The Gift of Art and La Salette

Editor: Bro. Donald Wininski, M.S., has been with the La Salette Community since 1970 and took his first vows in 1972. He has recently moved from the La Salette House in Altamont, NY, to the La Salette National Shrine in Attleboro, MA.

Untitled-1Bro. Donald Wininski, M.S., works on picture of the Madonna and Child in his workshop (photo: Michael Koff from The Altamont Enterprise, Altamont, NYAs a child of five, I lived in a foster home. The woman in charge of our home was an artist, who enjoyed putting color on canvas with paint. I was inspired by her and one day I picked up one of her charcoal pencils and a pad of paper from the floor and began to draw what she was painting at the easel.

As I got older, I received presents of colored pencils, water colors, pads of artist paper, instead of the usual toys. My childhood was surrounded by colors and, as self-taught artist, I simply learned by doing. One day I received my first oil painting set and that launched my career in the medium of oil paintings.

I chose oil painting as my medium because oils are very forgiving; that is, if I make a mistake, I can easily change the image. However working in watercolors, I cannot change very much.

My schooling in art was limited to one course in mechanical drawing. It helped me to establish proper perspectives in my drawings. I didn’t like working in basic black and white but very much enjoyed working with the vast spectrum of colors. They lift my spirit and help me better express my ideas on canvas.

My methodology for beginning a painting is to start with a basic idea. Then I sketch that idea on paper. That sketch can be changed but is at least my reference-point. Then I use carbon paper to transfer the main elements of my drawing to the canvas and begin to paint. Unbeknownst to me, I recently learned that Michelangelo had used a similar process of tracing and transferring of the image when he painted the fresco on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.

My Works are Around the World

My works are all over the world – in private homes in Italy, Spain, Ireland, and the Philippines. I even painted a picture for Mother Teresa of Calcutta for their Home for the Dying in Washington, DC. She asked that I paint a picture of Christ welcoming the dying for their home in Washington, DC. Afterwards she also asked me to paint a picture of the Blessed Mother and the Child Jesus for the Women’s Ward in that same house. I felt humbled and unworthy to be asked to do these paintings.

Untitled-2Bro. Donald stands next to a wall of his paintings, which include religious scenes and still life paintings as well. (photo: Michael Koff from The Altamont Enterprise, Altamont, NYIn Tyrone, GA, in St. Matthew’s Church I painted a 4ft x 6ft Mural-size Composite Painting (on gesso masonite) which depicts St. Matthew conversing with an angel.

La Salette Paintings are True to Life

In January of this year I was asked to paint a picture of Our Lady of La Salette with arms outstretched to Maximin and Melanie. By February I had completed three large-format canvasses (24” x 36”) – one each of Maximin and Melanie – and two of Our Lady of La Salette – one in large-format and one in an oval design.

I spent time exploring the background of the two witnesses, their personal qualities and temperaments.

For Maximin, I discovered that he was a youngster of eleven years of age but fearless in the presence of the fearsome globe of light. As he himself said to Melanie upon encountering this vision of light, “If it harms us, I’ll hit it (the globe) with my stick.” At the close of the apparition, with childlike candor, he reached for a blue rose at the Beautiful Lady’s feet but his hand mysteriously passed through the image.

Untitled-3Original photograph of the two children of La Salette, soon after the Apparition. Notice that they are neither looking at each other nor at the photographer.He was a poor, unkempt and ruddy boy who had trouble standing still. Evidence of this was that, all during the apparition, he was twirling his hat on the tip of his walking stick. This showed that he wasn’t concerned much about externals. I attempted to show this aspect of his personality by showing that one of his shoelaces was untied. He was an active, young boy with lots of energy. In this painting, I had Maximin uniquely face the onlooker — be it the original photographer of those early years or the person viewing this painting today.

Concerning Melanie, I found her to be reserved, shy and I appropriately painted her turned away from the Beautiful Lady as well as from the present-day onlooker.

I wanted my smaller oval depiction of Our Lady of La Salette to be beautiful and attract the eye of the onlooker, showing Mary as though she had just spoken her final words. In fact I do picture her with her mouth slightly open, just as she says: “Well, my children, you will make it (my message) known to all my people.”

Postscript: The original black and white photos of the two shy children, Maximin and Melanie, soon after the apparition, show them neither looking at each other nor at the photographer.

(See another recent article about Bro. Donald Wininski, M.S. and his art.)