About the Artist

A unique marriage of the ancient and the modern, Panamanian artist Ambassador (at-large, Republic of Panama) Sheila E. Lichacz' work harnesses the raw emotional energy of Pre-Columbian art to Old and New Testament themes with transcendental results. Her painting, titled 'Cana Is Forever' (46" x 96" oil & Pre-Columbian shards on wood), dedicated to Jesus' first public miracle, was formally presented by Sheila in October 1998 in Israel and became part of the permanent collection at the Holy Shrine of the First Miracle at Cana in Galilee, Israel. Subsequent to the presentation, HOLY LAND magazine named her "God's Paint Brush."

Since her arrival on the art scene in 1976, Lichacz has garnered numerous honors for her ambitiously scaled pastels, oils. and Pre-Columbian montages. In 1980, the President of Panama named Lichacz "The Pride of Panama and the Americas," and as the Republic's "Cultural Ambassador-at-large," her paintings have served as official gifts to visiting dignitaries, including Pope John Paul II and King Juan Carlos of Spain. She has been called the "Spirit and Soul of Latin America" by both Fairfield and Harvard Universities. Her last major national solo exhibition was held from November 2002 through September 2003 at the Smithsonian Center for Latino Initiatives in Washington D.C.

Divine Inspiration

Lichacz' success as an artist represents a triumph of the human spirit over adversity. For forty-four years, she has been fighting the growth of benign but life-threatening tumors in her head, surviving fourteen brainsurgeries to remove more than 25 brain tumors; 9 remain.

"The reason my work is so spiritual is that without faith, I would never have survived," Lichacz explained. "None of us are going to live forever. We are all going. A nun told me when I was a freshman in college, 'Make the most of yourself because you will never happen again.' That is the philosophy of my life. I have been in hospitals for too long to not understand what is really important."

Lichacz is an artist who paints her deepest beliefs and cultural memories in abstract metaphors. She creates images that are deceptively powerful in their simplicity, revealing interconnected truths about the evolution of humankind. Her vessels symbolize the spiritual source of life, and the way nature has shaped living things to hold life. The shells, fruit and flowers in her paintings represent a birth and maturation process, an evolving of things from secret places.

"Clay vessels are a common symbol In my paintings and montages," acknowledged Lichacz. "I feel they are significant since they are the vessels man made to contain water, the essence of life and the object Jesus used for his first miracle, at Cana. Also, according to the Bible, man himself was created from clay."

The Artist's Tools

Earthenware pottery figures largely in Lichacz' paintings. Sometimes she will create a vessel image from the fragments of ancient ceramics that are over 1,000 years old, feeling that in this way they will have their innate energy preserved instead of turning back into dust. These 'Pre-Columbian montages' are a first in the art world.

In Her Own Words

Discover what Shiela Lichacz has to say about her work, life, and beliefs.

Read More

Even as a little girl Lichacz was intrigued by Pre-Columbian pottery. Swimming in the Rio Santa Maria, which flowed through her family's ranch in the interior of Panama, she used to kick up beautiful, multi-colored shards, remnants of the ancient Indian civilizations that lived there before the arrival of the Spaniards in the 16th century. Admiring their shapes and craftsmanship, Lichacz began to collect them, unaware that someday they would become the center of her life's work.

"It is said that my birthplace of Monagrillo was the birthplace of ceramics in Panama, perhaps in all of Latin America, sometime in the year 8,000 B.C.," said Lichacz. "So I guess it is appropriate that almost 10,000 years later a woman should be born in Monagrillo whose artwork celebrates earthen vessels." Appropriately, Sheila was selected to represent the Americas, with a solo exhibition, at the Summit of the Americas (December 8,1994) at Miami's Center for the Fine Arts (Miami Art Museum). Her last solo exhibition, 'Homenaje a Juan Pablo II, El Grande' ('Homage to Pope John Paul II, The Great''), was held in Panama's National Institute of Culture (I.N.A.C.) Reina Torres de Arruz Museum, Panama City, Panama, 15 November 2006 - 31 January 2007.

Life Landmarks

2002- Present Vice President/Vice Rector, Catholic University of Santa Maria La Antigua Republic of Panama
1995- Present Ambassador-at-large (Extraordinary & Plenipotentiary) Republic of Panama
1968 MA Education, Inter-American University San German, Puerto Rico
1965 BS Our Lady of the Lake University San Antonio, Texas
1942 Born October 9th Monagrillo, Republic of Panama

Personal History

A graduate of Our Lady of the Lake University in San Antonio in 1965, followed by a Masters in Education from Inter-American University, San German, Puerto Rico, Lichacz pursued a career in education until 1976 when she was suddenly seized by the desire to paint. Since that time, she has presented numerous solo exhibits in Panama, Texas, New Mexico, California, Florida, Connecticut and at Harvard University, Massachusetts. Locally, Lichacz has exhibited at the University of Miami (North-South Center), Vanidades Art Gallery, the Miami Herald and at the Miami Art Museum.

On 11 September 1995, Lichacz was appointed 'Ambassador-at-large (Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary)' by the President of the Republic of Panama and was reappointed by each succeeding president.

Currently Ambassador Lichacz resides in both Miami, Florida and Panama City, Panama.

Read the EssayRead the essay "Cana is Forever: The Miraculous Vessel of Sheila Lichacz" by David Elliot

Read the Essay"Sheila E. Lichacz - Pintora | Exposición en homenaje a Juan Pablo II El Grande" en español