Artist shares works depicting mortality, need for community in overcoming grief


An artist shared her paintings on the theme of mortality and the story of her inspiration for them as part of the new art exhibit in the Gentile Gallery starting Nov. 14. 

Ann Schmalstieg, an artist, presented and explained in detail her unique paintings in a presentation to students, explaining the encaustic method of painting on wax instead of canvas or wood. Schmalstieg drew her inspiration for each painting from the Requiem mass, a special mass prayed for the dead, following the death of her husband who was killed in active duty in Afghanistan in 2010.  

The month of November we recognize as a time for special prayer for the deceased,” Schmalstieg said. “The work aims to help people in uniting their hearts with their prayers for their loved ones.” 

Schmalstieg explained how she hopes her artwork can touch and comfort individuals who suffer from grief 

“This artist’s talk isn’t really so much an artist’s talk; … it’s leaning more towards the life of someone who lives with the grief of losing a loved one,” Schmalstieg said. “It’s a bit different in tone.” 

The paintings each contain a Gregorian chant sung during different parts of the mass: the Introit, the Gradual, the Tract, the Sequence, the Offertory and the Communion verse. Each illustrates the theme of the chant, including love, justice and mercy, through images such as the Good Shepherd and the Sacred Heart to provide familiarity with the prayers.  

Even though not many people want to discuss death, Schmalstieg said that supporting someone who suffers from the pain of loss is essential to helping that person overcome grief. In representing this communal aspect of loss, she said, “the work expresses the Mystical Body of Christ.” 

Margaret Herbst, freshman, said that the artwork reminded her how amazing heaven will be after working hard on earth.  

The amazing artwork so deeply encapsulated the depth of the Requiem mass in the extraordinary form, Herbst said. I left with a greater appreciation for this treasure of the Church and especially its rich tradition.