Van Rainy Hecht-Nielsen, the visiting New York Pope’s muralist

Interviste

In the city where graffiti art was bornt everything could happen. Even that is assigned a 200 feet building’s side to four artists for the creation of a mural depicting the Pope blessing the whole Madison Square Garden.

It happens in New York, where last September 3 was completed the gigantic tribute the Big Apple is giving to the Pope visiting US from 22 to 27 September, after he reached, the days before, Cuba. The american agenda of Pope Francis will be marked by several events: Washington firstly, where he will speak in front of the Congress, and then in New York, where he will give a speech to the UN General Assembly, will go at Groud Zero, will meet children and immigrant families to the school “Our Lady, queen of angels” and finally will officiate Mass at Madison Square Garden, between 8th Avenue and 34th Street.

For this the DeSales Media Group, the technological arm of the Archdiocese of Brooklyn near The Tablet and NET-TV, has called a team of four people who, hoisted on piers, took ten days to realize the giant Pope. As tradition teaches, the piece is located in one of the busiest areas of the city to announce “Urbi et Orbi” the papal message: in fact the murals also includes the public hashtags #PopeInUsa and #PapaEnUsa. Beside them, the Pope is portrayed waving, in a smile, with his right hand. The artists wanted to create an image as truthful as possible, paying particular attention to the face: daunting task, if you think about the picture’s size and the heat of the last days in New York. But in the end they made it and the piece will stay there for six weeks.

The director of the works has been the artist Van Rainy Hect – Nielsen: 41 year-old parishioner of the Church of Saint John the Evagelist in Lovelend, Colorado, since years he realizes paintings and drawings of a religious nature. But how was confronting with a sacred work so great and so visible? I asked it to him.

Who are you? What have you studied and what do you do?
I was born in 1974.  I studied art under a master artist, Miles Williams Mathis, in Austin, Texas.  I am currently a fine artist and mural painter.

What can you tell me about the mural dedicated to the Pope?
The Pope mural was put together by the Archdiocese of Brooklyn to welcome Pope Francis.  I work on large scale paintings all the time, usually for advertisement.

How important is faith for you?
Faith is crucial in my life, I am a Catholic convert.  I prayed the Rosary the whole time I painted the face.

What do the other street artists say about your work?
I think that most of the people in NYC like the mural, including street artists

What are your plans for the future?
I hope to meet Pope Francis, but no plans yet.  I would love to do more street art, especially more religious work.

Certainly the work served to raise awareness among distracted New Yorkers who didn’t know about the coming of the Pope. According to a poll by the Public Religion Research Institute, released at the end of August, it seems that only 47% of respondents knew that the Pope would be visiting the United States and that 69% of respondents were aware of his arrival in New York. But never mind, the mural will be seen by 700.000 people!

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