By Kristen Miller
DASSEL, MN Hanging on the wall of Robert Wilde Studio in Dassel is the sorrowful face of Mother Teresa, the famous Catholic nun who served the poor and sick people of Calcutta.
For the artist Michael Boyland, Mother Teresa was the saving grace who brought him to a renewed faith in God.
After struggling for years with alcoholism, mental illness, and homelessness, Boyland knows how it feels to be hopeless and destitute.
Boyland calls his artwork a spiritual calling that began with a single medallion he was given of St. Therese de Lisieux, the patron saint of missionaries.
Thinking the medallion was that of Mother Teresa, Boyland wore it religiously until one day he lost it while working in a scrap yard. He was also homeless and an alcoholic at the time.
Ten years later, almost to the day, Boyland was back at the same scrap yard when he found the medallion sticking out of the pavement.
Shining as if brand new, the medallion caught his eye.
“I started crying,” Boyland said, describing this event as a spiritual awakening for him. He dug the medallion out of the pavement and admitted himself into treatment.
Boyland later found out that Mother Teresa, whose birth name was Agnes, chose to be named after St. Therese de Lisieux when she took her religious vows as a nun.
Later, Boyland chose to give the medallion to someone else who needed its perceived healing powers.
While reading a newspaper in 1997, filled with the story of the death of Princess Diana, Boyland found a small, 2-inch photo of Mother Teresa announcing her death.
“I wanted to do a tribute to her since the newspaper wasn’t,” Boyland said.
Boyland cut out the photo of Mother Teresa and used it as a model for his drawing.
“The feeling you get from homelessness is one of the worst,” Boyland said. He saw that pain in the face of Mother Teresa, who lived with it every day as a missionary in India.
On the bottom of his drawing, there is a quote from Mother Teresa that reads:
“I will never tire of repeating this: What the poor need the most is not pity, but love. They need to feel respect for their human dignity, which is neither less nor different from the dignity of any other human being.”
Mother Teresa lived from 1910 to 1997.
Similar to Mother Teresa, Boyland wants to be an advocate for the homeless, many of whom suffer from alcoholism and mental illness like he has.
“Most of them are good people who have had a bad turn of events in their lives that put them on the streets,” Boyland said.
Now that Boyland is back on his feet and continues working hard to stay sober, he is hoping to help others like him through his artwork.
Every piece that he sells, Boyland donates 10 percent to help the poor and suffering through the St. Vincent de Paul charity at the Basilica of St. Mary in Minneapolis.
Boyland’s Mother Teresa painting also hangs in the Basilica’s undercroft, which was named after her. It was a gift for all the church had done for him while he was homeless.
“It was more of a spiritual help than anything,” Boyland said.
The drawing also hangs in many other churches across the state and internationally as well, including Lebanon, Spain, and Zambia.
Other artwork by Boyland that is on display and for sale at Robert Wilde Studio include an acrylic on canvas of Our Lady of Guadalupe and an acrylic on buckskin of the Holy Face of Jesus. The frame is antique barbed wire.
Boyland is currently working on an acrylic on canvas of the crucifixion icon from the 12th century, though admits it could take him awhile with his perfectionistic personality.
Through his paintings, Boyland hopes to eliminate the stigma that surrounds the mentally ill and homeless.
“There are some good things we can do in the world,” he said.