Monday, February 16, 2009

My first icon

Last Summer (2008) I took an iconography class with Austin-local iconographer Irene Pérez-Omar. It was an amazing experience. I finally took it back to her, long after it had fully dried, in order for her to put on the final sealing coat of linseed oil. Now that it is finished, I've taken this totally non-professional photo to post on my avocational web log. And I am introducing a new "locus," on my web log for such projects: "ikon."

I think, in some ways, "writing" this icon was more difficult than writing my dissertation. I love re-engaging a folk-art tradition in my post-modern condition. I love the spiritual depth of meaning in each line and layer. I love that an icon is highlighted, and never shaded - the iconographer always works his or her way out of darkness into the light. I love how working on an icon reflects one's spiritual journey - and the troubles you have in writing your icon reflect your own spiritual state. Needless to say, I learned a lot about myself. As I meditate on this icon, I continue to learn more.

There is no signature. Iconographers do not "sign" their work, they "channel" it: both in the sense of passing down a tradition bigger than they are, but also in the sense that the icon enables contact with the transcendent realities it images. Stretta recently embedded a video where a famous author reminds us of the ancient conception of creativity as something only enabled by the divine, by something that transcends merely quotidian human existence. Iconography, as a liturgical art, is, to me, the key example of divinely inspired creativity. It is "sub-creation," under the Creator: to whom be glory.

I plan further posts in this web log locus with regards to why I took iconography, future hopes and projects, and some of the theology and philosophy behind it. Please let me know what you think.

Thanks for following, and thanks for the encouragement.


  1. I'm looking forward to seeing it with the oil coat - a fine work already, the saturation of colors should make it tres fine.

    Photographing artwork well is tricky: I'm always surprised that as long as I've been doing it, I don't have it down. The digital cameras, too, seem particularly sneaky about producing images that are rather different than the ones one thinks one has taken and even seen subsequently in the cameras' little screen.

    Your back porch on a sunny day would probably be pretty perfect lighting for photographing artwork - perhaps now, but more certainly during the Spring or Summer.

    I hadn't previously thought about icon writing as a folk art, its being a bit more refinied (multiple definitions of the word may be applied) and bearing a more significant art historical context than most of what one finds at the craft bazaar; however, most of the contemporary icon working I've come across is, in fact, even though devotional and in hieratic (my word choices this morning...) style, made in popular practice.

    What is the history of icon writing as a popular devotion?

  2. I suppose what I meant by "folk art" is that it is neither the "high art" of post-Renaissance, Western tradition. Nor is it the "kitsch" of modern consumer-driven popular "art." Unlike modern art it has definite content. Unlike kitsch it has deep artistic merit. So, "folk." Is there a better word for it?

  3. A better word for it?

    Not one I know.

    It is a folk art.


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