Art show spotlights work of the late Father Robert Terentieff

The stained glass art of the late Father Robert J. Terentieff, known as Father “Tee” in Walnut Beach where he ministered, may be seen at many local churches and schools, including Lauralton Hall in Milford.

“He was truly a brilliant man,” states a summary of his artistry and life. “His teachings offered us the ability to have an open mind, open heart and open soul if one had taken the opportunity to do so.”

Terentieff’s artwork will be on display at the Sobobo Art Gallery in Milford through the end of May.

The exhibit will open Saturday, May 4, from noon until 5 at the gallery, which is located at 42 Naugatuck Avenue.

A talented artist in stained glass and other media, Terentieff received many institutional commissions and was often featured in one-man art shows in recognition of his complex, joyous and deeply spiritual imagery, stated an announcement that ran in the Fairfield County Catholic when he died in July 2011.

“For me art is like prayer,” he said in a 1984 interview with Fairfield County Catholic. “Art excites all of the senses to worship. I feel most alive when I paint. I paint as one person, artist and a priest.”

His windows and mosaics may be seen adorning churches, libraries, schools, and health care facilities in New England and the mid-Atlantic region. Locally his stained glass windows may be seen in St. Andrew Church in Bridgeport and the Stratford Public Library children’s room.

According to Donna TurnerWoods, director of the Sobobo Gallery, his work may also be seen in Milford at Lauralton Hall, St. Gabriel Church, Live Oaks School, and Mary Taylor Church.

Terentieff is best known locally for his service as parochial vicar of St. Andrew Parish in Bridgeport and as a teacher and founder of the art department at Kolbe Cathedral High School, where he served from 1970 to 1987.

After he retired, he ministered as a visiting priest at St. Gabriel’s Church in Milford, and that is how he became known to people in the Walnut Beach area.

“He was over six feet tall with red hair and blue eyes,” said TurnerWoods. “He would sit in a chair leaning against the door of the church, smoking a cigar, and greeting people as they came in.”

She and others said the late minister was “a character,” known and loved by many.

A native of Stratford, Terentieff was ordained by Bishop Walter Curtis on May 26, 1962, at St. Augustine Cathedral in Bridgeport. He attended Franklin School in Fairfield and Fairfield College Preparatory School before earning a bachelor’s degree in philosophy and a master’s degree in divinity from St. Mary’s Seminary and University, Baltimore, Md., according to his obituary notice.

“Sometimes unorthodox, even going against some principles created an air about Father “Tee” as a bull in a china shop,” TurnerWoods said in announcing the upcoming show of his work. “But when he entered a room, it was like a breath of fresh air you inhaled, taking in the depth and breadth of his energy that illuminated the room. You couldn’t help but smile as you were enveloped with the love and grace being bestowed on each of us. His deep, throaty voice almost echoed as he spoke.”

“Tee,” as friends called him, had different facets when creating his art. His private works were surreal, some modern and contemporary, TurnerWoods said.

“Each one was different, yet very geometrical with a fluidness that envelops its subject and the viewer at the same time,” she said. “The shapes are representative of so many things, but we only can decide for ourselves what they mean — the universe? the atomic structure of what cannot be seen? the three-dimensional life we live in? Or is it another dimension that has yet to be discovered or even the ‘God’ particle that has just recently been identified, which would mean Father had discovered it much earlier?”

She said he was always meticulous as an artist.

“Yet in life itself, he was always, always in a hurry,” she said.