Lots of artists are passionate about their work, but Suzanne Kraus-Mancuso brings her passion to a new level.
Having set the World Record for painting the world’s largest Virgin Mary on a 1,000 square foot canvas, she has now set her sights on breaking a new world record.
Mancuso is using the other side of the canvas of Mary to paint as many churches as she possibly can. She has painted more than 875 already, and says the project will be complete when people stop sending her photos of churches.
For Mancuso, the epiphany began in 2009.
“I wanted to paint the Virgin Mary as an achievement, but it grounded me and seemed to have answered all of my questions of the universe,” she said.
Mancuso said that it is not simply a religious project but also a community project.
“We get married in church," she said, "we walk past a church or a temple everyday.”
Mancuso also paints non-denominational houses of worship and places people consider sacred.
“There is always someplace people find solace. I want to honor everyone’s place of worship. Where do you find your zen? I want to know,” she said.
Friend of the family Ed Daley of Danbury, who has known Mancuso for about five years, said he has supplied her with photos of churches throughout Connecticut.
“She is now at about 875,” he said. “She has always had enthusiasm for this kind of primitive art. She is really excited about it."
“Painting the churches has filled me with a spiritual power. This is a universal project, it is so much fun, it’s so colorful,” Mancuso said.
Father Robert Quarato is pastor of the Church of the Holy Rosary in the Bronx. He spoke of the importance of the project.
“It’s an exciting project, not just for historic value, not just a pictorial history of churches, but also as a wonderful testament to faith," he said, "not just in her life, but in the lives of so many people.”
Mancuso lives in Yorktown, NY, but studied art and photography at Western Connecticut State University. To honor her Connecticut ancestry and heritage, she is determined to paint three panels of spiritual places in CT and is calling upon people to send her photos of their local places of worship.
“Connecticut means a lot to me and I want to do it justice,” she said.
Mancuso has already filled two panels from New Jersey, three from New York, and has received photos of churches from all over the country and from as far away as Europe.
“I want to honor everyone’s religions and places of worship. I am looking for rabbis, for spiritual leaders of all faiths, to bless the paintings,” she said.
“Ever since Suzanne painted the large mural of Mary, I have noticed that her own religious sensibilities have deepened. Many times there are particular experiences that cause us to reevaluate our lives and give a new perspective, and I think that is what happened to her,” Father Corado said.
Mancuso is hoping people from all over Connecticut will send her photos of their favorite churches. They can be emailed to her at Shirleyinoz@aol.com