and swimming in the Rio Santa Maria, where she unearthed and collected potsherds, remnants of one of the oldest civilizations to construct pottery. She describes her paintings as "sculpting on canvas," imitating the way ancient Indians sculpted with clay. Her many works ...

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