Thursday, March 5, 2015

A Humbling Experience

This weekend we visited Brenda's folks and made a brief detour to St. George Antiochian Church in Kearney, NE. Kearney population around 35K boasts a tiny Orthodox community nearly unknown to the city or the state. A faithful generation of the first Orthodox folks to settle this part of the country mostly of Lebanese descent.

They recently were featured in a local paper for having 250K of icons installed by an iconographer I am familiar with from the west coast, Dimity Shkolnik. My mother-in-law mailed me the paper.  I emailed Fr. Christopher Morris and asked permission to visit the church and take a few photos. He was most gracious to allow us the honor.

We have visited the church in the past over the years but haven't been there for the past eight years. We always loved the friendly community who embraced the strangers in their midst and frankly, we did not remain strangers for long.

The church has, needless to say, changed spectacularly.  More impressive than the wall icons are a series of egg tempera icon panels by Janet Jaime out of Oklahoma that dot the church. Unbelievably fussy and detailed they are jewels of the faith and rival any 16th century master in their fine execution. I was thoroughly impressed and even though I have seen some fantastic work from the family of Prosopon's school these could put them to shame.

I think rather than the austere Prosopon style of centuries old Russian prototypes, these favor a Greek style and have a definite individual influence of the iconographer. Brilliant work from the large 4 foot panel to the smaller 16 x 12 entrance panel.

Dimitry's icons, on the other hand,  simply transform the visual space inside the chapel. Representing the feasts and prophets, they are a masterwork of mixed influences and subtle color that portray the story of our Lord in a visual narrative. A feast if feasts for the eye and soul. The pews have yet to be put back into the church so the overall spaciousness is enhanced and hopefully they will leave just the pews around the edges. The current space is heavenly as is.

The space is humbling for several reasons, first and foremost because if the mastery of the work which I might never achieve in my remaining years and secondly because of these iconographers, relatively unknown in the world who boast no videos or self promotion yet achieve greatness in their own right. I have no business using the term iconographer when referring to myself after seeing this displays of masters art.

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