When Suzanne Mancuso heard about the death of Walter Panas student Michael Mullamphy, she went home and painted the church that held his funeral.
Mancuso, an artist living in Lake Peekskill and world-record holder for painting the largest painting of the Virgin Mary, is on a mission to paint as many religious buildings as she possibly can. Although she describes herself as religious, Mancuso is not making the project itself about religion. Its about the steps and stages of a persons life.
I just got the idea in my head, and I wanted to paint it, she said.
The original painting of the Virgin Mary came from a dare, but is still a part of her newest project. Rather than dispose of her largest painting, she cut it into smaller squares which are now the canvas for her church painting project. Mancuso, a parishioner at Grace Lutheran Church in Yorktown said people there were supportive of her project, and allowed her to paint it in the parking lot.
People either drive past it every day, or they attend services, or they go to community events there, or they remember it from their childhood and were married there, Mancuso said. No matter how or why, these buildings are a part of peoples lives, and they mean something to them."
Mancuso has received help from people who send her photos of churches.
It touches everybody. It means something to everybody, theres some connection, theres even some part of their history there, she said.
Surprising to Mancuso was not only the output she received from people, but photos of international buildings that others may not see as traditional religious buildings. Painted on boards are photos of Indian wigwams, stones and bricks stacked with a cross on top.
Its spiritual to someone, who am I to say its different than others, she said.
To get started, Mancuso said she had an idea of what she wanted, but jumped right in.
I just started it, and after I started the first few, I found more and more I wanted to do, but I started to realize theres a story behind every church and I wanted to paint that, she said.
Mancuso has saved dozens of letters thanking her and giving her encouragement to do the project, but she said without her daughter Katie she wouldnt have ever started the project.
Mancusos daughter Katie would often bring home paintings that her mother became interested in. Because her daughter came to life when she could paint, Mancuso did it too, which led to her painting of other projects.
Ive always been artistic, I wrote a few books, and I came from artistic background, but seeing her paint really changed a lot of what I did. I have her to thank, she said.
Although shes trying to set the record for painting the churches, Mancuso said its a project that is both in the past and in the future.
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