Icons and Community

“Between us there is but a narrow wall,

And by sheer chance; for it would take

Merely a call from your lips or from mine

To break it down, and that without a sound.

The wall is builded of your images.”

R.M. Rilke, the Book of Hours

Community can be difficult and takes time.  When I started this blog and the American Association of Iconographers back in 2014 I wasn’t sure what direction it would take.  I recognized a need for an American School of Iconographers- people who were learning from the Greek, Russian, Romanian and English iconographers who are actively teaching this ancient art world wide, but who would eventually, through much study, practice, and guidance, begin to evolve a style of icon writing that was uniquely their own.  

Last Supper Icon by Christine Hales

Last Supper Icon written by Christine Hales

It has to do with identity and all the things that influence the healthy growth of identity.  Our primary identity is in God, and we all have that in common.  But even a cursory study of the history of iconography shows that different styles have developed over many places and times.  And, theoretically, this growth needs to continue.

Creative community is vulnerable to many difficulties, but with God’s help, I believe we have begun to attract some highly creative, open minded iconographers who are willing to put aside individual differences in order to encourage and further this important opus dei in their fellows.

St. Benedict wrote his famous “Rule” in the sixth century to serve as a guide to forming and maintaining a community dedicated to glorifying God with their work, rest, and worship.  Saint Benedict’s model for the monastic life was the family with the abbot as father and all the monks as brothers.

Saint Benedict Icon written by Christine Hales, based on the fresco of Fra Angelico

Saint Benedict’s Rule organises the monastic day into regular periods of communal and private prayer, sleep, spiritual reading, and manual labour – ut in omnibus glorificetur Deus, “that in all [things] God may be glorified” (cf. Rule ch. 57.9).

Some adaptation of this rule might be beneficial to those of us seeking to form community as iconographers, albeit a global virtual community.  The FB group page (American Association of Iconographers) would be a good place to share ideas on this.

Early 19th Century Icon, Russian “Union of Love” (Sourced from Temple Gallery Catalogue Christmas 2004)

The FB group for the American Association of Iconographers is open to all who care to join with the spirit of unity, peace, and kindness.  It is intended to be a place where iconographers can share their experiences, ongoing projects, questions, or relevant links and articles that will serve to widen the education and perspective of iconographers today.  More recently, it seems, iconographers have wanted to use that platform for self promotion.

TO address this issue, I am offering to create a separate page for this website that will list members, show a photo, give their website, and a short description of their work. 

Membership in the AAI has always been and will remain without financial cost, but to join at the level of being represented worldwide on a separate page to other people interested in icons, there will be a fee of $35 to cover the costs of maintaining that page.

If you are interested in participating on this level, please email me at: chales@halesart.com to begin.  Meanwhile, keep taking the icon retreats, drawing classes, and religious studies, and reach out with emails and FB comments and be willing to share your gifts and to help others.

“Resurrection and Feasts” Russian, Late 17th Century, (Sourced from Temple Gallery Catalogue, Christmas, 2004)

May God continue to bless the work of your hands, and guide your thoughts, plans and actions to all that is pleasing to Him, Almighty God.

Christine Hales

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