The River of Life

Xavier College Preparatory High School - Phoenix, Arizona

Project Timeline: 2008 - 2010

In 2008, while a full-time employee of Xavier College Preparatory Roman Catholic High School in Phoenix, Ruth was approached by Fr. John Muir, the chaplain. His vision, and the vision of the Principal, Sr. Joan Fitzgerald, BVM, and the Vice Principal, Sr. Joanie Nuckols, BVM, was to create some kind of sacred image for the school masses, which were held in the gym to accommodate the entire student body. The space, as it was, lacked a sense of the sacred. Over the course of the next year, Ruth began to study the rich heritage of sacred art in the Catholic Church as she worked on the murals, a series of three that would depict the vision of the Heavenly Jerusalem given to John in Revelation. This would start her on a path to becoming Catholic, as well as devoting her life to studying and creating works of sacred art for the purpose of the liturgy. The murals are 24 feet high and span a width of 60 feet. New lighting was incorporated to focus on the sanctuary and mural while dimming the rest of the space as well as a mechanism for raising and lowering the murals in order to convert the gymnasium easily for mass.

The Four Women Doctors of the Church

Xavier College Preparatory High School - Phoenix, Arizona

Project Timeline: 2013

Xavier Prep, in it's ongoing mission to nurture the faith-lives of its students, wanted to celebrate the Four Women Doctors of the Church in a visual way that would become woven into the fabric of the school's faith culture. They asked for the four saints to be painted as icons that could be placed in each classroom, accompanying the students through each level of their high-school career and acting as class patron. Freshman were given to St. Therese of Lisieux, sophomores to St. Catherine of Siena, Juniors to St. Teresa of Avila, and Seniors to the newly-canonized St. Hildegard of Bingen. The original paintings are each life-sized at 5 feet high and 1.5 feet wide. They hang at the entrance to the school, and they are often displayed in the school masses. 

Ruth chose to paint the women saints borrowing heavily from the iconographic tradition, in order to help introduce students to the most sacred and ancient form of Catholic liturgical art. Their forms are stylized and still, graceful, yet strong, suggesting rootedness in the firm foundation of the Church. Yet, their faces are subtly naturalistic and softer, appealing to young people who are learning to look at traditional sacred art for the first time. They are relatable, yet they challenge the viewer and call them into the heavenly realm. Each painting is surrounded by a field of pure gold leaf, evoking the uncreated, glorious light of heaven. Each saint holds an emblem of their lives or martyrdom.

Limited edition giclee and gold leaf prints will be available soon through the Sacred Art Gallery in Scottsdale, Arizona. Contact us for more information.


Christ Pantocrator

All Saints Catholic Newman Center - Tempe, Arizona

Project Timeline: Fall 2015

This large-scale mural was completed for recently built chapel of the All Saints Catholic Newman Center at Arizona State University. Installed in 2015, it spans the back wall of the apse and is the first of several works planned for this chapel. At 32 feet high and 14 feet wide, the mural features images principally drawn from the Book of Revelation. Christ Coming in Glory signifies the ultimate liturgical reality; in the Mass, the past is drawn forward and the future drawn back as we participate in the heavenly liturgy, taking place eternally. Christ establishes a new creation- new heavens and a new earth- (Rev. 21) and through him, all creation is drawn into eternal worship of the Father. The central figure of Christ is drawn from the earliest iconographic depictions of Christ Pantocrator. The eyes of Christ, as well as the outstretched right and left arms, portray Christ both the merciful and just judge. Christ is flanked by adoring angels offering incense, (Rev. 8:3), and the image of the “lamb as if slain,” (Rev. 5:6). Images evoking the Garden of Eden- palms, grasses, native plants of Arizona- are presented in a stylized or idealistic way, suggesting the glorified New Creation.

The mural work for the All Saints Newman Center was commissioned by Rev. Robert Clements, chaplain, and at his request, is inspired by the Beuronese school. Drawn from the name of the town in Germany and the Benedictine monastery where this form developed, its most well-known proponents were Desiderius Lenz (d. 1928) and Gabriel Wuger (d. 1892) both monks of that abbey. Developed partly as a reaction to the photographic naturalism and sentimentality of the late romantic era, Beuronese art drew largely from the iconographic tradition. It attempted to move away from hyper-realistic, emotionally evocative portrayals, which tended to emphasize our fallen earthly state, and aimed to highlight our idealized, glorified, heavenly future. This is achieved by a somewhat two-dimensional approach, employment of muted colors, quiet, stylized figures, and faces which avoid the imposition of a particular emotive experience, but draw the worshiper out of themselves and into participation in Christ’s self offering in the Mass. Following the Beuronese tradition, the foundation of this mural is an intricate substructure of sacred geometry, assisting the composition in providing quiet balance, harmony, and order. Not distracted by abstraction or garish detail, the worshipper is drawn into liturgical rest.   


Christ's Eternal Sacrifice and Mary, Mediatrix of All Grace

St. Mary's High School - Phoenix, Arizona

Project Timeline: Winter 2016

To celebrate its centennial year in 2017, St. Mary's High School, under the leadership of President Rector Fr. Robert Bolding, commissioned an altar mural for its school masses held in its gymnasium. The mural is painted in the format of a high-quality theatrical backdrop that can be rolled and unrolled, transported and stored as needed, which is highly-versatile for a multi-functional space such as a gym. It measures 20' wide and 25' high, and features Christ Crucified and ascended to Glory with Mary, Queen of Heaven at the center of the restored cosmos, surrounded by adoring angels, reminiscent of the cherubim of the Arc of the Covenant in the Old Testament. Mary is the perfect, sinless vessel and new tabernacle of Christ. It is painted in a style heavily influenced by the Beuronese School with elements of both Eastern and Western liturgical art tradition - more stylized figures, yet more realistic faces. 

A suggestion of the Temple and the Holy of Holies is seen behind the figure of Christ, as Christ is the new Temple, and one can also see the torn veil represented in red to show the sacrifice, the tearing of his own body, signifying the end to Old Testament sacrifice and the beginning of worship in spirit and truth. The blood and water pour from his side, which is the birth of the church, and the streams of living water flow out, as in the vision of Revelation, nourishing the garden of the heavenly Jerusalem, the restored Garden of Eden, and all the subjects in the kingdom of heaven.

Mary is depicted alone at the foot of the cross, for she was bound to Christ in a singular way and suffered with him like no other. She is shown in the garments and posture of the Immaculate Conception, yet she also wears the dark cloak of Our Lady of Guadalupe, suggesting that she is with child. She stands as the woman in Genesis, with her foot on the head of the serpent and her head crowned with 12 stars. As the heavenly Jerusalem has 12 gates, she is the gateway to the graces of Christ. The stylized palm trees, plants and flowers evoke a restored Garden of Eden. As our first mother, Eve, led to the fall of all mankind, Mary’s willingness to participate with God’s grace led to the restoration of humanity and the undoing of the Fall through Christ’s sacrifice. She is the new Eve, standing at the foot of the new Tree of Life, the Cross.

The saints featured are St. Junipero Serra, St. John Paul II, and St. Agnes on the left, with St. Catherine of Siena, St. Thomas Aquinas and St. Francis of Assisi on the right. Each is holding an object symbolic of their ministry on earth or martyrdom, which helps identify them in sacred art representations.

Sacred Heart Catholic Church

Phoenix, Arizona

Project Timeline: Summer 2017

During the 1930’s and 1940’s, residents of the Golden Gate barrio began holding Mass in their homes, an old store and in a vacant lot with benches. Father Albert Braun, O.F.M., a hero who served as a chaplain during both world wars, came to the area in the 1940’s and Sacred Heart Catholic Church was established as a mission. Under Fr. Braun's care the community joined together to build the beautiful brick church that still stands near Buckeye Road and 16th Street. This church was dedicated on October 14th, 1956. However, amidst the expansion of Sky Harbor Airport in the 1970’s, the community was severely impacted and Sacred Heart was forced to leave the original brick church. In the mid 1980's the new church was built in its current location at 12th Street south of Buckeye Road. Here the community was served faithfully by the Franciscan Friars including Fr. Luis Baldonado O.F.M. from the early 2000’s until 2014.

Since 2014 the parish has been lovingly guided by the current pastor, Fr. Paul Sullivan. Also, the Vocations Director for the Diocese of Phoenix, Fr. Sullivan approached New Jerusalem Studios in 2016 with the ambitious vision of organizing the parish around the beautiful and reverent celebration of the Sacred Liturgy and a plan for complete renovation of the interior of the church. The renovation included new tile in the sanctuary and nave, redesigned stone altar, ambo, and altar of repose as well as stone architectural elements, coffered ceiling and lighting design, refinished pews, and mural work. 

The mural work is anchored by the prominent central figure of the Sacred Heart of Jesus presented as True High Priest and King of the Universe, surrounded by the 6 winged Seraphim in a 9-fold presentation, and flanked on left and right by the Archangels Gabriel and Michael. The Christ figure is placed at the center of a large circle representing the locus of Divine Life radiating as spears of golden light. The image also features depictions of the restored cosmos and Garden of Eden, represented by geometrically pattered stars and stylized local flora. Above the altar, complementing the central figure of Christ, and completing the Trinitarian representation, is the burst of light and cloud, representing God the Father and a sacramental image of the Holy Spirit descending as a dove. 

Radiating from the center of all the images is the light and energy source of the entire work. The tabernacle niche features a pure gold leaf field enveloping two adoring angels, positioned as the fulfillment of the Cherubim of the Old Covenant, protecting God's presence in the Arc of the Covenant. Here, the angels protect and watch over the new place of God's presence in the Eucharistic Tabernacle. 

The etched floral pattern on the gold leaf field, gives an obvious clue to the thematic foundation of the mural work; the pattern evokes the miraculous floral image which is a part of the Tilma of Juan Diego. The color palette for the mural work and several thematic elements are drawn from the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe, a beloved devotion in the parish of Sacred Heart. 

Continued renovation plans include a stand-alone depiction of St. Joseph the Worker as complement to the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe, decorative painted design for moldings and ceiling, and two other smaller pieces with projected completion date of Spring 2018. 

University of Mary - Occursus Domini Chapel

Bismarck, North Dakota

Project Timeline: Spring 2017

The Occursus Domini chapel was conceived by the University's president, Msgr. James Shea, and largely funded by the generous patronage of the of the Vetter family of Bismarck, North Dakota. The chapel resides in the newly built St. Scholastica residents hall for women, the third floor of which is home to juniors and seniors who are engaged in serious vocational discernment. Msgr. Shea envisioned a chapel of Eucharistic encounter where the young women could come and pray with Christ in an intimate and sacramentally beautiful chapel, even in the midst of a bustling university dorm. Designed by architect Adam Hermanson of Integration Design Group, Arvada, Colorado, the design of the chapel invites the worshiper progressively, to more intimate encounter with Christ, ultimately in the Eucharist, which is reserved in a beautifully crafted tabernacle surrounded by luminous alabaster panels.  

The four works of art by Ruth Stricklin are painted on solid wood icon boards constructed by Fr. Dimitri Kulp of St. John's Workshop, Blue River, Wisconsin, and incorporate gold leaf borders, enhancing the sense of sacramental beauty and encounter with the living Christ.