According to legend, gallery volunteer Liz Hoegg said, Jesus Christ built a table when he was growing up in a carpenter’s household.
On that table, the legend continues, St. Luke later painted a portrait of the Blessed Mother, representing her as a young mother with the child Jesus in her arms.
“She took it with her when she went to live with St. John, after the crucifixion,” Hoegg said, recalling more of the old story. “Eventually it made its way to Poland, and miracles followed it.”
Artist Helen Warenda heard those legends, too, when she was a girl attending the former Transfiguration Elementary School in West Hazleton, and she thought about them when she painted her own version of the famous image, which is displayed in Poland and known as Our Lady of Czestochowa.
Visitors to The Fly on the Wall art gallery inside the Dragonfly Cafe in downtown Hazleton can see Warenda’s “Our Lady of Czestochowa” among a dozen paintings she has crafted over the years, when she wasn’t busy working in a garment factory or, as she does nowadays, in a florist shop.
And if any of those visitors want to tell Warenda that the pieces are beautiful, the humble artist would rather redirect their praise.
“I hope people admire her (the Blessed Mother) for all her goodness, and for all she’s done for Poland,” said Warenda, who was inspired to replicate famous paintings several years ago when she enrolled in an evening series of art classes at the old Hazleton High School, the one people call “The Castle.”
The exhibit, which will continue through April 11, wasn’t Warenda’s idea, but her nieces Liz Hoegg and Margi Ackerman, who have organized many other displays at the Dragonfly Cafe, thought it would be nice for people to see her work — much of which she had stored in an attic.
“We brought them out and dusted them off,” Hoegg said.
In addition to the religious portrait, Warenda’s subjects include a bustling marketplace, blooming trees, a vase filled with roses and a rain-washed street scene. Some of the paintings are encased in frames that were handmade by her late brother Walter, and some are marked “sold.”
Warenda’sscenes appear reminiscent of Mexico or Spain, France or the Netherlands as well as the beloved shrine in Poland. The artist has not visited any of those places, but if someone were to give her a ticket, she would love to go.
“It would be a dream come true.”