Vintage Saintly Art of St. Andrew's Abbey
From 1965-2013, Father Maur van Doorslaer, a Benedictine monk and the artist-in-residence at St. Andrew's Abbey in Valyermo, California, designed and produced hundreds of saintly art pieces to support the abbey.
Father Maur van Doorslaer’s earth-colored ceramics became a money-maker for St. Andrew’s Abbey in Valyermo. His designs sometimes showed flashes of his humor, such as a plaque of a troupe of angels playing cards or another of Jesus roller-skating with friends at Venice Beach. (Los Angeles Times)
The figures were inspired by Mexican folk art, from his time studying in Mexico. But he called his pieces "cookies" because they reminded him of the Saint Nicholas cookies given to children in his homeland, Belgium.
For half the year, he would paint white on white canvases in Belgium, which he called his "serious art", and for the other half of the year, he would come to California to design cookies and hang out with Frank Gehry.
He works on a new sign for the abbey at small table in his desert studio. A drawing for a special plaque and his well-used tools sit on his drafting table. (DesertUSA)
After his death, the abbey's ceramics studio has continued to produce 40,000 to 50,000 pieces of work every year in his signature style.
When I found this piece at an estate sale, I had no idea what it was. After bringing it home for research I was happy to discover the story behind this unique style.
St. Andrew's Abbey was founded in 1954 by a group of Benedictine monks who were expelled from Chengtu, China by the communist regime. On Christmas Day 1949, the regime took over their city. St Benedict's Priory and the state-recognized cultural studies school that they had established for non-catholics, was dissolved. The 10,000 volume library was confiscated, and the monks were put under house arrest.
St. Benedict's Priory of Chengtu, China (St. Andrew's Abbey)
The parent abbey of St. Andre in Belgium successfully transferred the Priory to Southern California in 1954 under the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. The abbey is now open to visitors who wish to seek tranquility.
From their website, "Whoever you may be, whatever may have brought you through our gate, you are welcome among us."