A stirring religious mural that was conceived and created in Temecula over a two-year period will be publicly unveiled Saturday, March 27 as the artist prepares to apply its finishing touches and ship the piece to its permanent home in Texas.
The massive oil painting – done by an internationally-renowned artist who has kept a low profile in southwest Riverside County – is titled “Resurrection.” It is believed to be the largest and perhaps only contemporary masterwork that depicts Jesus emerging from his tomb following the crucifixion.
The public unveiling of the mural by artist Ron DiCianni, an event that has been widely publicized among churches and on Christian radio and television, could attract hundreds or perhaps a thousand or more visitors at the start of one of the faith’s holiest weeks.
Yet DiCianni, who rose to the top of the commercial illustration industry before turning to religious-themed art, said the focus will not be on him when visitors gather for six hours in a Temecula industrial park on Saturday.
“It’s not about me. I’m the messenger,” DiCianni said in a recent interview in his studio. “It’s all about Christ. It’s to showcase the son of God.”
The painting, which was done on a single piece of canvas, must still be signed and varnished before it is carefully moved to its permanent home, which is in the midst of a resurrection of its own.
Later this year, DiCianni’s mural will become a centerpiece of the Museum of Biblical Art in Dallas, which lost its previous signature piece in June 2005 when that facility and nearly all its works were destroyed by fire.
The museum, which opened in the 1960s, featured a 124-foot long painting that depicted the “Miracle of Pentecost” as its signature piece. That piece, which was completed in 1969, incorporated the likenesses of many notable residents of the Dallas / Fort Worth area in its Biblical scene.
That mural and approximately 2,500 other pieces of art, sculpture and artifacts were destroyed in the fire, which required about 125 firefighters and 25 engines to extinguish. More than $7 million has been raised thus far to rebuild the museum and help replace some of the lost art works, according to organization materials.
DiCianni, 58, was recruited by the museum more than two years ago and commissioned to create the piece that will cap his 50-year art career. He describes the piece as a “magnum opus.” He intends to ship the completed, rolled-up canvas to the museum in May or June.
The piece blends an array of artistry, talents, materials, craftsmanship and Biblical interpretations.
A life-size tomb, stone and angel wings were crafted by Warner Brothers and other Hollywood set and movie designers. DiCianni’s future daughter-in-law made the costumes worn by one of the painter’s sons and other models that included famed artists Morgan Weistling and Thomas Blackshear. The Dutch company that blended the paints also supplied Vermeer and other Old World masters.
DiCianni’s intent, according to a fact sheet on the piece, was to provide “a-what-it-might-have-been-like” glimpse of the resurrection.
The life-size, ethereal figures that flank Jesus portray John the Baptist, Moses, Abraham, Isaiah, Esther and other Biblical characters. Two Roman soldiers are shown splayed across the ground. Two kneeling angels grasp swords. One sword is marked with the first letter of the Greek alphabet, alpha, which signifies the beginning. The other sword bears the letter omega, which means the end.
Shafts of light extend from Christ’s hands. The ground cracks beneath his feet. His belt holds the keys to heaven and hell. His glowing face, still framed by a fading crown of thorns, is filled with wonder, purpose, praise and achievement.
Calvary, where the crucifixion took place, stands off in the distance.
DiCianni, who quotes Scripture as fluidly as he paints, attended the American Academy of Art in Chicago before going on to do illustrations for Eli Lilly, IBM, McDonald’s and other top companies. He served as the official illustrator of the 1980 Olympics.
In 1989, he switched gears and helped launch what he terms a “second renaissance” of religious-themed arts. Prints of his painting “Spiritual Warfare” soon became a top seller in Christian bookstores and on Internet art sales sites.
DiCianni has also dabbled in writing and book illustrations. He has collaborated on more than 50 book projects, and his book covers have netted him several Gold Medallions from the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association.
“I see this as using my gifts for the Lord,” DiCianni said in the interview. “I want to preach the Gospel through my work.”
As DeCianni’s work progressed on the Resurrection painting, word spread among area churches. Many pastors have recently viewed the painting, and their enthusiasm prompted the painter and his family to schedule a public showing. They have invited dozens of churches from throughout the area, and more than 1,000 postcards announcing the event have been distributed.
The painting will be exhibited from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday at the studio, which is located at 42065 Zevo Drive, suite B4. DiCianni said it is difficult to predict how many people will attend the event throughout the day.
“Since the Renaissance, there has been nothing like this,” he said. “Our hope is that families will be indelibly impacted.”
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