Do you see what I hear?
NATCHEZ — We know what the most beloved Christmas carols sound like, but what do they look like?
Art students at Cathedral High School in Natchez translated the songs onto canvas, and 10 paintings are hanging in St. Mary Basilica for the Christmas season.
Each artist employed their own style, but all of the artwork is washed with bright color and details that make the figures pop.
The Rev. David O’Connor, pastor of St. Mary Basilica, said it is wonderful to be surrounded by spirited images of student expression.
“I encourage them to express themselves in a way that they can exhibit in the basilica,” O’Connor said.
The paintings hanging in such a prominent space is incentive for students, O’Connor said. He added that the themes of the paintings are not required to be religious, but this year the artwork reflects more spirituality than in years past.
“People like to see that the students are talented, and they can capture the spirit of Christmas in so many different ways,” O’Connor said. “(The paintings) reflect their notion of Christmas from social themes, Biblical and cultural ways. I thought they all were excellent.”
Senior Andrew Carter painted an interpretation of “Away in a Manger.” Mary and Joseph are silhouetted by a bright light coming from the stable, as two curious sheep look on. Carter said, to him, the song and image are about innocence and hope.
“The light is coming from the child,” Carter said. “The baby is the hope of the world and a great light. It fits very well.”
Carter said there is a lesson in the song and painting.
“No matter your situation, you can find hope in the smallest thing at Christmas — like the little baby Jesus.”
Senior Beth Fortenbery painted her piece to illustrate the line from the carol, “While Shepherds Watch their Flocks.” The painting depicts the silhouette of shepherds and sheep looking toward a city, with a sliver of light from the star of Bethlehem illuminating their profiles.
“It’s simple, but it tied into the Christmas story in the Bible,” Fortenbery said. “I found a postage stamp with a similar design.”
Madison Watts painted “Silent Night, Holy Night.” In her painting, the church and a Christmas tree light up the snowy scene in front of a dark sky.
“I liked the picture because it tied church with the traditional Christmas,” Watts said. “It was difficult to get it to look like the picture. It was not that simple.”
Eric Glatzer painted “We Three Kings of Orient Are.” Glatzer used alternating shades to give the image depth. Three camels carry kings through the desert, silhouetted by the light of the star of Bethlehem. Glatzer said another student painted his version of the image last year, so he changed it up with a blue gradient that gets lighter before disappearing behind sand dunes.
Madeline Beard’s painting pops with artistic flair, after the song, “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year.” The work
shows thin, bare branches reminiscent of a crepe myrtle, with three colorful ornaments hanging from them.
“They are all different designs,” Beard said. “I wanted to make them as bright as I could, but still look like Christmas. That is one of my favorite Christmas songs. It’s a cheery song, and my painting is bright, so I think it fits.”
Andreé Gamberi, Cathedral’s art teacher, said she is always interested to see what students come up with. O’Connor has invited students to display their Christmas artwork for five years, she said.
“The main thing is to make statement,” Gamberi said. “They are bold and simple so it shows up from a distance. I am very happy with them. And the people love it too. Every year they look forward to seeing the pictures.”