All artwork in this post is created by Lynne Perrella. See website here.
Today I am honored to hand over my blog to Lynne Perrella to report on her visit to the Museum of Russian Icons in Massachusetts. To make it even more exciting Lynne is offering a generous prize for a lucky draw at the end of this post.
Without further ado it's over to Lynne.....
Our visit to the Museum of Russian Icons Massachusetts had been planned and anticipated for quite some time. Our group of ten mixed-media artists arrived for a docent tour, with plenty of time left over to wander the extensive galleries and explore the singular Collections. An earlier visit to the Museum had convinced me that this was truly an art Destination, and I looked forward to sharing the experience with some of my favorite artists, as well as an entire weekend of art-making at a nearby Inn. We had the great fortune to be guided by Laura, a young woman who is not only passionate about the artwork, but deeply knowledgeable about its history, significance and provenance. Through the words, and her patient responses to our questions, we learned about this amazing artform, the visible expression of the Russian Orthodox faith.
Whether large compelling tempera-painted depictions of the Mother of God, or the smallest jewel-encrusted pocket icon with tiny shuttered doors, to the oldest icon in the collection, an image of John the Baptist made in 1450 .... The direct, powerful soulfulness of the work prevailed, only made richer by hearing about the traditions, rituals, significance and the methods used to create each icon. Icon painters are referred to as "writers" and their secrets have been passed down from Medieval times and contemporary artists still pursue this venerated artform. So-called liturgical "calendar icons", called Minyeias, depict row-upon-row of exquisitely-detailed miniature Saints wearing their signature robes and vestments .... reportedly painted with a single-horsehair brush, as the artist diligently applied his paints "between heart beats". Under closer examination, each tiny portrait was fully developed lavishly embellished and descriptive. And although all Orthodox homes have an aptly-named "beautiful corner" with flowers, colorful cloth or shawls, and their venerated household icon; the icon tradition was also expanded to murals, panels and lavishly-painted columns, literally filling and adorning the interiors of vaulted grand cathedrals. As we walked the galleries, we encountered a procession of ancient portraits conveying fortitude, sorrow, yearning, joy, and great tenderness. One significant portrait of the Mother of God had gone through a high-tech restoration process, and it was discovered that at least three other paintings lurked beneath the surface. other icons remain in their wonderfully-imperfect state, oftentimes bowed out and irregular in shape and contour, bearing the traditional metal-crafted "cases", or faux metal cases that were imaginatively crafted with metal and glass beads. Each work provoked feelings of mystery, veneration, and awe in each of us.
Difficult to find words to acknowledge such stunning and beautifully-presented work, we were content to just walk silently through the galleries, standing side-by-side peering up into the faces of Saint George, Elijah The Prophet, Saint Paraskeva and Saint Nicholas. Considering how each image had brought incalculable solace and comfort to so many long-ago people, the intimacy of the artwork was, at times, almost overwhelming. Like the best examples of folk art and even obsessive Outsider works, each portrait possessed complexity beyond words, and yet a direct compelling gaze that seemed to say ... "I will always be here for you." The kindred experience of the exhibit provided strong connections for all of us as we spent the rest of the long weekend in a shared studio, exploring paper, copper, stitching, sketching, gluing, and painting, to name only a few of the ideas we explored. Most of all, we thought what a rare treat it was to pull away from our usual routine, and make time for art. You just might say ... The Icons made us do it!
If the idea of an art respite appeals to you, perhaps you will join me for my upcoming mixed media workshop in Taos New Mexico on February 6 - 11. The event, titled "Icons & Excess" will be an opportunity to explore this bottomless, nurturing and kindred theme. Discover lots of low-tech ideas that will enrich your usual work in painting, collage, journals and more; and learn all my favorite techniques for getting a lavish surface full of depth and patterning. Held at the San Geronimo Lodge in Taos, New mexico; the ultimate historic adobe-style southwestern Inn. Please contact me for more details.
Leave a comment here if you would like a chance to win the following prize in a lucky draw to be announced a week from today:
*A History of Icon Painting (a complete compendium of information about icons, replete with lots of amazing visuals).
*A Very limited-edition grouping of icon-themed rubber stamps designed by Lynne. (fewer than 50 of these have ever been circulated)
*A handmade Icon-themed embellishment tag.
All artwork in this post created by Lynne Perrella, before the visit to The Russian Icon Museum. Most pieces are included in the book Masters: Collage.
And the winner is..... Steviewren