Diocesan News

‘Inspired’ Artwork Has Something for Everyone

Photos: Marie Elena Giossi

Good Shepherd parishioner Arlene Panicello-Cosgrove once prayed for artistic ability. Today, she uses the gift she received to give glory to God and help the cause closest to her heart.

Her art was the focus of a one-woman show at the Carmine Carro Community Center in Marine Park, April 2, to benefit Alzheimer’s research.

On exhibit were about 50 original pen, ink and watercolor paintings, ranging from whimsical figures and playful pets to bucolic scenes and religious subjects. Cosgrove produced most of the pieces at her kitchen table over the last four weeks.

“I pray as I paint and I ask God to anoint the work,” she said. “It’s been such a grace, such a gift from God. It’s just so exciting what God can do.”

A Husband’s Suggestion

A former public school teacher for 38 years, Arlene claims no formal art training. She picked up painting as a hobby at the suggestion of her husband, Deacon Bob Cosgrove, after she retired several years ago.

Starting with a watercolor set from a dollar store, she asked God to bless her efforts as she painted playful cats and gave life to colorful characters. Praying as she progressed, she offered every brushstroke to God, and images of the Blessed Mother, angels and saints soon took form on her canvases.

“They’re all inspired. She sits down, and it just develops,” said Deacon Bob, who blesses all of his wife’s paintings.

When she began sharing her work at local art shows, she was amazed by how well it was received, and how many people wanted to buy her pieces. Initially she resisted but then recognized the chance to do something good with her gift.

To date, she’s shown her work at nine shows in secular and religious venues, and sold nearly 600 pieces. She donates all proceeds to research and support programs for Alzheimer’s disease, which claimed the lives of both her mother and uncle. Her sister is now in the early stages of the disease.

“Maybe that’s why God took her hand and let her produce this art,” said Joseph Lynch a friend of Arlene’s from Resurrection parish, Gerritsen Beach.

“People are drawn to her work. It’s original, it’s beautiful and I think it’s divinely inspired. There’s something more than what’s on the canvas,” he said.

Arlene hopes to inspire others through her art, and also sees it as a means of evangelization. She finds that people are attracted to her religious pieces just as much as her secular ones. Their interest is an opportunity for her to share her faith.

Last Sunday’s show included works related to Jesus’ crucifixion and the Trinity, as well as paintings of the Blessed Mother, St. Therese of Lisieux and angels.

One piece showed the artist’s vision of the Last Supper, but she was delighted to hear other interpretations too. “Jewish people have come and they saw their Lord, their Yahweh, their Adonai,” she said.

Wide Appeal

“She does beautiful work, and I think there’s something for everybody,” said Maria D’Alessandro, the daughter of Carmine Carro, for whom the community center is named.

She invited Arlene to exhibit her work and donated refreshments for the show. And within the first hour, D’Alessandro had already purchased several pieces, including a whimsical chef – a surprise gift for her son’s upcoming birthday.

“I like that she does this from the heart and she’s doing it for a cause,” D’Alessandro said. “My mom has dementia and Alzheimer’s so it means a lot.”

Knowing that all proceeds from the show benefit Alzheimer’s research was enough incentive for 16-year-old Kevin Dellosso to come out and show his support.

“God is always calling us to love other people. All this selfless work from Arlene exemplifies that,” said the young man, who attends St. Edmund Prep, Sheepshead Bay.

He purchased the first painting that caught his eye: a framed watercolor of feathery pink blossoms on verdant stems.

“I bought it for my grandmother,” who has Alzheimer’s disease, he said. “She’s always liked flowers so I’m going to hang it up in her house for her.”

Arlene’s friends from her parish prayer group, other local parishes and community groups were the bulk of the crowd streaming through the community center to see her latest work last weekend. But there were also passersby who saw signs for the show on their way to the park.

Kathy Ferry came by just to take a quick look, and left with a gift for a bereaved friend.

“I just found out that a long-time friend lost her daughter,” Ferry said. “I came here and found this beautiful picture with butterflies. One is actually an angel. So I purchased this and I’m going to send it to her.”