This week we are celebrating our titular feast of St. Sebastian. One event to help us celebrate is the unveiling of a new painting of patron. Below you will see a painting of St. Sebastian done by Mr. Eric Armusik SEE HERE that we obtained a few years ago. The painting below his was created by Mother Mary Thomas PCPA SEE HERE that was finished late last year (2014). Here is the interesting thing about these two paintings: they are both depicting the exact same thing but in vastly different ways; the initial volley of the would be executioner's arrows at St. Sebastian. But one is more symbolic and one is more literal.
The first one by Mr. Armusik is much more realistic in the school of Carivaggio. But the message he tries to get across is very symbolic. That Sebastian's death is united with Christ's is symbolized through various means. The base of the tree to which he is tied looks very much like the base of the Cross. Five arrows are used to call to mind the five wounds of Christ. That Sebastian was intimately connected to Christ is shown through the upward turn of his face and the expression of hope shining through his pain. His left knee is slight raised off of the ground in a motion of trying to stand and lift himself toward God.
This second painting by Mother Mary Thomas is much more in the style of El Greco. The figures and background are much more imaginative but the details of the story much more literal. What was symbolized above is made concrete here. It is difficult to see because I was not able to get a good picture of this painting so if you want to see, make sure you stop by the parish this week. Overlapping the images, the post to which Sebastian is bound is transformed into the Cross of Christ. Along side the arrows that pierced St. Sebastian and the clubs that would eventually be the instruments of his death (to the right of the picture) is the arrow that pierced Christ side and His crown of thorns. We don't have to imagine the connection of Christ and Sebastian as Jesus' arms are embracing Sebastian and he, with a serene look on his face, turns his head toward him, almost resting on Christ's chest as did the beloved disciple.
That is the exciting type of things art can do. And it is also why I recommend parishes that can employ artists to create works unique to the parish. Nowhere else in the world will you see these images. You must come to St. Sebastian Parish in Akron.