Blair Piras stands with her 2019 commissioned oil painting of Saint Padre Pio. Photos courtesy Blair Piras.

Art and soul: Blair Gordy Piras brings sacred scenes to life

People often say that the four years spent in college are some of the most formative of one’s life. That was certainly the case for St. Francisville native Blair Gordy Piras. After growing up in Louisiana, constantly surrounded by beauty and culture, Piras decided it was time to go out of state to continue to grow in her appreciation for the world around her.

After graduating from St. Joseph’s Academy in Baton Rouge, Piras attended Franciscan University of Steubenville in Ohio. While there, she became entranced by the exquisite art for which the Catholic Church is known, and she decided to dive deeper into the artistry that she had loved since she was a young girl. That deep dive has led to a life’s calling in creating artworks inspired by the spiritual world.

While on a study abroad trip in Florence, Italy, Piras discovered the Sacred Art School and decided to return there after graduation. During her time at the Sacred Art School, she built her portfolio while learning from some of the world’s best teachers in this specialty.

“In Florence, I was able to observe great masters of this craft, while getting an up-close view of a some of the greatest sacred art pieces of all time,” explains Piras. “If I wasn’t in studio, I was in churches and museums taking in the mysticism of the atmosphere surrounding me.”

Once Piras returned to the States, she served as the first artist in residence at Franciscan University of Steubenville. It was then that she began to work for commissions, host her own exhibitions, and see her work for sale in a gallery for the first time. “In Steubenville, I was really able to build my network and get a lot of my work sold through word of mouth,“ explains Piras. “Luckily for me, when my husband’s job called him to Pittsburgh, the network I had built of buyers and artists made the move easy for me and my work.”

‘Vacherie,’ oil on canvas, 2019

Since moving last year, Piras’ commission catalog has grown immensely, and her paintings now hang around the world, from a chapel in Rome to Piras’ home church in Saint Francisville. She explains this growth as a desire from more people for works depicting spiritual scenes. According to Piras, as people learn more about art, especially sacred or religious art, they often gravitate toward the environment it creates.

“Sacred art is something I find to be captivating, yet completely comforting, and I think it does that for a lot of other people as well,” says Piras. ”Every time my brush hits the canvas, I tap into those feelings and aim to create something that people can pray with and admire for years.”

While continuing to work on commissions and balancing family life, Piras aspires to one day develop a sacred art studio in her home state of Louisiana. She believes that connecting aspiring sacred painters with established names in the business would provide the artists the ability to learn and collaborate in an area where the culture is so entrenched in creativity.

“My love for art began with my love for Louisiana,” Piras says, “and I hope one day I can bring those two great loves together and inspire others to do the same.”