Chicagoland

Holy women, men focus of series by longtime iconographer

By Joyce Duriga | Editor
Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Holy women, men focus of series by longtime iconographer

Joe Malham is well known for his work as an iconographer. The artist-in-residence at St. Gregory the Great Church at Mother of God Parish, 5545 N. Paulina St., has created a new series featuring modern holy women and men who did great things during their lifetimes.
Dorothy Day as depicted in Joe Malham’s Chicago Heroes series.
Jean Baptiste Point du Sable
Mother Teresa Dudzik

Joe Malham is well known for his work as an iconographer. The artist-in-residence at St. Gregory the Great Church at Mother of God Parish, 5545 N. Paulina St., has created a new series featuring modern holy women and men who did great things during their lifetimes.

Included as a subset in the series are “Chicago Heroes,” which includes Catholics who ministered in the Archdiocese of Chicago, such as Dorothy Day and Cardinal George Mundelein.

The inspiration for the series followed an icon of Christ the Healer, which Malham created early in the pandemic to comfort those who are ill or who have loved ones who are ill or who have died.

“I realized I couldn’t go back to what was and I started to find something that’s new,” Malham said. “[I] came up with this idea of these Catholic heroes of the 20th century. It’s a new look, I think, for a new time.”

It is also a slightly different “unpolished” style from his past work in creating icons.

“What I wanted to convey was, instead of showing people in their divinized state like with the icons, I wanted to show them a little more impressionistic to show that we all are still in progress,” Malham said. “We still follow Christ and we still proclaim the cross even though we are imperfect and unfinished.”

Each hero image is a signed and numbered 12-inch-by-12-inch reproduction on stretched canvas that can be framed. All come with a short biography of the person.

Malham hopes to do another series of Chicago heroes, which will likely include Sister of Notre Dame de Namur Dorothy Strang, who was murdered in Brazil in 2005, and who taught at several archdiocesan schools. 

“It’s kind of neat, the chain keeps getting bigger and bigger of how all these great Catholic lives are linked together,” he said.

Malham also features Jean Baptiste Point du Sable, the first non-indigenous resident of Chicago.

“Obviously he did not live a life of heroic sanctity like Augustus Tolton, but they say that he was very fair and honest and treated the indigenous people with great integrity,” he said. “That’s heroic Catholicism at work.”

Another Chicago hero is Mother Teresa Dudzik, foundress of the Franciscan Sisters of Chicago, who died in 1918 and pioneered how to care for the elderly and people with special needs.

“I think that’s a story that especially young people need to hear about, because it’s the communion of saints that carries the faith forward. It’s the stories of who we were and that becomes the story of who we are going to be in the future,” he said.

“We have men, women, people of color all having in common that they followed Christ and proclaimed the cross,” he said, adding that he wanted to make a series that showcases “the utter magnificence of ordinary people who lived in our archdiocese.”

The pastor of Mary Mother of God Parish purchased a set of the Chicago series to hang on the walls of the parish soup kitchen at St. Thomas of Canterbury Church, Malham said. He hopes schools purchase the series as a teaching and evangelization tool.

“I would hope that somehow they would end up in schools because nothing teaches like images,” he said. “God really approaches us first through beauty, and I think that these images are hopefully beautiful, but their stories are also beautiful.”

For more information, visit trinity-icons.myshopify.com.

 

Topics:

  • chicago history
  • saints
  • art

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