Notable Painter Displays His Faith on Canvas at Loyola’s ‘Art in the Atrium’

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Matthew James Collins discusses his “Iter Anime” exhibit, which is currently on display in the atrium at Loyola University Chicago’s Health Sciences Campus in Maywood. | Matt Baron/Inside Edge PR || Below: A Collins oil painting on linen, “Jesus Carrying the Cross.”

Jesus painting .jpgSaturday, August 13, 2016 || Originally Published: Chicago Tribune Community || 8/10/16 || By Matt Baron/Inside Edge PR

An Oak Park native’s art exhibit at Loyola University Chicago‘s Health Sciences Campus-dubbed “Iter Anime”-is translated as “the soul’s journey.”

It’s only fitting: Matthew James Collins began his life’s journey when he was born at the neighboring Loyola University Medical Center on a spring day in 1970. The collection, unveiled on July 21st at a reception in the atrium of the John and Herta Cuneo Center, is on display until September 23rd.

But there is no expiration on the connection between body and soul, captured in Collins’ art and exemplified by the Stritch School of Medicine’s emphasis on nurturing the dignity of the human body as well as tending to the individual’s spirit.

Dr. Linda Brubaker, Dean of the Stritch School of Medicine, said Iter Anime aligns strongly with Loyola‘s faith-based mission and she was immediately drawn to the pieces’ sacred focus.

“It really feels like these works of art are right at home here,” Brubaker said. “Since Matthew’s installation of these sacred pieces, people have been admiring the beauty on display. I am especially excited for the large audience of incoming medical students and their families who will be exposed to Iter Anime during a welcome ceremony in the atrium later this month.”

The centerpiece of the exhibit is “Jesus Carrying the Cross,” at six feet-by-seven feet the largest painting Collins has created. Requiring nine months to complete about a dozen years ago, it is a reflection of his personal journey of Catholic faith. In the piece, Collins depicts himself as the Roman centurion while St. John and Mary are also in the scene.

“Jesus embraces the cross,” Collins said. “He bears the weight without strain. My action within the painting is ambiguous. It is not clear whether I am helping or hindering.”

Collins shared insights about that work as well as many of the other 15 pieces in the Iter Anime collection during a reception celebrating its arrival as the latest edition in Loyola’s “Art in the Atrium” series, which began in 2013.

At the reception, Collins said that through his art he aims to go beyond an individual moment and provide insight into someone’s broader life experience. Although the human face has “power to communicate our own inner experience…portraiture is not just capturing someone’s likeness, but goes for an understanding of the soul.”

After receiving an introduction from Dean Brubaker, Collins also fielded questions from the audience, from fellow artists to physicians, instructors and other medical school staff. Others on hand included Jennifer McNulty and Julie Carpenter; president and director, respectively, of the Oak Park Art League, which was instrumental in bringing Iter Anime to Loyola.

“Matthew’s show is the fourth solo exhibition the Oak Park Art League has presented in Loyola’s magnificent atrium,” said Carpenter. “The radiant light in the space truly underscores the spiritual presence of Matthew’s paintings.”

A graduate of Oak Park and River Forest High School, Collins is the oldest of three brothers nurtured by artistically inclined parents who met, aptly enough, at the School of the Art Institute in Chicago. His father, James Edward Collins, is an award-winning architect, and his mother, Joan, is a novelist who writes under the pen name of J. Bard-Collins.

He studied at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where he focused on drawing, etching and sculpture, before completing a BA in the History of Art and Architecture at the University of Illinois in Chicago.

Since buying a one-way ticket to Florence, Italy in 1994, where he apprenticed under American painter Charles H. Cecil, Collins has built an international reputation as a figurative artist and sculptor even as he has trained professional portrait painters.

He and his wife Celeste, a classical archaeologist from Italy, are the parents of 5-year-old Gabriel and 2 ½-year-old Marie-Neige.

Collins’ sacred work has won several awards and has been shown at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. and other venues internationally. His works have been represented in public and private collections throughout the United States and Europe, including the Museu Europeu d’ Art Modern (MEAM) in Barcelona, Spain, the only contemporary art museum in Europe dedicated exclusively to figurative work. VFP

Members of the public are welcome to view Iter Anime, free of charge, from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays. The building is located just south of the hospital. The Cuneo Center houses the Stritch School of Medicine and other Health Sciences Division offices.

Inquiries about purchasing any of the Iter Anime pieces should be made to the Oak Park Art League, online at or by calling 708-386-9853. In addition, Collins is represented by the Michael LaConte Gallery in Chicago’s Fulton Market neighborhood.

For more information about Matthew James Collins, visit his website here or his Facebook page here.

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