By Monique Mansour
How Catholicism inspires a local artist’s creative talent
When Maysoun Yatooma Seman reflects back on her childhood, it’s evident that her passion for art was always there. “I can remember being around age seven when my family would comment on and marvel at my artistic abilities. Drawing came easily to me, as did being a creative person. But I did not give my artistic talents much value and high school was the last time I gave it any attention at all.”
That is, until 2012. That’s the same year Seman enrolled in a workshop through the Archdiocese of Detroit. “I discovered that my top three gifts were craftsmanship, teaching and evangelization. As a certified catechist for the past 17 years, I definitely used my artistic side when teaching, but it wasn’t until after taking the workshop that I began to create art once again.” This reignited the artistic spark in Seman and she hasn’t stopped imagining, creating, and crafting since.
Seman expresses her art in a variety of mediums. She categorizes the majority of her artwork as mixed media. “I love combining a variety of mediums such as oils, acrylics, watercolor, charcoal, and India ink. I also incorporate gilding and wood burning with certain pieces. I love being creative and so I use various materials and mediums to accomplish what I imagine.”
Seman has been inspired by a variety of artists over the years. “Some of my favorite artists are the artists of the Renaissance…masters like Michelangelo, Raphael, and Caravaggio. I also admire the work of modern-day artists like Neilson Carlin, Ali Cavanagh, and David Kassan.”
Seman was born in Telkeppe, Iraq and immigrated to the U.S. as a child in 1980. She currently lives in Commerce Township with her husband of 28 years and their four children. Her art is inspired by her life – the trials and the tribulations, the past and the present. “All of that somehow ends up being expressed in my artwork through images of my Catholic faith, which makes complete sense to me because God is who my heart turns to in times of trial or peaceful joy. Art has definitely become a part of my faith journey, and both my art and my faith are tools of healing for my heart and soul.”
Seman recently submitted four paintings to the 7th Biennial Juried Catholic Arts Exhibition. The purpose of the exhibition is to, “give artists who engage Catholic subject matter an opportunity to dialogue with the Church and pastors in the hope of creating new, original artworks for churches and liturgical spaces,” according to their website. The exhibition began in 2001, and was established by the late Br. Nathan Cochran, O.S.B. It is held on the picturesque campus of Saint Vincent College in Latrobe, Pennsylvania.
“After submitting my paintings to the competition, I was notified a few weeks later that two of them were selected. Out of the 311 artworks submitted by artists from across 30 states, 44 were then chosen to be exhibited. I was very excited to be a part of this nationwide juried Catholic art exhibition that has received international attention,” said Seman. The opening reception took place on October 28. The exhibition is open until December 2 and it is free and open to the public.
Seman experienced a whirlwind of emotions during the reception. “I remember the gallery doors opening and the crowd gathering inside to view the art pieces. I felt very blessed to be able to share the experience with two of my children who accompanied me to the opening night. I felt humbled that my artwork had been chosen and placed amongst great artists like Neilson Carlin, an artist I follow and one whose work I greatly admire.”
Seman also had the opportunity to meet and speak with other Catholic artists from across the nation. “This was truly priceless because being in a setting where you felt understood and where your art is valued and appreciated in its fullness...this was extremely encouraging and affirming for me.”
Two of Seman’s paintings selected for the exhibition are mixed media pieces. “Holy Family, Journey combines oil paints, gold leaf and wood burning on wood paneling while Mary and Elizabeth, The Visitation combines watercolor and wood burning on maple wood.”
To Seman, love is the central message of her faith. “In my view, to be a Catholic is to strive to love each and every person whom God brings my way, to love them as Christ loves me, without counting the cost. As an artist, I identify first as a Catholic, one who embraces the good parts of her Chaldean culture to further nurture my true identity which is found in God my Father and not where I was born or where I was raised or any other secondary label of identity.”
Seman believes that everyone, not just artists, have the ability to seek out the beauty in their surroundings and in the activities that make them feel most alive. “Don’t be afraid to invest in something that speaks to your heart and soul in ways words cannot, because most likely, that’s God calling your heart to His.” Seman offered some wise words to artists and aspiring artists. “The best advice I could give to those who have discerned they have the gift of art is what Pope John Paul II tells us in his Letter to Artists, ‘Artistic talent is a gift from God and whoever discovers it in himself has a certain obligation: to know that he cannot waste this talent, but must develop it.’”
Seman is active on social media and her artwork and the inspiration behind it can be seen on her Instagram @myseman.art and on her Facebook page @BlueSkiesArtStudio. She also has a shop on Etsy of the same name, BlueSkiesArtStudio. She will be participating in Art Birmingham 2019 from May 11 to May 12 and in Plymouth’s Art in the Park 2019 from July 13 to July 15. Commissions may be requested by messaging her on her social media accounts or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.