Triad painter Louis Guidetti unveils image of Sacred Heart
WINSTON-SALEM — "When I was a child," Dr. John Reynolds recalled, "my parents had an image of the Sacred Heart hanging near our bedrooms. I saw it every morning and night, and I want to give my own children that same gift."
On Dec. 3, his wish came true. In a small ceremony at the Reynolds' home, artist Louis Guidetti unveiled his four-foot original of the Sacred Heart for John Reynolds and his wife Katie. About 20 people were in attendance, including four of the Reynolds' five children. The painting, which took nearly a year to complete, was blessed by Father Lucas Rossi, parochial vicar at St. Leo Church in Winston-Salem, the Reynolds' parish.
"He's such a talented painter," said Reynolds, an anesthesiologist at Wake Forest Baptist Hospital. "He's one of the best painters imaginable in our country for that kind of training."
Pictured above: In his Winston-Salem studio in early November, Louis Guidetti puts finishing touches on his portrait of the Sacred Heart. The original painting was unveiled in the home of Winston-Salem physician John Reynolds and his wife Katie on Dec. 3. Note the small photo of Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati on his easel. Guidetti has a devotion to him and is a member of Winston-Salem’s new Frassati Society. (Photos by Mary B. Worthington, Catholic News Herald)
Guidetti is not only an artist, but also an advocate for the return of sacred art in Catholic churches. In fact, the 29-year-old artist converted to Catholicism while attending the Florence Academy of Art in Florence, Italy, after he experienced the profound beauty in the ancient churches there.
"I saw how beautiful this Church was," Guidetti recalled. "People go and pray in front of paintings. It really draws you in."
"All beauty comes from God, and it is up to us artists to paint that beauty so that all who see our work may grow closer to God," Guidetti explained. "We artists must be trained in strong proportions, color and technique – without exception! Most importantly, we must pray for God's spirit, that He may place His grace in the painting through us to move hearts as He wills. These paintings are made for God's glory and to draw communities into ever deeper levels of prayer. It is such beauty that brings many to the Church."
"Art is a necessity," he continued. "Not everyone can understand theology, but sometimes a painting is easier to see."
Guidetti's career as a painter began with a family trip to Italy in 1999. He picked up a book of paintings by the Renaissance artists Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Donatello and Raphael. His favorite subject in school had always been art, and he spent the next year painting each of the images before returning to Florence to enroll at Lorenzo de Medici's School of Art and then the Florence Academy of Art.
Back home in Winston-Salem where he has a 200-square-foot studio in the Downtown Arts District, painting has become his life.
With brush in hand, he draws in the air, glancing over at the model, glancing back at his painting. He then approaches the painting for a few strokes. To get a fresh view of a painting he is working on, he will flip it 90 degrees and step back thoughtfully.
To allow images he paints to come to life – and give time for the paint to dry – Guidetti will work on many paintings at a time. Currently, he is working on one still life, three religious pieces and a portrait of a newly-ordained priest.
Guidetti hopes to make sacred art the focus of his career. The training he received in art school was very precise, and technique was emphasized, "as it should have been," he said.
"In my fourth year of school, we were finally allowed to choose our own subject matter," he recalled. "I chose the Blessed Virgin Mary. It was praised for its technique, but I loved it for its subject matter."
Guidetti's first major commission of sacred art was a painting of the Immaculate Conception for St. Ann Church in Charlotte. Completed in late 2010, the eight-foot painting adorns the Immaculate Conception Chapel where that parish will hold Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament beginning in January.
With a face as brilliant as the sun and eyes fixed on the tabernacle directly below, the image of Mary is flanked by 12 angels and depicts her crushing the serpent beneath her feet. Her face was drawn in quite an unusual manner: he didn't use a model, but solicited prayer. Billie Mobley, president of the Te Deum Foundation, sat in the studio praying the rosary, and the Poor Clares of Perpetual Adoration offered their Adoration that day for him while Guidetti painted.
"He was trying to capture something that you can't capture without prayer," Mobley said of the Blessed Mother's countenance.
It is this spiritual element that lies at the heart of Guidetti's artistry.
"Truthfully, it has a lot to do with prayer. I try to do a holy hour in the morning so I am really clear about what I am painting," Guidetti said. He also attends daily Mass and prays the rosary daily and is heavily involved in his parish, St. Leo.
"My goal is to have a focus in Church art," he said. "Every parish needs to build in to their church a location and a budget for art that will lift the hearts and souls of their members to God."
The Reynolds family members were nearly speechless after seeing the unveiled painting of the Sacred Heart that they had commissioned.
"It is a privilege to have somebody who has his talent living among us," Reynolds said. "It's really a 16th-century gift!"
See more online
To view more of Louis Guidetti's paintings, visit his website at www.louisguidetti.com.
— Mary B. Worthington, correspondent
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