Angela Leggio paints in her home studio in Stuart. Many of her works line the walls of her home and the office of her husband's company. She has painted religious images for St. Bernadette Parish in Port St. Lucie and other Catholic organizations throughout the diocese. (CECILIA PADILLA-FC)

Local Catholic artist paints according to God’s will

Stuart  |  Angela Leggio, parishioner of St. Joseph Catholic Church in Stuart, stood in front of a large canvas painting of an octopus in her home studio. “I love animals. The more I paint images of creatures, the more I understand our creator. There’s no end to what I can paint when God is in everything we see.”

Leggio’s ability to find the spiritual in creation has led her to paint incredible religious images with only canvasses and oil paints. “My whole life I’ve wanted to paint. I didn’t have the confidence to pursue it until a friend of mine bought me a set of oil pants and encouraged me to take classes,” Leggio said. “She could see that this was something I wanted to do, but I just needed a little push.”

At the time, Leggio was 40 years old and hadn’t seriously painted before. “There were times where I wanted to walk out of class and just give up. I was studying under an art teacher, so I kept comparing my skills to hers,” Leggio said. “But I guess even Michelangelo had a mentor, so I stuck with it.” 

Since beginning her classes, Leggio has painted close to 200 paintings of both nature and religious icons. She fondly recalled the painting of a warthog named Bella she copied from a photo she took at the local zoo. “That painting was so fun. I donated ‘Bella’ to the Kane Center in Stuart, which is the council on aging in Martin county, for a fundraiser they were having,” she said. “I hope my painting went on to make someone else happy.” 

The work of art that has brought Leggio attention most recently is a colorful rendition of a Russian icon of the Blessed Mother holding the Christ child. “I’ve never painted anything like this before. A friend brought me the image and asked me to paint it for her. It was an intimidating piece and I couldn’t bring myself to commit to it,” she said. “As soon as that doubt crossed my mind, painting the image was all I could think about—it consumed me. I even dreamt that I had painted it in one night; that morning I expected it to be sitting in my studio complete.” 

Leggio hesitantly began working on the piece, knowing that it would be a long journey to see it through. “The whole time I was painting I kept praying over and over to God, ‘Let your will be done.’ It was a prayer that kept me painting in obedience to God’s desire,” she said. “This work needed to be created and I was simply a tool for his message.” 

Through the process, Leggio would often stop to pray about her work and conduct research on the Russian icon. “This image was originally on a blog that my friend found. I went back to read the blog and I couldn’t find it. I researched the image itself and nothing in the same style came up. It was like this image came out of nowhere and into my hands.” 

After endless frustrations and doubts, Leggio completed the piece in one year and two months. She titled the painting “Fiat,” which references the Latin phrase fiat voluntas tua—your will be done—featured at the bottom of the painting. Leggio explained that when the friend who had asked her to paint the image came to pick it up, she wept at the sight of it and insisted Leggio keep it or donate it to a religious cause. “I was humbled by her reaction,” Leggio said. “But I can’t take the credit for it. I’m nobody. God is everything. This was his doing. He made me worthy to carry out his work.”

“Fiat” hangs in Leggio’s home in Stuart waiting for the right organization or church to claim it for its own. “That painting was a lot of sweat and tears but it’s not mine to keep. If it brings someone closer to Christ wherever it ends up, that’s my reward.”