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The Afterlife

JUNE 6, 2008
The original art for Attaché

I'm often asked to work on projects with historical themes, and over the years some of those have developed a history of their own. Today, I received an e-mail from Justin Catanoso, the author of My Cousin the Saint: A Search for Faith, Family, and Miracles, whose original article I created this portrait for in 2004, through Holly Holiday at Attaché Magazine. In the intervening years, he developed that article into a book, recently released by Harper Collins, and art director James Iacobelli chose to use my art for the cover as well. Apparently it was that cover that caught the eye of Christopher Schoppa at the Washington Post, who yesterday penned his own article titled "What You See Is What You Get: Judging Five Books by Their Cover". I was surprised to see that among the five, mine was the only one with an illustrated cover—and that three of the others had photos of dogs on them (do I detect a bias there?).
Justin's book is about the his grandfather's cousin, Padre Gaetano Catanoso, who spent his life in Italy serving the poor, and in 2001 was canonized by Pope John Paul II. The story of the divergent paths of these two cousins—one who emigrated to America in search of a better life, the other who stayed behind to serve his countrymen—led to an exploration of faith and family that's resonated with readers.
The photo I worked from of Padre Gaetano

The path this painting has taken, from magazine, to book cover, to private collection (the author bought the portrait from me after the project was completed), is a journey of its own, and shows that not only do saints have an afterlife, but art does, too. And people do judge books by their covers, sometimes to their credit.