Tens of thousands of people flocked to the Solanus Casey Center the weekend of November 18, and their religious experience became all the more powerful thanks to a striking portrait by artist Dominic Pangborn.
An estimated 65,000 people—including Pangborn—attended the beatification ceremony for the late Blessed Solanus Casey at Detroit’s Ford Field on November 18. It was a rare event held by the Catholic Church, which many see as the precursor to Casey being named the first-ever male Catholic saint from the United States.
Many of those pilgrims also visited Detroit’s Solanus Casey Center, where they were greeted by Pangborn’s Art in Motion work.
“It’s really incredible because when you walk into the center, it’s right at the end of it where people go to see the body of Solanus Casey,” Pangborn says.
Capuchins at the Solanus Casey Center—an order of the Catholic Church—asked Pangborn to create a unique artwork to welcome visitors to the pilgrimage center. The three-dimensional portrait, which depicts Casey with open arms, appears to shift as viewers move, creating the illusion that Casey is walking toward them.
“I want that ‘wow’ factor,” Pangborn says. “It was very interesting how everybody was grabbing the next person like, ‘No, you’ve got to step back, you’ve got to look at it back there and start going up, you see him coming and meeting you.’”
The 10-foot by 10-foot aluminum artwork was installed on October 24 and weighs 400 lbs. As a result, Pangborn had to design a special structure to keep the artwork in place, as well as employ a five-member crew and a hydraulic lifter to install it.
While many of the visitors were awed by Pangborn’s art, the artist found himself stunned while attending the beatification ceremony.
“I was surprised, when I walked in they had my piece of art on the screen as visitors came in,” Pangborn says. “They had it on the video right on the main screen next to [Casey’s] picture and image. I was like, ‘Whoa!’”
Portrait of a Saint
Casey was considered a wonderworker by local Catholics in Detroit, revered for his faith, his attention to the sick, and his co-founding of the Capuchin Soup Kitchen in 1929. He passed away in 1957.
Beatification is the official declaration by the pope that Casey led a holy and virtuous life and can intercede for the faithful. Casey can now be publicly venerated in Detroit and Capuchin houses.
Following the beatification, Casey is one step closer to being declared a saint. The church must verify that Casey performed one more miracle before he can achieve sainthood. He would be the first male born in the United States to be declared a Catholic saint.
“It’s going to be a pilgrimage of people from all over the world coming not just because he is a saint, but all the people praying to him for miracles,” Pangborn says.
In addition to his Art in Motion, Pangborn created three paintings featuring Casey. Among them is a painting depicting Casey standing in an open doorway, a reference to the Capuchin’s time as a porter (a doorkeeper and receptionist) at St. Bonaventure Monastery from 1924 to 1945. Pangborn plans on using the images to create prayer cards.
To collect the artwork of Pangborn, contact Park West Gallery at (800) 521-9654 ext. 4 during business hours or firstname.lastname@example.org.