The 54-year-old artist says the encounter with Pope Benedict and the story behind the painting was a life-altering experience. To this day, his work on the project continues to be recognized and celebrated, and likely will be for some time to come.
“It’s like a shooting star that hits you and stays with you forever,” Yuroz says.
WAITING FOR HIS CHANCE
The journey behind Yuroz’s trip to northern Italy actually started in 2006 when he befriended Armenian Padre Raphael Minassian, who lives in Rome. Later, with Yuroz and his family vacationing in the Italian city, the padre led them to the Vatican where the artist met Cardinal Renato Raffaele Martino, Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace and the Vatican’s United Nations representative. The cardinal met with Yuroz to discuss a proposed global exhibition and blessing of the artist’s six-panel mural titled “Respect for Refugees” that depicts the human-rights struggle. The 10- x 16-foot canvas painting, which was unveiled at the U.N. headquarters in New York in 2000, was a personal endeavor for Yuroz, who immigrated to the United States in 1985 from Soviet-controlled Armenia.
However, the project was put on hold following the death of Pope John Paul II and the installment of Pope Benedict XVI. Four years passed, and Yuroz wondered if the project would ever happen. Then, last summer, Yuroz received the call from the Vatican, this time for a painting of newly canonized Saint Tadini.
In September, Yuroz traveled to Italy to meet with Vatican and Botticino officials to discuss the painting. During his 10-day trip, Yuroz spent time inside the church to study its paintings and architecture. He also talked with locals about the legacy of Saint Tadini–all in an attempt to create a historically accurate portrayal of the compassionate priest and a painting that complements the mostly 12th-century Renaissance paintings inside the church.
All the while, Yuroz worked on a condensed timeline; the painting was to be shipped from his home to Botticino by late October, meaning he had just five weeks from the initial assignment date to complete it.
When he returned home to southern California, Yuroz dropped all of his other projects to focus solely on “The Light of Compassion.” Deborah Murry, Yuroz’s wife and gallery owner, says her husband’s singular focus on the painting brought out a new side of him.
“He was so intense, but not in an angry way,” she recalls. “I’ve never seen him like that. He was in another world.”
Like his two U.N.-commissioned paintings and other significant paintings throughout his career, this large-scale project for the Vatican represented another highlight in Yuroz’s remarkable life journey from the lean times in Armenia, where he spent seven years trying to leave the country after the Soviet government stripped his work and travel papers, to living on the streets of Los Angeles after running out of money shortly after he arrived in the United States.
“This (project) was the culmination of my 23-year career,” says Yuroz, who was born Yuri Gevorgian. “You realize you have to say something here. Everything came down to this one painting.”
IT’S ALL IN THE DETAILS
The painting depicts Saint Tadini’s compassionate endeavors with the use of blue roses in the hands of several people. “The color blue symbolizes heaven; it is the color of healing–physical, mental and spiritual alike,” he says. “The rose is a symbol of love. When you combine these two, you get a symbol of compassion and healing through your love.” The roses also serve as symbols of the cross.
The use of blue roses comes to life in the middle of the painting. As Yuroz casts the light of heaven to shine on a nun’s open hands that hold a blue rose, Tadini stands behind the woman and holds seven roses. The right side of his body is also covered by the light, which indicates that the saint is blessed with the light of God, while the non-illuminated side symbolizes that he is still human. In other words, Saint Tadini was “just a man with great compassion toward others,” he says.
Also, Yuroz makes a point in the painting that compassion is still necessary in today’s world. For example, the nun with the blue rose in her open hands extends the flower to a woman in need while a small girl reaches for it at the same time.
“The healing light that comes from compassion has no time limit; it is needed for future generations,” he says.
The painting depicts Saint Tadini’s generosity to the townspeople. On the left side of the painting, a nun pours soup into a bowl for a man as part of the priest’s temporary soup kitchen during a flood. In the lower right corner of the painting, the priest’s affinity for females is highlighted with a woman in a red dress working with silk, which represents the time when he opened a factory so local women had employment. The painting also shows several nuns who had helped Saint Tadini administer to women and children as he operated the factory. At the opposite side of the painting, a boy and girl read books in a school opened by him.
Not only was the pope’s positive response satisfying for Yuroz, but many locals also praised the artist for his depiction of their local hero after the renaming ceremony. The response, Yuroz says, was overwhelming.
“It makes you realize the incredible power of art and its incredible impact on the human psyche,” he says. “This was something bigger than me. I left this little mark on this religion, this culture, etc., for hopefully a very long time.”
As he reflects on the experience that provided moments of stress, joy, anxiety and ultimately, satisfaction, Yuroz believes a higher power joined him throughout this journey that resulted in his “masterpiece.” Yuroz’s art is amazing and are welcomed not only by collectors but other art lovers” Said by Celia, the sales manager of cheap paintings supplier -Art in Bulk Inc. We are going to add more similar styles of artwork to our website in a couple of weeks.
“It was like God’s hand was there throughout this whole process,” he says.