Fanny Bay artist Judi Wild was a graphic designer in Edmonton when she began working on what would become the most important painting of her career.
Little did she know at the time, she was painting a picture of a saint.
The year was 1991. Wild was an Edmonton Telephones employee. She said the work – and the words – of Mother Teresa is what inspired her to create the painting.
“Of course there was always the total admiration of her inner strength and also her tireless work in the streets of Calcutta (her call within a call),” Wild said, after some thought. “But the artist in me first had the desire to paint her because of her age and my artist’s fascination with the mature character lines in her face and hands. Each fold in her beautiful face tells a story of dedication and love, and her hands define her hard work. I have always had a love for old people – and used to teach them art and listen to their words of wisdom.”
It was not only the physical attributes Wild found inspiring. She also admires Mother Teresa’s teachings.
“I think it’s her sayings – I agree with her philosophy,” said Wild. “I’m not Catholic, but I am spiritual. And it’s her expressions, her philosophies of life. I agree with everything.”
She said she felt a further connection to Mother Teresa as her canvas creation progressed.
“When I started doing the painting, it was like a spiritual growth for me.”
Wild said it took 300 hours to complete the painting, but it went extremely smoothly.
“Usually, I have one little part where I have so much trouble, one little tiny part of a painting that I will really struggle with. But no. Not this time. It was 300 hours of just bliss. It just absolutely flowed.”
Wild said it was almost like there was some divine intervention with the process in creating the 28 x 40” artwork – and even with the eventual sale of the painting.
“That was one of those pivotal moments that they talk about,” said Wild. “I had a gallery at West Edmonton Mall, and a customer came in and saw the painting and said ‘I have a buyer for you.’ It was at a time I was really struggling. I was close to going back to work (as a graphic designer). So I reluctantly gave her up… it turns out, it really did save my career.
“And it went to the best home ever. It was a doctor, who has delivered 25,000 babies. He was such a kind, kind soul.”
Dr. Fawzy Morcos, an obstetrician in Edmonton, purchased the painting. Morcos was revered by many for his breakthrough approaches to parenthood. His hospital (Edmonton Misericordia) was the first in Canada to adopt a “rooming in” policy for mothers and babies, and he also piloted a revolutionary hospital-based midwifery program.
Wild was to have met Mother Teresa shortly after the completion of her painting, but plans fell through.
The painting can be seen at various locations in the Comox Valley, including the chapel at The Views, and at Christ the King Catholic Church.
The print at The Views was not always in the chapel. When current chaplain, Brian Ducedre, came to St. Joseph Hospital, in 2003, the painting was hanging in his office.
“I really loved the painting, but what bothered me was that so few people actually had the opportunity to see it,” said Ducedre. “Being in my office, it wasn’t really in plain view for a lot of people to appreciate. So, I think it was around 2009, I moved the painting into the old chapel. The painting was there for a number of years, until the chapel was decommissioned.”
Once construction of the new chapel was complete, the painting was moved to its current location, just inside the chapel doors.
“People love it. People love looking at Mother Teresa and just talking about the different characteristics of who she (was) as a person, and how they experienced her in their own lives and spiritual journeys.
“I think a lot of times, why people are so attracted to Mother Teresa is because of her compassion,” Ducedre added. “Her compassion was so evident in everything that she did in caring for people, that we are all naturally attracted to her.” Wild said seeing the painting at The Views is especially pleasing to her, as her “biggest fan” is a resident there.
“My mother is presently living in residential care at The Views. I notice the interesting faces of the well-cared for elderly residents when I visit and wonder about their life-stories, as they smile back at me. I remember Mother Teresa’s words ‘One smile can change the world.’ ”
Mother Teresa was officially canonized on Sept, 4, as St. Teresa of Calcutta.
Fr. Marek Paczka, the priest at Christ the King Catholic Church, said the canonization of Mother Teresa sends an important message.
“I would say that maybe the Church is trying to show through the example of Mother Teresa that maybe we should not focus too much on ourselves, but direct our attention and our work to others. Not only is she a saint because of her great work and her love of the poor, but I think the church is trying to tell us, look at Mother Teresa. She lived like we all should.”
She has been recognized by the Vatican as having performed two miracles – both of which involved curing cancer patients.
In celebration of the canonization of St. Teresa of Calcutta, as well as the 25th anniversary of the original painting, Wild is re-releasing prints on canvas giclée. The painting can be seen at Whyte’s Framing & Gallery (1225 Lazo Road, Comox).