Iconography: The Gospel in Paint
A 2011 Course in Review
I think it just gives us time to stand apart from the world and take that time when you're working on the icon... You're present in that moment and I guess that's where I am in my life; I need to find those moments where I can be just quiet and...very focused on what I'm working on.
Ruth Fyten, student
May 21 was a particularly rich day for the students of Living Water College of the Arts, and, judging from the response of the guests in attendance, it was not only a profound experience for the students but for everyone present. Guests found the blessing of icons to be reverent and very meaningful at a personal level, while the students experienced the blessing in a more profound way. They each had spent a very full two weeks looking into the face of Jesus and watching him emerge quietly, yet personally, on the board they painted. As they drew close to finishing, each student began to realize more and more significantly the effects of Jesus' gaze. They were able to see themselves through his eyes, perceiving themselves more honestly. As a culmination of the program, the icon blessing brought tears, peace, and a sense of satisfaction in a journey well taken.
But what exactly was that journey? Just two weeks prior, although a few of the students had been acquainted with each other, most arrived as complete strangers. They came expecting an artistic and spiritual journey, but they didn't realize how great an impact their peers would have upon that journey. As the program unfolded, the daily morning and evening prayer, Divine Liturgy or Holy Mass, intense work and peaceful walks, meal times and work duties along with all the incidental and un-planned moments, pulled the group together as a community and enhanced the experience for each of them. The community life at Living Water College was a necessary and valuable cradle within which discussions of history and theology, development of skills, and immersion into the art of iconography were effectively applied.
Jesus said, 'Whoever has seen Me, has seen the Father.' And so, this face, coming to life, I can look at his face, and I can actually see the Father...This is a real beautiful journey.Shirley Goulet, student
In addition to the rich diversity of students, the community life at Living Water College was formed by an extraordinary staff. Frank C Turner brought his dramatic flair and deep passion for the art of iconography, Fr. Bohdan Nahachewsky brought his spirituality and the perspective of history and theology, Ruth Schafers brought her significant experience in community formation and prayer, Naomi Noster brought her skills of organization and her eye for line and form, Orlene Unland and Roxanne Pottle brought their loving desire to provide for everyone's comfort and well-being, and Fr. Joseph Goutier brought his pastoral leadership. Debbie Schafers and Nicole Dunn helped get the program launched and guided it to a successful completion.
Each of these individuals contributed to an experience that would not have been the same in their absence. Each realized they had a part in something bigger than themselves, enhancing their focus on the common good and the benefit of each student. The result was an unforgettable experience for everyone involved.
Each student wrote an icon of Christ Pantocrator, a classic icon of the face of Jesus, and each student spoke of the icon as a concrete means of growing closer to Christ. Consequently, it was the constant gaze of Christ that formed the program for each student and provided the principal focus for everything they did, from dishes to prayer time, Divine Liturgy to cleaning the floors. And every activity, from the mundane to the extraordinary, contributed to the experience the students now look back upon with fondness and appreciation. Every activity was a means of growing closer to Christ and therefore a means of growing closer to personal wholeness.