By Eli Pacheco

When Br. Kevin Hamzik, OFM, arrives at his easel, he knows God will meet him. With God’s companionship, some of his recent work was recognized in a sacred and liturgical art contest. 

Br. Kevin, in his third year of temporary vows, created The Annunciation, a vivid and imaginative depiction of the moment Mary accepted the news that she would bear God’s son from the angel Gabriel. 

The Liturgical Arts Festival of Springfield will display Br. Kevin’s painting in May.

“I think of the work of my painting as prayer,” said Br. Kevin. “I try my best to incorporate elements of our spirituality and our life into my artwork, whether it’s symbolic or direct.” 

Inspired by feelings from a failed relationship and with support from his brothers at St. Joseph’s Friary in Hyde Park, Chicago, Br. Kevin contemplated his pain, turned to God’s creation for inspiration, and created a painting that induces wonder in those who see it. 

“I realized that God puts the fullness of his beauty into all of us in such a unique way,” Br. Kevin said. “Each of us has the fullness of God in us, just through who we are in our uniqueness. The inspiration was built off that.” 

Much of Br. Kevin’s work reflects his experience as a friar, often in interactions and observations on the American border with Mexico. His hope: to depict all people with the light of God that he poured into The Annunciation. 

Where art and faith merge 

For Br. Kevin, the Franciscan way of celebrating one’s God-given talents as part of their ministry attracted him to the Franciscan Order. “If the friars weren’t supportive of it, I probably wouldn’t be a friar,” he said. “That says something in itself.” 

As with many friars, his path to holy life was anything but linear. 

Art had always been therapeutic for Br. Kevin, but his parents wanted him to go to college. He was less convinced. Art and mission trips had been passions of his in high school, and college did not feel like part of his plan. 

On a mission trip to the Dominican Republic, Br. Kevin worked alongside an artist and carpenter who changed his perspective. He saw the joy this man gleaned from his work and knew that was what he wanted, too.

A friar in his 20s smiles as he stands next to a medium-sized rectangle painting. The painting is of Mary receiving the news that she will be the mother of God's son from the angel Gabriel.

Br. Kevin Hamzik stands next to his painting, The Annunciation. (Photo courtesy of Br. Michael Ward) 

A painting of Mary receiving the news that she is to give birth to God's son. The painting is filled with light and bright colors. Mary and the angel are at the center of this rainbow. Light radiates from their joined hands.

The Annunciation by Br. Kevin Hamzik (Photo courtesy of Br. Michael Ward)

Br. Kevin attended St. Bonaventure University, founded by the friars in Allegany, New York, to study art. As one of his first endeavors, he designed a car, inside and out, top to bottom, as he puts it.  

The culmination of his creative work was surprising to him – and revealing. 

“I hated it,” Br. Kevin said. “I did not hate the car itself, but I hated the process behind it. It took away all that peace that art had brought me for so long.” 

A college advisor noticed a certain spirituality in Br. Kevin, and suggested he explore that in his work. Pilgrimages to Assisi and Rome led him to scenes in St. Francis’s and St. Clare’s legacy, to divine art and the Franciscan way of life. 

“I saw religious and spiritual art on such a grand scale, and it positively impacted me,” Br. Kevin said. “I started doing that a lot more and exploring the lives of Francis and Clare. I became interested in the Franciscans, the friars, and the life they were living.” 

What is next? 

Now working on his Master of Fine Arts degree at Columbia College Chicago, Br. Kevin is working on a series of icons of migrants he encountered during his year of work at the border. To him, it is art with a purpose. 

“I am telling some of the stories of migrants, but also doing it in this iconic, graphic way to show that they are divine people and have that sacredness of God in them,” Br. Kevin said. He does so with the humility the life of St. Francis evokes in him.  

A humble approach brings him closer to God, he says, more reliant on Him. 

“I am going to be present and let God and the Spirit guide me to do the important work,” he said. “I am here for a reason. It helps me to put it into perspective and let God work in me.” 

The friars’ community and fraternity were crucial in Br. Kevin’s decision to join them. 

“I wanted to be around people who loved and supported me for who I was, with whatever gifts and talents I had,” he said. “I hope my vocation and life are examples of that.” 

Br. Kevin's work will be on display in May at M.G. Nelson Gallery, 700 North Fourth St., Springfield, IL.