“Feed My Sheep”

Hello Fellow Iconographers:

This month some thoughts on a missional perspective about Icon writing:

Form Follows Function

Christ the Healer Icon
Christ the Healer Icon at Christ the King SLC

“Form follows function” is a concept attributed to the American Architect Louis Sullivan, famous for developing the shape of the steel skyscraper in late 19th century, at a time when economic and cultural forces made it necessary to drop the established styles of the past.

“Where function does not change, form does not change….It is the pervading law of all things organic or inorganic, of all things physical and metaphysical, of all things human and super human, of all true manifestations of the head, of the heart, of the soul, that the life is recognizable in its expression, that form ever follows function. This is the law.” Sullivan, Louis H. (1896). “The Tall Office Building Artistically Considered”Lippincott’s Magazine (March 1896): 403–409.

 

This principle kept recurring in my thoughts as I considered the function and form of Iconography today. We live today in an age of post denominationalism, where some of the more important issues of the Christian faith are less about division and nuanced theology and more about evangelization and healing. Healing for our culture and world is a function of a healthy relationship to God.

Christ the Healer Icon
Christ the Healer Icon by Christine Hales

Creating Icons according  to the Canons and honoring the Orthodox Church as well as all the Christian denominations is part of the tradition of spreading the Gospel through pictures. Martin Luther during the Reformation was not against Icons, seeing them as having an important role in teaching the tenets of the Christian Faith

 

Saint Benedict Icon
Saint Benedict Icon by Christine Hales

 

How then can Icons and the practice of Icon writing address the needs of our time? Through prayer, teaching individuals the spiritual discipline of a prayerful art practice, and the placement of Icons in public and private spaces where those who don’t attend churches can see and experience God through the Icon.

Since Icons go straight our hearts and by pass the intellect, God’s love can sometimes be apprehended through an Icon more easily than a book, or sermon. Whether our culture realizes it or not, it is desperately in need of God’s love. When we are called to Icon writing, that can be an important way that we can share God’s love. In addition to the joy we have in writing the Icon, we can share it with many, many people as an act of service and giving of the fits we have been blessed with.

St. George Icon
St. George Icon

 

Students often ask me “What will I do with the Icons I write?” My answer is to offer them to people and places in your community. Give, lend, exhibit them in places where people who wouldn’t ordinarily encounter them can experience them. Provide the opportunity for God to encounter and affect those He is calling.  Another way to integrate Icons into our world is to bring them when we visit the sick, and when we have our prayer groups.  It is lovely to have them on our prayer shelves at home, and it is equally wonderful to share them!

 

When we are in love with God, we hear His voice. This encounter between Peter and Jesus has deep meaning to an Iconographer;

“He said to him a third time, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?” Peter was grieved because He said to him a third time, “Do you love Me?” And he said to Him, Lord, You know all things: You know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep” John 21:17

Our answer to God’s call to write Icons will be blessed in many ways we don’t know our understand now. Our obedience and faithfulness to develop our skills and understanding, engaging in a rich prayer life, all these contribute to the possibility of living more and more in God’s grace.

May you be blessed with God’s love and Spirit as you write Icons!

Fr. Nigel Mumford
Fr. Nigel Mumford with Christ the Healer Icon

Christine Hales

USEFUL LINKS THIS MONTH:

Orthodox Arts Journal   

This is a link to an article written by Aidan Hart, Iconographer that explores the relationships and differences between sacred art and secular gallery art, from an Orthodox perspective.

Museum of Russian Icons

A museum dedicated to Russian Icons, located in Clinton, Massachusetts.  Here is a link to their current exhibition of Icons

A new Facebook Group I created to encourage community and share photos and links. You are welcome to join!

My Icon writing class schedule.

 

More on American Iconography

Hello Fellow Iconographers: photo

This summer I have been working on developing the school of American Iconography.  When I say “school” I mean it in the Benedictine sense of a committed community of people who study, pray, and work together united by common goals and principles. We would be working, using artistic skills and prayers to further the work of God’s Kingdom, here on earth. In this school, God would be the teacher! Putting together a reading list would be a good start, so do email suggestions on that.

Transfiguration Icon
Transfiguration Icon almost finished!

I’d like to share with you some of the goals and objectives I am setting for myself for the next three years. Please think about where you might participate and in what ways you can contribute.  Volunteers, ideas, and suggestions are welcome!

Icon Goals 2017-2020

  • Exhibit Iconographic Imagery at museums, universities and seminaries.
  • Run Icon writing training classes, giving talks, and participating in symposiums.
  • Book and video documentation to provide future development of online Icon writing classes.
  • Complete Icon commissions in churches and for private collections.
  • Participate in Symposiums or panel discussions on art and theology.
  • Collaborating with seminaries and universities to make Icon writing an integral part of a fine arts curriculum.

I see these goals as laying a groundwork for future advanced workshops, and to creating a coherent system of training Icon writers.

I see Icon writing as an important activity to the future of our culture.  Our thoughts and prayers together can be effective in creating an ethical and responsible society.  Perhaps there are others already active in this area.  If so, please contact me to being a conversation about how we can work together.

Happily,  a similar effort is happening currently in Romania.   The following quotes are taken from a blog post of the Orthodox Arts Journal : 2015  “The New Romanian Masters: Innovative Iconography in the Matrix of Tradition”

” Iconography, a recovered artistic language 

It would have been impossible to imagine a public conversation on icons and their veneration a quarter of a century ago in communist Romania. It would have been impossible as well to imagine iconography taught in a public school and the technique of painting icons at the department of Fine Arts….Today it is a common gesture to order an icon for your house or to offer an icon as a present. Four of the twelve Orthodox faculties of theology in the country have created departments of sacred art, preparing iconographers and specialists in the preservation of medieval iconography; and many of their graduates have become proficient in painting icons and frescos….the icon has become a common presence in homes and offices.

The most remarkable aspect of this revival is that the abundant iconographic demand and the high number of skilled iconographers gave rise to a competitive ambiance that led to an obvious advance in the quality of iconography and, subsequently, to a new iconographic movement.

“… As with any profession, the new iconographers and church painters demonstrate an uneven value; it is not enough to learn the technique and follow the Byzantine herminia (the painter’s manual) to become a skilled and appreciated iconographer.

Important to Iconographic training:

1. A thorough education in classical art.

2. A personal spiritual life….a spiritual dimension is a necessary ingredient to painting an icon. Painting an icon is not a mere artistic activity but a facet of the larger spiritual growth, both personal and part of the community in which the iconographer lives.

3. They do not imitate but innovate within the canons of tradition. Probably the most interesting value gradually assumed by the iconographers of the new generation is that they cherish artistic originality and freedom of expression. They do not accept to create in a mannerist way and to reproduce the masters of the past while making a concession to a common, popular taste. Paying attention to the smallest technical and theological detail, they strive to avoid not only religious kitsch but also religious clichés. After assimilating the skills, the Byzantine canon, a rich documentation and a general knowledge of the medieval art, some of them have been able to define their own style. And this fact has allowed them to rethink classical iconography and innovate in terms of style, colours and composition as well as to find new themes and become “hagiographers”. All these elements have led them to reach an unprecedented quality of the iconographic act in which they commit themselves to artistic originality”

I think the first two paragraphs of quotes above are inspiring.  The last three paragraphs can help to define a best practices manual that can be applicable to the American School of Iconography.

Our Lady of Guadalupe Icon
Our Lady of Guadalupe Icon by Christine Hales

“An Icon is therefore is always either  more than itself in becoming for us a heavenly vision or less than itself in failing to open our consciousness to the world beyond our senses.” St. Dionysus Aeropagite.

I will be attempting to collect and notate sources of Iconographic references that will help define this American School go Iconography over the next couple of years.

Thank you for your patience and contributions!

That’s all for this month, have a blessed Labor Day,

Christine Hales               Icon Website         Fine Art Website

Icon Writing Classes

Formation and Training of Future Iconographers

altaarwestminsterwebDear Fellow Iconographers:

Following up on the blog from last month where I included the links to Iconographer Aidan Hart’s articles about Icon writing: “Introduction to Principles of Icon Training, and Principles of Icon Training Part 2 , another link has been recently published on a Russian website called mmekourdukova, which I also include here: “The Icon: Truth and Fables” by Irina Gorbunova.

Aidan Hart’s excellent articles attempt to define important principles in the training of future Iconographers, and I suggest reading each of these in order to form your own opinions, and discuss in class the important aspects of each article to your own Icon writing.  I think it’s important to keep an open mind and respect the calling of each person who has interest in Icons or creating Icons.  In the Russian( or Ukranian) article there is an element of mocking and sarcasm that I find detrimental to the humble and prayerful attitude necessary for Icon writing.  But please read, and add your own thoughts and comments._MG_8520

These two recent articles are only relevant because there are more people today interested and wanting to write Icons than in the previous century.  There can be many causes for that, but I like to think that as we explore our spirituality and gain a closer relationship to God, we need and want visual images that bring us fresh revelation of His love for mankind, his promises, His wisdom and faithfulness.  As we regularly bring these qualities of holiness to mind in our daily lives, we can then integrate them and share them with others around us.

It is often said that Icons are “windows” into the heavenly world.  When we look through those “windows” we see heaven, and are more able, as St. Paul advised ” to focus on whatever is good”.  Truly a challenge in todays world.

_MG_8554The other attractive aspect of Icon writing to me is that of “passing on” to the next generation all that I can offer in terms of living the Gospel message through Icon writing. Investing in the younger generation is a goal worthy of Icon writing in my opinion.  But how? How and what kind of  an Icon be created that will draw them in?  Good questions to ponder as we work on our Icons.

The recent Icon exhibition and pipe organ concert that I organized for the Albany, New York area at Westminster Presbyterian Church, was an experiment to see if contemporary New Yorkers would respond to Icons as art and vessels of God’s presence within the Byzantine context of worship with the five senses.  A lot of this was new information to some of the people, but familiar to others.  People came who simply wanted to see the Icons, and people came to hear composer and organist Al Fedak offer a phenomenal program of music played with a world class pipe organ.crucifixionwestminsterweb

I gave the introductory talk, introducing the concept of Byzantine worship, and Al Fedak explained the contemplative and meditative nature of the pieces he chose, and he also invited people to walk around, view and interact with the Icons.  My students and I who created the Icons were available during intermission and at the reception following to answer questions and help people understand more about what they were viewing.

It was truly  a memorable evening as we were lifted up and carried individually and collectively in worship on a Friday night in Albany amongst the community of saints! Icons on a mission!

Hope you all enjoy this beautiful summer, Happy Fourth of July!!

No Monday night Icon class on July 4!!

Please visit my website for information on upcoming Icon classes and retreats.

Have a blessed month,   _MG_8524

Christine Hales

Here’s a link to my Art/Icon Facebook page

and websites:  www.newchristianicons.com          www.christinehales.com     www.halesart.com

www.kingdomartsministry.com

 

 

 

 

 

Icons-Evolving As A Message for the Twenty-First Century

Dear Friends and Fellow Iconographers:

It is an exciting time to be writing Icons.  The inspiration of Andrei Rublev writing the great “Holy Spirit” Icon as a symbol for trinity-webunity – a unity that was so needed in his country at that time, is applicable to us all today.  What are the Icons our culture NEEDS?  What are the issues that need to be addressed in prayer and how can we make timeless images that can help to focus the prayer of a nation?

After attending the icon Workshop held at Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington DC, led by Philip Davydov, I am inspired even more to explore this idea of an American Iconography.  In light of the recent events in Charleston, SC. I feel an urgency to address the needs of our country in prayer and Sacred Imagery.

Dutch Sheets: “I have great hope for America because the depth of a fall never determines God’s ability to restore. I’m not afraid of the powerful strongholds because size and strength are completely irrelevant when measuring His ability to deliver. And I’m not intimidated because statistical odds, whether of success or failure, cease to be relevant when God is involved. His limitless ability negates the very concept of “odds,” and trumps all other winning hands.”

Just a short time before the Charleston shooting, a conference on painting Sacred icons the twenty-first Century was held, also in Charleston.

Here is a link to the “Living Tradition” Symposium organized by the Orthodox Arts Journal in Charleston, South Carolina.  The ideas expressed are interesting ones to thoughtfully consider. It’s my opinion that it would have been good to have some American women Iconographers as well as some of the talented Romanian and other InternationaI Iconographers present to represent their views as well.

In a recent article in The New Liturgical Movement, noted  Iconographer Aidan Hart wrote an article entitled “Diversity within Iconography – An Artistic Pentecost”. Here is an excerpt:

But where does the mean lie between unspiritual innovation on the one hand and mere duplication on the other? Genuine variety in liturgical art occurs when the iconographer unites spiritual vision with artistic ability – energized with courage and the blessing of God. Vision without artistic ability produces pious daubs. Not every saint can paint icons. Although icons are more than art, but they are not less than art.”

This is a blessed time to have such great artists and Iconographers working together to create an authentic sacred art for the twenty-first century.  I feel called to encourage community amongst iconographers, accepting our differences and celebrating our shared strengths. Very much like Pentecost, we can all receive the Holy Spirit but God will give each of us a language that can speak to our countries.photo 4

Locally, one of my students, and a member of the St. Luke’s Iconography Guild, Dahlia Herring, has transformed her contemplative approach to Iconography into action:

“A Refugee Art Exhibit- Resettling In Albany”

Through art work and written stories, the children from some of the most war-torn countries on earth, including Burma, Iraq and Afghanistan, express what it means to leave everything familiar and start a brand new life in the United States. These young artists eloquently and directly voice their hopes and disappointments, their fears and joys as the begin their new lives and education in Albany. The exhibit will be in the City Hall Rotunda until June 30th. You can find pictures of the Open House for this exhibit on FaceBook at https://www.facebook.com/USCRI.Albany. A Refugee Art Exhibit: Resettling in Albany was organized by the Capital Region Refugee Roundtable (co-chaired by Dahlia Herring) and the Albany Office of the US Committee for Refugees and Immigrants.

Also Local News:  Albany Icon Writing Classes Monday nights  June 22, NO CLASS June 29, . For July, Classes July 6,13, 27 ( No Class July 20.)

Also NOTE:  Another member of the St. Luke’s Iconography Guild discovered a pigment company in California that has good pigments at a reasonable cost. Worth looking into!  Agulis Pigments :agulisfarm@live.com

Look forward to hearing from you and have a blessed summer.

Christine

www.newchristianicons.com

www.christinehales.com

www.kingdomartsministry.com