Religion go Together for Priest-Painter
Tucson, Arizona | Published: 07.27.2005
Father Don Huntimer is in desperate
need of wall space.
swirl, horses gallop and flowers bloom across the length
and breadth of his tiny apartment, located on the grounds
of the Benedictine monastery on North Country Club Road
he isn't conducting Mass at the monastery next door or
performing prison ministry hither and yon, Huntimer, 76,
can often be found on his patio, painting.
do my best painting when nothing else is bothering me
and I can really focus," says Huntimer, who prefers
the early morning light and solitude.
Over the last four decades, he's turned out close to 150
oil paintings, many given away, a few sold.
others can be found on display at the Downtown YMCA, as
well as at Picture Rocks Retreat and the nearby Desert
House of Prayer, 7350 W. Picture Rocks Road.
there are those, in postcard-like prints, decorating the
walls of who knows how many Arizona jail cells.
I go to jails, I give postcards to the inmates,"
says Huntimer, who moved to Tucson in 1989 and got involved
with prison ministry in state and local lockups. Sometimes
the prisoners, perhaps inspired by his works, show Huntimer
their own artistic attempts.
try to encourage them in terms of creativity, whether
it's art, music or even writing a letter. It's never too
late to start." He should know.
Born in Madison, S.D., and ordained in 1959, Huntimer
taught school for years in the Chicago area. His passion
for painting began almost 40 years ago, after seeing a
painting in an art gallery he loved but couldn't afford.
"Why not paint your own?" the owner of the art
gallery asked him.
So for a year he took lessons. Even so, he calls himself
"Anybody can paint," he says. Jan Prendiville
bears testimony to that. About six years ago she became
friends with Huntimer after hearing him at one of the
three weekly Masses he celebrates at the monastery. Not
long after, Huntimer told her, "You know, Jan, let
me teach you how to paint."
answer: "Really?" Before long, she was meeting
her teacher for lessons twice a week on his patio. "Since
then I've done two paintings every summer," says
Prendiville, 56, adding that her friend has taught her
more than technique. "He's taught me how to appreciate
what's around you and how it can be seen from such different
perspectives by everybody."
doubt about it, Huntimer's artwork has given him a more
painterly eye. "When I see the forest, I see it differently
now," he says. And while he may have originally longed
merely for a painting for his wall, Huntimer has learned
over the years to view his art in a different light as
well. The process, he says, is more important than the
finished product. "It's getting in touch with our
of his paintings glorify nature, vividly capturing everything
from wild geese to Arizona sunsets. Few, however, appear
to be religious in nature - at least to the uneducated
eye. But Huntimer says good art "can be a transformation
of consciousness and it can elevate one to a religious
plane of wonder, awe and reverence."
his arm in the direction of one of his oils - a large
rendition of the galaxy Andromeda swirling through infinity
- he asks, "If that's not religious, what is?"
Henry's column appears Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays.
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