I am Honored and humbled to have been chosen to paint the portrait of Archbishop Allen Vigneron. He was appointed by Pope Benedict XVI, the Most Rev. Allen H. Vigneron was named archbishop of the Detroit Archdiocese on Jan. 5, 2009, succeeding Cardinal Adam Maida.
Creating this portrait was such an amazing pleasure. Fr. Craig Giera, Director of Priestly Vocations at the Detroit Archdiocese, located at the Sacred Heart Seminary in Detroit, a very beautiful and old structure, facilitated the process. The building was dark and mysterious, filled with the sprits of those who came before. The chapel has Pewabic Pottery tile floors and the alter consists of intricate woodwork and magnificent stained glass. As an artist himself, Fr. Craig was very sympathetic to my needs. There were so many places to set the portrait, from the majestic Cathedral to the more intimate library and Chapel. The dark, mysterious chapel came to be one of my favorite spots. But the ultimate decision was to set the portrait at the alter of the Cathedral of the Most Blessed Sacrament. This is the seat of the Archbishop and he felt it was the most appropriate setting. Honestly, any number of settings would have been truly awesome. There was some decorum I had to follow in the portrait of an Archbishop. For instance, because he is not a Cardinal, the sash had to be a certain hue of Magenta and not the warm (Cadmium) red associated with a Cardinal.
When I met the Archbishop I was quite frankly awestruck, as he was dressed for the portrait. Yet, I got a sense of a very humble, charismatic and deeply spiritual man. After our meeting and some photographs, I began listening to his podcasts and learned just how deeply sincere and ardently committed he is about his parishioners having a personal walk with Jesus and not just standing in awe at the majestic alter. These podcasts helped me to get a better sense of the man I would paint. Even with the formality of the moment and auspiciousness of the occasion, I felt I captured a very relaxed, approachable man.
“Thank you again for the wonderful job on the portrait. The Archbishop is very pleased with the work and many people really like it.”
It was quite a process depicting the depth and perspective in the Cathedral, one of the architectural jewels of Detroit. I had played clarinet in many a concert there in my younger days as a music student at Wayne State University. I had to ask Fr. Craig to go back and take several rounds of photographs in the Cathedral to get just the right point of view. In addition to the warm form light, there is another source of light in the portrait. The cool light over his shoulder is intended as a spiritual light, anointing him and basking him with the Holy Spirit. This was my addition; I think it added a lovely touch to the portrait.
I was happy to learn that my work was well received. In one of our many notes, back and forth, Fr. Craig relayed that there would be no formal unveiling, that it was now hanging among the other portraits of past Archbishops, and that I could now share it. I assume this had more to do with the Archbishop’s humility rather than any discontent with the portrait itself. I have long realized there are few things as controversial as a portrait. At the end of the day, I know setting the highest artist standards, and satisfying myself is most important. And, I must say I felt my hand was guided by the spirit. Sometimes fanfare is not what is called for, just a quiet appreciation. That is what I feel was accomplished here.