“I think that I have stretched my iconic images as far as I can for now,” Rev. Cannuli says of his show. In a preview for ICON magazine, reviewer Burton Wasserman writes:
“The artworks project a rare essence of mysticism. It is an exhibition that helps the artist connect with his audience while urging them to connect with each other, while seeking to respect the spirit and mystery of life,” Wasserman observes. The exhibit continues to 30 April and is sponsored by Medifast, UPS, Villanova University, Metropolitan Flag and Banner CO., VAT Vetrate Artistiche Toscane.
For the serious practitioner, the art of iconography is a meditation. For Rev. Cannuli the time-honored and very precise process of creating an image of Christ, Mother of God, or a Roman Catholic saint signifies the spiritual journey which he has been on for most of his life.
“Creative expression is a process in which one touches spiritually continually. In creativity, we begin to know the Creator,” he notes.
Many years ago, the making of classical icons in the Russian tradition helped move Rev. Cannuli to re-evaluate his vocation as a brother in the Augustinian Order. “In the process of reading the icons, looking, studying and understanding them, I came into communion with them. This raised the question of my spirituality – where I was going, what I was doing. That’s how I started to reconsider the fact that maybe I should move forward.” The direction he chose to move was to study for the priesthood, into which he was ordained in 1999.
As a religious artist, Rev. Cannuli’s interests are wide-ranging. A certified liturgical design consultant, he has planned worship spaces for numerous religious communities. His designs for stained glass windows, mosaics, sanctuary furniture and liturgical vestments may be found in worship spaces in the United States and abroad. He also lectures on iconography, and art and environment in liturgical space. His watercolors and paintings in acrylics oil and egg tempera have been exhibited in solo and group shows around the world.
“Art is not a metaphor for creation; it is the continuation of its presence,” he notes.
In recent years, maintaining his creative momentum has been challenged by his increasing administrative responsibilities at Villanova University, USA. Founder, director and curator of the Villanova University art gallery, a full professor in studio art, takes up a large portion of his studio time. “he steal time in the wee hours of the morning” to create his work.
The exhibit comprises of 30 large wall pieces, 15 hand crafter liturgical vestments, as well as 43 traditional icons in gold leaf and egg tempra. Getting the work done required calling in some help. So Rev. Cannuli formed a group of volunteer assistants in the manner of a Renaissance apprentice workshop.
One daunting task was to winnow from 4,000 down to 80 the photos he had taken of Italian roadside and processional shrines, and then to electronically manipulate the surviving images to achieve the effects he sought. A fellow art instructor with Father edited the photos and forged the imagery. Five artist friends sanded, smoothed, painted, and waxed frames, applied undercoating and gold leaf to surfaces, and did other prep work.
In one treatment, multiple sets of eyes peer softly out from an icon of St. Lucy, the martyr of Syracuse, Sicily, whose eyesight, it is said, was miraculously restored after her eyes were put out. In another, an imprisoned Jesus looks out from behind bars in an image superimposed over the recess of a roadside shrine. A sorrowing Holy Mother holds in one hand an image of Christ, in the other the Cross of Calvary. Two contemporary Italian servicemen serving in Afghanistan appear as Roman soldiers bearing modern-day machine guns.
The artist earned his Master of Fine Arts (MFA) degree at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, NY, his BFA at Villanova University, Villanova, PA, his certification as a Liturgical Design Consultant, from Chicago Theological Union, Chicago, IL and advanced studies at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, Philadelphia, PA and the Art Student League of New York, NY and Siena, Italy.
The exhibit will travel to San Gimignano, Italy, Prague, Czech Republic, Krakow and Warsaw Poland and will return in October to the United States. Other venues in the United States are still in negotiations.