|Artist Rosanna Palk pauses at the foot of a statue of the Blessed Mother that she repainted on the grounds of St. Patrick Church in McEwen. Palk, from Lima, Peru, has painted several statues for the parish. She learned to repair artwork at the Cathedral in Lima, and has offered her skills to her parish in McEwen. Photos by Rick Musacchio|
Painting can be a mystical experience for Rosanna Palk.
“For me it’s my little heaven when I paint,” said Palk. “I may stay there for five or six hours but to me it’s only a half hour. I lose the sense of time.”
Palk used her artistic talent and her experience restoring statues in her native Peru to restore several statues at St. Patrick Church in McEwen, where she has been a parishioner for the last three years. She offered to restore the statues as a gift to her parish. “She wanted to express herself for her church,” explained her husband Virgil. “She expresses herself in her painting.”
Father Joe Kuchar, S.A.C., was looking for a way to tap into the talents of St. Patrick’s parishioners and when he heard about Palk’s offer, he approached her.
He was specific about what he wanted, but that was fine with Palk. “She doesn’t like the easy way,” said her friend and fellow native of Peru, Judith Patel. “She likes challenges.”
Her first project was to restore a statue of Our Lady of Lourdes that sits atop a pedestal in front of St. Patrick Church. The statue was originally donated as a set with the Blessed Mother and St. Bernadette kneeling beside her. The statue of St. Bernadette had been used as a grave marker in the parish cemetery, but was moved back to reunite the set.
Palk worked long hours in the rain and cold for a month to restore the statues in time to be rededicated and blessed on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception on Dec. 8. Her husband erected a tent over the statue so Palk could keep working on the statues.
It was painstaking work, removing the old paint and repainting the statues.
Father Kuchar found another statue of the Blessed Virgin outside the rectory and asked Palk to restore it as well. It’s been placed outside the entrance of St. Patrick School, where students can often be seen stopping and praying on their way into school. Parents have begun to stop and pray at the statue as well, said Patel. “It’s making a difference for the students and the parents there,” Patel said.
Palk came to her painting late. She was a police officer at 17 and began studies to become a dentist at 21. “I like to connect with people one to one,” said Palk, who besides treating her patients was often the person friends would come to for help or advice.
Although she had no artistic training, Palk, who no longer has a dental practice, began painting scenes inspired by her dreams, she said. Often they had religious themes.
In 2003, she visited a museum near the cathedral of Lima that had an exhibit of art about the Blessed Virgin. Palk was told the museum would be closed until the following week. She felt compelled to return the next day and was surprised to find the museum was open.
While touring the exhibit, she saw a painting of the infant Jesus. “It was so beautiful, when I saw it I started shaking,” Palk said through an interpreter.
Palk asked to talk to the person in charge of the museum and volunteered to help restoring the statues. She didn’t have any experience, but she had a strong feeling she was called to do the work, Palk said.
|Rosanna Palk, a native of Peru and a parishioner at St. Patrick Church in McEwen, lives in her husband’s childhood home in Waverly, Tenn. where she has a studio and regularly paints visions from her dreams that she says are an outgrowth of her prayer life. A former dentist, she has no formal art training, but considers it her true passion.|
The museum staff showed her what to do and put her to work restoring statues. She ended up staying three years. It was like working for God, Palk said.
Some of the statues she worked on were more than 300 years old, Palk said. “It’s a slow process sometimes,” she said. When she works on a statue she treats it as if it’s alive, like one of her former dental patients.
Parishioners at St. Patrick are thankful for Palk’s work on the statues. “Rosanna is just a blessing to our parish,” said Tommy Hooper. “She’s just an inspiration when you talk to her,” he said, recalling watching Palk stop to pray while she was restoring the statues.
Palk plans on restoring more statues at St. Patrick and is working on several paintings with religious themes in her studio at her home in Waverly. She credits her work to God. “I can do nothing in this world if He doesn’t use me.”