All My Eyes See: The Artistic Vocation of Fr. William Hart McNichols
By: Christopher Pramuk and Fr.William Hart McNichols
“William Hart McNichols is one of the great Christian artists of our time—of any time. This new book, beautifully illustrated and written in collaboration with Christopher Pramuk, is a glorious introduction to his life and his art.”—James Martin, SJ, author, Learning to Pray
“This book is incandescent. Through this intimate conversation between two soul friends, mystical fire comes pouring through, permeating the landscape of our troubled times with light. All My Eyes See not only preserves the legacy of a hidden master, but also contributes to the awakening of the world. The art, poetry, and spiritual path of Fr. Bill McNichols are galvanized under Christopher Pramuk’s wise and loving gaze, transforming his story into a story of universal longing and collective liberation.”—Mirabai Starr, author, Wild Mercy; co-author, Mother of God Similar to Fire
“This gorgeous book is far too rich to summarize—immersing myself in it felt like rediscovering myself in the deepest chambers of faith. In probing conversations with his friend Christopher Pramuk, Fr. William Hart McNichols explores the relationship between his life’s struggles—as a young gay Catholic, a Jesuit plunged into ministry to those with AIDS, in the solitary discipline as a writer of icons—and his constant inner attentiveness to the Spirit that over a lifetime took visual expression. Art: the inexpressible sent as tender love letters or as piercing prophetic arrows into a suffering church and world Haunted by God.”—Wendy M. Wright, PhD, affiliate faculty, Oblate School of Theology, Institute of Contemporary Spirituality
“All My Eyes See is a profound conversation through which the theologian elicits from the artist the panoply of experiences, reflections, and insights that tell the story of his artistic journey. Fr. Bill’s art is the language he has created to make the invisible visible and to explain the inexplicable. It is a book about seeing and not seeing, knowing and not knowing, joy and sorrow, hope and despair, faith and doubt, success and failure, triumph and defeat, all of which finds a home in the human heart.”—Alan C. Mitchell, Georgetown University
"Throughout history, most important mystical visions have evolved from the periphery of what was considered the religious status quo. This astonishing book allows readers to touch the soul of a contemporary mystic who, as an artist and iconographer, experienced suspicion, prejudice, and judgment, inside and outside of the Church, often even from those closest to him. With empathetic warmth and brilliant theological insight, Christopher Pramuk evokes the mystical and artistic vision forged in McNichols’s life. The result is a profound consolation for anyone who loves art and seeks a vision of faith that resists ‘the globalization of superficiality.’” —Julia D.E. Prinz, VDMF, PhD, adjunct lecturer, Christian spirituality, Jesuit School of Theology, Santa Clara University, Berkeley
“I’d heard of ‘thin places,’ where the veil between this world and our Creator becomes diaphanous; and I’ve learned that the work of writing Icons is to allow us to be seen personally by the One who breaks through into our world of signs. What I had not been expecting is a thin place become person and become book in Chris Pramuk’s handling of William Hart McNichols life story, such that grace, something more than he, peeks out and provokes us into recognition through the way this artist-priest has found himself living into the vision he’s been given. A kingdom sign.”—James Alison, priest, theologian, and author
“Toward the end of All My Eyes See, Chris Pramuk asks Bill McNichols, ‘How does one go about depicting Jesus?’ This marvelous book encircles and builds to this question, step by step, image by image, story by story. It is a book we can devour in a few bites, then return to over and over, for Bill’s life and life’s work make room for our deepest fears, our most urgent longings.”—Kevin Burke, SJ, Vice President for Mission, Regis University
"Fr. Bill McNichols’s art, like Chris Pramuk’s theology, crystallizes a life lived in wide and deep sensitivity to the pulse of God’s presence within the wounded beauty of the world. This book offers a rare and intimate journey into the “inscape” of an iconic artist, priest, poet, and beloved friend to many between heaven and earth. "--Jim Robinson, PhD, Iona University
Father William Hart McNichols is widely known as one of the world’s most gifted living religious artists and iconographers. A former Jesuit and student of the famed Franciscan iconographer Robert Lentz, Fr. Bill’s icons have been honored with exhibitions in major U.S. cities and the subject of a full-length documentary. Recently his years of ministry to the dying during the AIDS crisis in New York City were the focus of a podcast, and later a book, by journalist Michael O’Laughlin.
Through interviews with writer and theologian Chris Pramuk, Fr. Bill shares the moving story of his early loneliness and sense of being set apart for some purpose—a purpose realized in his twin vocations as priest and artist. From early childhood, his art expressed his inner life, with special attention to the beauty of the world, the vulnerability of children, and God’s compassionate solidarity with those who suffer. During his AIDS ministry, this took new focus with such works as his “AIDS Crucifixion.” Later, after apprenticeship with iconographer Robert Lentz, he began a new life, producing hundreds of icons of Christ, Mary, the saints, and many holy people of our time.
More than a catalog of an artist’s work All My Eyes See is a deep journey into the heart of a great spiritual teacher.
Ordained in 1979, Fr. William Hart McNichols was a member of the Society of Jesus from 1968-2002. He received a Master of Fine Arts from the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, NY, and from 1983 to 1990 he worked in AIDS hospice ministry in Manhattan. In 1990 he moved to Albuquerque, NM to study with Robert Lentz and continues to live in Albuquerque as a priest of the Archdiocese.
Christopher Pramuk is Regis University Chair of Ignatian Thought and Imagination, and professor of theology at Regis University, Denver, CO. His six books include two award-winning studies of Thomas Merton.
Cover design: Regina Gelfer. Cover photo by Deborah Johnson
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