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Author Topic: Theology in color: iconography by Christine Schaeffer  (Read 1778 times) Average Rating: 0
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Και κλήρονομον δείξον με, ζωής της αιωνίου

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« on: November 25, 2011, 08:38:16 PM »

Any artist can be happy if her work is enjoyed by the public. Christine Schaeffer, an Episcopalian of Charlotte, North Carolina, has the added perspective of knowing that her work bolsters viewers in their faith: she is an iconographer. (Although Schaeffer is not Orthodox, the Observer presents an interesting look at her practice, which has produced icons for many different churches.)

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Schaeffer, 57, has spent a decade as a contemporary iconographer. She has lived in Charlotte for 24 years and has two grown children. Son Andrew maintains her website, Theologia Iconographia ( www.theologia-icons.com), where viewers can find samples of her work and can commission her to create icons for their homes or communities.

George O'Hanlon, director of the Iconofile School of Iconography in Willits, Calif., says there are probably fewer than 100 professional iconographers in the United States - "people who paint at a very high level of craftsmanship" and whose icons are commissioned by churches or individuals. He does not know of any other iconographers working in Charlotte.

 
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« Reply #1 on: November 25, 2011, 11:30:59 PM »

From the article:
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When someone commissions an icon from Schaeffer, she asks for photos of the person who will receive the piece. She keeps the photo before her as she works.

"It helps me get to know the person, and also, your mind wanders," she says. "An icon takes hours and hours and hours. With these pictures, your mind is always brought back to this family or this person who, because of their request, this is coming into being."

Great, another dabbler and dilettante.  Roll Eyes

What a peculiar thing for an iconographer to do! Why on earth is it necessary to "get to know" the patron? Getting to know the saint or holy one being painted is what it's about! Surely the time-honored way of preventing the mind wandering while painting icons is PRAYER to the saint, or the Jesus Prayer.

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« Reply #2 on: November 25, 2011, 11:42:08 PM »

Great, another dabbler and dilettante.  Roll Eyes

What a peculiar thing for an iconographer to do! Why on earth is it necessary to "get to know" the patron? Getting to know the saint or holy one being painted is what it's about! Surely the time-honored way of preventing the mind wandering while painting icons is PRAYER to the saint, or the Jesus Prayer.

Completely agreed, LBK (as I almost always do on issues relating to iconography).  Getting to know the patron...  Cheesy
Wow, we are a self-important people.
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« Reply #3 on: November 26, 2011, 12:01:07 AM »

I have posted this on another thread, but I feel it's worth repeating:

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I greatly lament the recent surge in interest in painting icons simply because it's the trendy thing to do, another arrow in one's artistic quiver, with little comprehension of the difference between true iconography which is in service and fidelity to the Church, and conventional "religious art". It is simple enough to teach someone the practical, artistic elements of painting an icon. However, all too often these days, a sense of what is NOT an icon is neglected in this tuition. Painting religious themes in an abstracted, geometric style is not enough for an image to be called an icon. Over the years, I have posted extensively online, and conducted talks on iconography, including on uncanonical images, whether painted by Orthodox or non-Orthodox artists. The following is recent feedback from a practising iconographer:

We have been down this path before and it always leads the same place. A lack of humilty and obedience. Originally iconography was a monastic endeavor. It was supposed to be a vocation in the church. You were supposed to give up other forms of expression solely for iconography. Few have done that. Lately it has become a sideshow to one's art career and inner expression. Just a hobby to be taken up without much thought.

Look at the cashing in on painting classes everywhere. $700+ to teach non-Orthodox how to paint the sacred imagery. But without exposure to Liturgy and the other church services every week, they pervert the images and make their own statements as if they had the authority. The arguments of "Why can't I?" and "How dare you tell me what to paint?" ring in the ears. "We are not going to bend our knee to any authority as we are in charge of our own salvation. We have stacks of books that tell us so". It's sad, and so telling about our society and path.

The saddest part is that we quietly accept these perversions as versions of the truth. The uninformed and uninspired current Orthodox accept false images and display them unknowingly. We open our mouths and speak with authority without the ancient knowledge to support us. We walk in error and repeat that error many times over. Thank God for the few voices in the wilderness like you who might be heard through the fog. We need so many more of your kind.

http://www.orthodoxchristianity.net/forum/index.php/topic,11616.msg533089.html#msg533089
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« Reply #4 on: November 27, 2011, 11:14:08 AM »

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Originally iconography was a monastic endeavor. It was supposed to be a vocation in the church. You were supposed to give up other forms of expression solely for iconography. Few have done that.

Dear LBK,
I assume you do mean that iconography was exclusively  a monastic endeavor?  If we look through the documents and iconographer's manuals from the Eastern Slavic countries that was not the case.  There were iconographers who were blessed by their local bishops and were enroled in the ranks of "tserkovnyi liudyi" and given the honor of eith sitting at the bishop's table or the clergy table at feasts/ meals.  These were married men who took on pupils as apprentices and also trained their sons.  They would travel to wherever their work was assigned and even stay in one spot or church for years with their families.  There is no doubt that iconography was exclusively monastic.


I also went to an exhibit at the MET in New York (forgot the name but I think it was "The Glory of Bysantium") and the materials mentioned that even duaghters were from time to time trained as well, although this was not common.  I do know that the famous iconography school in Pochaiv, Ukraine in the 19th century included lay male instructors.


Today there are women iconographers who are true duaghters of the church who follow the cannons, pray and filled with the Holy Spirit, do canonical iconography.  Vera Senchuk of Winnipeg, Canada is just one of these.  Her iconography can be seen in various churches throughout North America.
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« Reply #5 on: November 27, 2011, 03:52:21 PM »

Let me clarify: In past centuries, iconography was a vocation conducted mainly by monastics; laymen (including women) could also be blessed to paint icons, but, in both situations, this was the only art they produced. It was a discipline, an obedience, a vocation, not a pastime or recreational pursuit. What we often see these days is artists who paint a variety of styles and subjects, with iconography being just one of them. For many of these artists, iconography is another "arrow in the quiver", as it were. Though I have come across artists who, after a while of painting icons, no longer have the urge to paint anything else. Other forms of painting simply don't appeal to them any more. All credit to them.

The interior of one of the churches in my town was painted with icons about 15 years ago by an abbot, one of his monks, and a woman who was not a monastic. The eastern wall of the church, a curved apse, features Christ and the liturgist-saints in the lower register, and, above them, a large icon of the Mother of God Enthroned. These icons were painted by the woman, who received a special blessing to enter the altar area to do her work. Quite an honor!
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« Reply #6 on: November 28, 2011, 08:39:43 PM »

Thanks.  Now I agree with you.
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« Reply #7 on: December 11, 2011, 10:25:49 PM »

I tend to agree with everyone else above. The icons aren't very pleasing to the eyes; it looks to me like she isn't adhering to any traditional method of iconography, but rather trying to learn iconography by copying them from pictures or other icons. There is a lot more methodology involved than that to create a beautiful icon, even one that is more simplistic in style, such as a traditional Georgian icon. I never really find icons by non-Orthodox people to be very good. They tend to shirk on traditional methods and subject matter, trying to toss that mystic(!), Eastern(!) look into the melting pot with the rest of their Christian art. Iconography isn't a hobby. Iconography isn't an artistic practice that one just picks up and runs with in any direction one sees fit.
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