Mission San Xavier del Bac: Art and Faith

As a boy I looked upward towards the sumptuous ceiling of Immaculate Conception Church , my father’s parish church in the Italian American community of Trenton NJ. I was moved beyond belief , the incense became more aromatic , the songbook more inspiring, the gospel readings more personally encouraging.

Today upon entering the desert church of the Mission San Xavier in Tucson Arizona, I felt that familiar tingle of faith synchronized with art creating an exhilarating sensation. My Catholicism is intertwined with my art making and with my life . At times , foolishly, I’ve tried to distance myself from my faith , but the saints , they come a knocking and will not be ignored .

Inside this treasure of a church , my iPhone clicking away in the most secular vulgar fashion I looked about at the faithful reciting their rosary , the earnest supplication for divine intercession and the pinning of milagros upon the reliquary of the mission’s patron and I felt a sense of shame , of coarseness. Amidst such sincerity , my appreciation for the art clouded the balm my soul was being offered .

Silencing my phone , I sat upon the wooden pews and allowed the spirit of the place , one enriched by countless testaments of faith , to sink in .

The following images were taken before the intercession of spirit .


Below, the central altar .

La Dolorosa, circa 1750, east transept


Jesús Nazareno, west transept

I admire the rich and exuberant ornament surrounding this santo.

Elsewhere art abounds.

One of an angelic pair flanking the main altar.

The fonts shaped as shells I believe , notice the diapered wainscot.

How sweet is this angel ? One of many charmingly depicted.

As you can see below and in other images this is an active church , faith engaged daily , in this case festively for the celebration of our Savior’s birth .

The baptismal font curious and marvelous.


The choir loft equally enchanting.

As is so often the case , this mission’s dazzling interiors are enhanced by austere splendor of the exterior , the sunlit majesty of this mission is incredibly inspiring .

There was a side chapel , I don’t know it’s history , I’m , we’re , now reading histories of the place to be better acquainted for future visits , but we both were moved to tears by the power of the place . The passionate pleas laid bare in this modest sanctuary. No inkling present to document this sacred hallowed ground by pulling out my phone , so instead this side altar to my patron saint must suffice .

With that , I sign off.



My latest stuffed painting , just a small element of my installation piece Embodied: St.Anthony & the Desert of Tears, a reimagining of Flaubert’s masterpiece The Temptation of Saint Anthony.

Pluton, Prince of Fire and Governor of the Region in Flames


31 inches high by 31 inches wide by 24 inches deep

Mixed media : recycled fabric, acrylic paint , embroidery floss, poly-fil, vintage footstool


Pluton and his infernal pals will be introduced February 23rd 2019 at the opening of my Fairyland solo show at MOAH/Cedar, Lancaster, California.

Would love to see you there . The show runs until March 31st 2019.