ABOUT THE ARTIST
Acknowledgement / Coat of Arms
“Without doubt the beginning of our salvation is effected by God…
But consent and act even if not from us, do not occur without us.”
St. Bernard of Clairvaux, “De Gratia et Libero Arbitrio”,
xiv.46 PL 182: 1026C, trans. Rev. Father John Eudes Bamberger.
Minhhang K. Huynh was born in Saigon, Vietnam and came to America in 1985. After graduated from SUNY Geneseo with a dual major in mathematics and art studio in ceramics, Minhhang was given an opportunity to live in Italy for about six months in 1994. For about two months in Siena, she audited a class in the ancient painting media of egg tempera and fresco taught by a well-known Sienese master artist, Otello Chiti. In her thirteen-page presentation, “Painting a Thirteenth Century Crucifix on the Eve of the Twentieth Century” written in April of 1997 (Revised January 2004), she wrote:
“…. Coming home to Geneseo, I was something of a lost soul. What could I do, for up to now I have done nothing with all that has been granted to me so generously? Finally, I put the last piece in the puzzle. I decided to paint a crucifix… I hoped to use the knowledge and the experiences that I have been given to share these gifts that might help those who are in despair.” (Painting… p.4)
After the decision was made, Minhhang met with her Medieval historian college professor, Dr. William Cook. Under his supervision, she did her research on Italian 12th and 13th-century crucifixes. In addition, she traveled to different provinces of Italy to study in-depth more than 20 life-sized crucifixes hanging in museums and churches. When the research part was done, she had to focus more on the painting technique. As she worked on the medium, she began to receive commissions. She knew that she needed to learn more about it. With the support and encouragement of friends and family, especially Wes and Lynn Kennison, and the stipends and a grant received from the New York State Council on the Arts and the New York Foundation for the Arts (with the help of the Genesee Valley Council on the Arts), Minhhang gratefully took professor Chitti’s generous offer to be her mentor. She returned to Siena to continue her egg tempera study (April 1995 and April 1996). Besides being a great, eighty-five-year-old sacred painter, Professor Chiti is also a man of faith. Even though he knew she still had much to learn, he encouraged her: “Don’t worry, St. Francis will help you”. Leaving Siena this time, she was more comfortable with the technique and had more confidence to paint the Crucifix.
While continuing to master the technique, under Professor William Cook’s guidance, Minhhang completed her research paper, Italian 12th and 13th-Century Crucifixes and the Impact of St. Francis of Assisi on the Changing Image of Christ. Her carpenter, Paul Conklin of York also finished building her wooden cross (8.5’x11.8′).
“…The structural requirements to stabilize a painting surface of 6,492 square inches were enormous. The two pieces of the Crucifix were constructed and put together. There were twelve bolts needed to hold the two pieces together. The whole wooden Crucifix weighs about 200 lbs. and is extraordinarily top-heavy. Paul also designed and built the stand and devised procedures for detachment and transport…” (Painting… p.8)
All of the pieces seemed to fit in place as Minhhang began to paint her crucifix right after Christmas of 1997. She owes many thanks to the SUNY Geneseo Art Department faculty and staff for their continuous support and encouragement, especially Professor Carl Shanahan, Professor Thomas MacPherson, and Mrs. Cathy Reinholtz.
“…Monday, March 24th, the Crucifix was back hanging in the studio. After three days of hard work, the painting process came to an end. By Good Friday, everything was in order. At noon, I painted the wounds and blood of Christ. The painting process was complete… Saturday, April 26th, the Crucifix was taken to St. Mary’s in two pieces. It was put together and stood upon the stand nicely for the first time. I touched it up again that night. It was done. I was finished. The next day, accompanied by a dedication mass, the Geneseo Crucifix was unveiled and blessed… The Crucifix then traveled to the International Medieval Conference in Kalamazoo, Michigan. After my presentation, Professor Cook looked at me and said: “You are not going to keep the Crucifix home, are you? One has to carry his cross and follow Christ.” (Painting… p.9-10)
The next thing she knew, from April of 1997 to October of 1998, with the help of many who physically carried it, the Geneseo Crucifix traveled to nine different locations in and out of New York State. It seemed to have a life of its own, and Minhhang went along to talk about it. Minhhang began to realize what a precious gift she had received. She continued to pursue it and as it turned out, she was converted to be a Christian.
“I was born a pagan and raised in the Buddhist tradition. I came to America with an ambition of wanting to be either a scientist or a mathematician… One morning, standing in a coffee bar in Siena hearing people talking about the Oklahoma bombing, I finally came to the decision of wanting to become a sacred painter and hoped that someday my art would somehow contribute peace to even a small part of this world, I prayed that if I was meant to become a Catholic, may God help me with the crucifix project for I know that I did not have enough of either the patience or the skill to achieve the goal on my own… The Geneseo Crucifix turned out to be such a success. Many positive responses and comments from people have touched my heart and shook me hard, so hard that I felt very uncomfortable to continue with the journey telling people about God, while I was still a pagan myself… God’s grace brought me to the Abbey of the Genesee to meet with Abbot John Eudes Bamberger. He and the brothers of this Cistercian Abbey show me what it takes to learn humility, and that was what I needed. I joined the R.C.I.A. program of St. Mary’s in Geneseo. With the support, love and prayers of all people, especially the members of the three communities: Abbey of the Genesee, Newman and St. Mary’s, I finally was baptized and confirmed to become a Catholic at the Easter Vigil of 1998.” (Painting… p.10-11)
During this time, Minhhang received two commissions from the Abbey of the Genesee. “It was amazing how successful they turned out. I was speechless and at awe in wonder”. Through them, she was ever more assured of her precious gift and her call to contribute peace through art. A few months later, Minhhang was invited to have works exhibited at Morris University, Morris, Minnesota. These paintings show that she has found art a means to express her inner spirit. Our Lady of Vladimir icon painted for the Franciscan Capuchin Hermitage in Wheeling, West Virginia has proven to be one of her best works. And so is the recent icon painted of Blessed Grimoaldo, a Passionate Student who was beatified by Pope John Paul II in 1995.
Under Rev. Father John Eudes’ sage spiritual guidance and teaching, as a Catholic, Minhhang has been growing spiritually and having more confidence in living her vocation as a contemplative religious artist (painting icons and religious subjects) and doing her apostolic work. Besides using her web site to praise God and to share what she has learned with friends from cyberspace, she tours some of her icons and gives slide presentations.
She has shared her journey of faith with spiritual groups, parishes, universities, seminaries, monasteries as well as convents in and out of State (i.e. Newman Community, Geneseo, NY; Genesee Lay Contemplative, Piffard, NY; Good News Foundation retreat center, Utica, NY; Knights of Columbus, Oswego, NY; Assumption Church, Fairport, NY; St. Bridget’s, Rochester, NY; Church of Holy Spirit, Webster, NY; St. Kathryn’s, Hudson, NH; Sacred Heart Parish, Lyndhurst, NJ; St. Aeden’s Parish, Jersey City, NJ; St. Bonaventure University, Olean, NY; St. Francis College, Loretto, PA; St. Bernard’s School of Theology and Ministry, Rochester, NY; Washington Theological Union seminary, Washington D.C.; Epworth Divine Word seminary in Iowa; SVD seminary in Chicago; Mt. Saviour monastery, Corning, NY; Our Lady of the Rosary, Summit, NJ; Our Lady of the Angels Monastery, VA)
To see examples of her artworks, projects, and commissions, please visit ARTIST AT WORK
Minhhang welcomes any thoughts, sharing and insights you may have concerning the spiritual life in God.
Having been growing as a Catholic under her spiritual father’s guidance, teaching, and blessings and having been receiving the spiritual support and influence from the Cistercian monks of the Abbey of the Genesee, Minhhang finally made her solemn vow of chastity and consecrated herself to God on the feast of the Mother of God, 2008. To imitate the Mother of God who devoted her whole life to the love and the service of her Beloved Son, sustained by God’s loving care and graces, Minh tries to embrace and love all God’s people as her universal family.
Besides going about her little ways to share God’s love to others and to be a witness of God’s loving presence in this world, she is promoting a spiritual group of single Catholic women (virgins, divorced and widows) as a spiritual community of lay sisters. However, they do not live together but on their own. They focus on living faithfully the Catholic faith. They support and love one another as they desire to seek and love God above all else. Her spiritual father is the spiritual director of the group.
She is grateful for any opportunity to praise God by sharing his miraculous, wonderful and merciful deeds, especially his working in her own journey. In her thirteen-page paper describing her two-year painting of the Geneseo Crucifix, she wrote:
“… the incidents that have been happening in my life are no coincidences. ‘Lord, you have probed me, you know me: you know when I sit and stand; you understand my thoughts from afar… I praise you, so wonderfully you made me; wonderful are your works!… How precious to me are your designs, O God; how vast the sum of them!… Probe me, God, know my heart; try me, know my concerns. See if my way is crooked, then lead me in the ancient paths.’ (Ps.139) Therefore, Let’s put our hope in the Lord as the psalmist prayed: ‘I put my hope in the Lord and he looked down to me’ (Ps. 39). ‘So do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself. Sufficient for a day is its own evil’; said the Lord. (Matthew 6:25, 34)” (Painting… p.12)
Minhhang is grateful to God for all of her loved ones, friends, patrons and those whom she encounters in her life, who have been helping, supporting and encouraging her in many different ways which help make her continuing spiritual journey to God possible and fruitful.
She too thanks you for your interest, support, and prayers. She hopes that these “Singing-with-Color” images and icons together with the prayers of New Helfta, spiritually will help strengthen and color your spirit in a special way. Amen.