by CVA member, Judi Wild
I have always admired Mother Teresa and was inspired to paint her portrait for this reason. I was amazed by her acts of selfless devotion in caring for the mentally and physically sick and poor - with little concern for herself.
But when I began painting Mother Teresa just over 25 years ago, I experienced a tremendous emotional involvement and a journey of Spiritual growth. I realized that the profound emotions that were awakened in me must also have been felt by the Missionaries of Charity who continue to follow her lead and all the others who admire her teachings.
I was not fortunate enough to have met her, but after spending an overwhelming joyous 300 hours painting her image and listening to the stories from those who had the pleasure of her company – I felt that I knew her. It had been arranged that she would stop into Edmonton in 1991 on her way to L.A. But she became ill and the visit was cancelled.
The completion of this work of art was undoubtedly my finest hour. When I put down my brush I made the decision to give up the security of my full time employment as a graphic designer in Edmonton and to follow my dream of moving to Vancouver Island and becoming a full time professional artist. It was a decision that I did not take lightly. I had worked for the same company for 11 years and another 11 years with the Provincial Government of Alberta as a drafts person.
On my last day of work I brought my painting in to work to show my co-workers what I had been working on. The positive reaction was all I needed to know that I had made the right decision.
My Edmonton art Gallery had a client very interested in the original portrait, even before it was hung for public viewing. It was my favourite painting and I was hesitant to let it go.
At the same time I had moved out to the coast to Fanny Bay, and was living all alone in the tall cedars in a small holiday trailer. I knew no one. I began building my house, but quickly ran out of money as my paintings were not selling as fast as I had expected. My builder warned me that it REALLY rains on Vancouver Island in the winter and that I HAD to get the roof built that Fall. You see, it was not just a normal roof, but a very tall A-frame – most of the structure was roof and cedar shakes and it was going to cost a lot of money. So reluctantly I decided that I would part with my beloved painting of Mother Teresa. I was poor, alone and sometimes hungry and ready to go back to my previous “comfortable” life. I always tell people that the Mother put the roof on my house, which allowed me to stay on the coast and follow my dream. She would have called it Divine Providence, which she so often mentioned in her teachings.
Even although I am not Catholic - to me, this was a miracle....one of many that I had heard of. She gave me shelter so I could pursue my passion.
One of her favourite sayings was “We can only do small things with great love”.
Looking back, I am blessed that she did indeed view her portrait. A tea farmer from Mumbai arranged for the framing of one of the full-sized artist proofs and it was presented to her in Calcutta (Kolkata) at a time when she was performing her work and still relatively healthy.
I also donated 20 of the prints to Father Joe, a personal friend of the Mothers, who works closely with the Kripa Foundation of Mumbai. These prints now hang throughout India in the Kripa Rehabilitation centres. This foundation was established in part by Mother Teresa herself in 1981. With such humble beginnings it has grown to become a world-wide organization I am delighted when I see so many others draped in the familiar white and blue robes following her lead and fulfilling her legacy.