By his own count, Fr. John Van Wiel, CSV, has created more than 100 paintings during the pandemic. Working in a home studio set up in his apartment in the Province Center, he stored the watercolor images in a dresser drawer.
Now, a sampling of his works are seeing the light of day. Working with Associate Joan Sweeney, former archivist for the community, they framed some of his favorites and displayed them in the conference room of the Province Center.
The exhibit space is envisioned as a revolving gallery. It last featured a display of African prints and lithographs collected by the late Br. Leo Ryan, CSV.
Hanging under a bank of windows, the colorful images offer a glimpse into Fr. Van Wiel’s talent and his knack for capturing the beauty of God’s creation.
He and Joan divided the collection up into different groupings, including a cluster of barns, lighthouses, sailboats, winter and summer scenes, sunrises and sunsets, and his most recent subject: birds.
“He’s so talented,” Joan says. “When I heard they were all hidden away in a drawer, I knew we had to get them out for people to enjoy.”
Fr. Van Wiel is something of a Renaissance man. He retired in 2013 after a long career as a chemistry teacher, but he recalls that he originally started college as a chemical engineering major. One of his early classes included taking mechanical drawing, where he learned to do technical sketches that included depth, angles, sizes and perspective.
Decades later, he has gone far beyond mechanical drawing. While he still strives for an accurate depiction of his main subject matter — barns, lighthouses or covered bridges, for example — it is his ability to capture light and its changing qualities that draws the attention of the viewer.
The exhibit of his works is something of a first for Fr. Van Wiel. Being self-taught, he has never entered his paintings in an art show and certainly never been featured in a one-man show. But Joan and other Viatorians agree: his art work is a gift and it needs to be shared.