Bro. Cletus Behlmann, a Marianist brother at St. Mary's University in San
Antonio, was born and raised in Florissant, Missouri. Nothing seemed to
predestine him to become an artist. Cletus was one of twelve children, and
more familiar in his youth with the numerous chores on the family farm than
with brush and chisel. Although always interested in the arts, Cletus studied
English and music. Following graduation, he worked for a year and then
joined the Brothers, and eventually began a teaching career that spanned nineteen
His first opportunity to study art came at age twenty-eight when he was teaching at
a parish school in El Paso. As a matter of fact, he ran into trouble trying
to draw a simple bean pot. "I was given a paper, a piece of charcoal,
and the bean pot," he recollects, "and I had the worst time." Though the
results of the first lesson may have been less than encouraging, Brother
Cletus continued to take lessons and later studied at the Chicago Institute
of Art and Washington University. He settled in San Antonio in 1977 and
began operating St. Mary's University Art Center.
Today, Bro. Cletus is chairman of St. Mary's Fine Arts Committee. He runs the Art Center,
gives demonstrations, and teaches art. It is thanks to his artistic inventiveness that the gallery,
studio and center reflect art and convey beauty. Cletus may seem quiet and unassuming on the
surface. Yet, deep down there is a drive that fires both his creative imagination and productivity.
He has been called "shockingly productive" - over the years he did literally hundreds of
metal sculptures, and ceramic pieces. He works in a variety of media: metal, acrylics,
batik, stained glass, pastels, ceramics, and weaving. Although his themes range from religious to
folk art to abstract, the overall leitmotif of his work is in "celebration of life," from the wonders
nature to the miracles of God's Redemption. No wonder that Cletus' canvases suggest a joyous
symphony of bold and bright colors, so different from the discreet and delicate expression of the
message he wants to convey. The deeply spiritual quality of his work, for instance, "is a little
suggestive than it is obvious," as Cletus himself explains. Essentially a religious artist, Cletus
wants the beholder to discover the correspondence and ultimate unity between religion and life.
Most recently, Cletus taught art in Japan, traveled to China, Europe and Mexico, and was
the artist in residence for the World Council of Churches' San Antonio Conference 1989. Yet his
home turf remains the great state of Texas and beautiful bicultural San Antonio. That is where
most of his works and clients are, of whom only a modest sampling can be mentioned here:
- Coors Dickshire Distributors, El Paso, Texas.
- Dominican College, New Orleans, Louisiana.
- St. Brigid's Catholic Church, Leon Valley, Texas.
- La Mansion Hotels - Central Office, San Antonio.
- St. Joseph Catholic Church, Dallas, Texas.
- Mount Carmel Convent, New Orleans, Louisiana.
- St. Mary's High School, St. Louis, Missouri.
- Our Lady of the Assumption Church, Harlingen, Texas.
- United Church of Christ, Leisure City, Florida.
- University of Texas Health Science Center, San Antonio.
- Lord of Life Lutheran Church, Kirby, Texas.
- England AFB, Alexandria, Louisiana.
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