Rose Balis was born in Poland during the tumultuous decades that preceded the First World War. As a young girl, she was attached to a military regiment which took her as far as the pyramids in Egypt. In her late 20s, she moved to the rocky hillsides of the Allegheny Valley in the state of Pennsylvania. There, she married another Polish immigrant, a handsome coal miner with whom she would have four children, all born after her 40th birthday.
Eventually, her husband’s back was broken in a mine collapse, and as the Great Depression began, the family subsisted in extreme circumstances. Like many Slavic immigrants of her generation, she lived in an ethnic enclave largely communicating in her native language. Many mothers in her community lived to see their sons conscripted into war, just as their countrymen in their native lands had for centuries.
Their sons returned from the Second World War victorious having earned their citizenship to a country they grew up in as outsiders. Rose’s daughter married such a man, one of a handful of survivors of a torpedo attack who returned from war to staff a factory that would be a critical gear in The American Industrial Machine.
Rose’s great-granddaughter Nicole Horgan and her husband and creative partner Greg, noted artists who have shown in some of their nation’s most prominent decorate arts exhibitions, have created a masterful twelve-minute documentary to pay tribute to the sacrifices of people like Rose Balis.
In it, the Horgan’s document the creation, over six months, a sculpture in leather, painted expertly by Nicole Horgan, a traditionally trained oil painter with three decades of experience.
The sculpture is named for St. Peter, the apostle of Christ, who having witnessed Divinity firsthand, set out across the world to spread the word. Its structure draws inspiration from the Andean San Pedro Cactus, an entheogen with millennia of Shamanic use.
The joyful presentation of their documentary belies a more layered meaning. As, explained by Greg Horgan,
“St. Peter is a symbol of a divide between worlds. When we explore the Shamanic roots of the Echinopsis Pachanoi, the San Pedro Cactus, we understand that it was seen as a vehicle between realms.
The experience of many people is to live between worlds within the physical plane.
We all have ancestors who had front row seats for history. People who witnessed the world change dramatically, just as we are witnesses now.
With other Catholic people have not only a shared history, but also shared metaphor.
It is the duty of our hearts to share happily with one another. Our art together is an expression of our love. For each other, and for the people who came before us.”
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Our art together is an expression of our love. For each other, and for the people who came before us
"We have not only a shared history, but also shared metaphor"
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