30 December 2013

Saint Dunstan, Archbishop of Canterbury

St. Dunstan, Archbishop of Canterbury (+988). Acrylic and gold leaf on panel, 8"x10," private commission.

I love Saint Dunstan and consider him an unofficial patron of my life. I was born on his feast day, May 19 and have really felt his influence in my life.  I feel very close to him in many ways; we are both English by blood and ecclesiastical artists and musicians. He lived from 909 to 988 and was the definition of a polymath: he was a talented artist, musician, clergyman, and statesman.  
I did quite extensive research for this icon. He is wearing X century English archepiscopal vestments. English bishops did not wear mitres until XII century. He wears the pallium (as an archbishop), as well as chasuble, dalmatic, alb, maniple and amice. As a bishop, he holds his crosier facing outward, shepherding his flock, as well as holding the Holy Gospel as a teacher. As an artist, he is holding smithing tongs and hammer, a quill and brush, and a harp. There is a story that St. Dunstan pinched the devil's nose with red-hot tongs when he tried to tempt the saint as he was smithing a chalice.
St. Dunstan was from Glastonbury (home of the Glastonbury Thorn, which grew from the staff of St. Joseph of Arimathea when he planted staff in the ground when he evangelized England after the Resurrection of Christ).   He was a monk, abbot, and bishop, eventually becoming the Archbishop of Canterbury.  St. Dunstan led a cultural and monastic revival in tenth century England, which had been ravaged by the vikings.  He established many monasteries.  He encouraged the arts; Glastonbury became a center of culture.  St. Dunstan became Archbishop of Canterbury, and advised kings (of whom was St. Edward the King-Martyr). 
As a visual artist, St. Dunstan was an icon painter, he illuminated manuscripts, designed vestments, cast bells, was a goldsmith and made holy vessels from precious metals (such as chalices and censers). Below is a manuscript which St. Dunstan illuminated, and contains a self portrait of the humble Dunstan prostrate at the feet of the mighty Christ.
In one of his manuscripts, Saint Dunstan left perhaps the earliest self-portrait in history. Source
As a musician, St. Dunstan composed hymns for the Church.  He played on a harp to accompany the nuns of his abbey as they worked.  His dying words were sung from the Psalms of David. One surviving hymn is "Kyrie Rex Splendens," which Saint Dunstan, in a vision during Mass, heard the angels in heaven  singing.  He quickly wrote it down to preserve it.  It is sung below.



Troparion, Tone 8:
By thee, O Dunstan, hath the whole land of England been wondrously adorned, for thou didst labor unceasingly to restore all the monastic houses laid waste by the heathen, to people them again with zealous monks and nuns, and to provide them with strict rules of pious order wherewith to govern their lives. Wherefore, the Church of Christ doth ever praise thine all-honorable name, O holy bishop.

Kontakion, Tone 3:
Like a master helmsman, O Dunstan, thou didst ably pilot the ship of Church and state in England, skillfully avoiding the treacherous rocks and reefs hidden beneath the tides of thy times, and bringing it safely to the calm harbour of heaven, fully laden with its freight of men's souls, which thou didst deliver, rejoicing, to Christ thy Master.

References
Daniels, R. W. (1987). Dunstan, jewel of the English. Tulsa, OK: St. Dunstan's Press.
Lambertson, I. (n.d.). Service to St. Dunstan. Retrieved from: http://orthodoxengland.org.uk/servduns.htm


Norris, Herbert (2002). Church Vestments: Their Origin and Development. Dover Publications.

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21 December 2013

The Holy Trinity, or The Hospitality of Abraham

The Holy Trinity, or The Hospitality of Abraham, acrylic and gold leaf on panel, 8"x10," private commission. 
St. Andre Rublev (c. AD 1425) was my primary inspiration, of course, but I also referenced an icon from Patmos (c. AD 1176), as well as the 20th century work of Leonid Ousspensky and Gregory Krug. 

In this icon, the three angels represent the three persons of the Trinity presiding at the feast around Abraham's table (Genesis 18). This is also the altar table, and they are blessing the Eucharistic chalice. From left to right are the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. The Father sits at the head; the Son and Spirit look to Him. The Son wears the same garments as Christ. The Spirit wears green to signify his life-creating energy. Above them are Abraham's house, the Oak of Mamre, and the mountain. The house represents the Father's house (John 14:2) and the tree is next to the Son, representing His life-giving death on the Cross, the tree of life.
 

In the original icons, the angels are holding crosiers (in the Eastern Orthodox style); I took the liberty in making them western-style crosiers given the icon's destination to a parish in the Western Christian tradition.
 

Please see more of my work at www.brianwhirledge.com.

18 December 2013

Holy Prophet Elijah

I recently completed this icon of the Holy Prophet Elijah, 9"x12" acrylic and gold leaf on panel. 

This icon recalls a story of God's providence from the life of the holy prophet Elijah the Tishbite, I Kings (III Kings) 17:1-7. St. Elijah told King Ahab that it will not rain for 3 years, and he fled to the wilderness, where he lived by the Brook of Cherith. The ravens brought him bread and meat for sustenance (cf. Matthew 6:25-34). After the brook dried up, he went to the widow of Zarepath, where he miraculously extended her meager supply of flour (cf. John 6:1-15, 35-40) and raised her son from the dead, foreshadowing Christ's raising Lazarus (John 11).


Please see more of my work at www.brianwhirledge.com.

04 November 2013

Saint Tryphon of Pechenga

I recently completed this icon of Saint Tryphon of Pechenga. His name is in Norwegian, as this icon is currently headed to Oslo.

Saint Tryphon was a 16th century Russian monk, who from his early years resolved to devote his life to apostolic deeds and to proclaim to the Sámi people (Lapps) the Gospel of Christ. Sápmi (Lapland) is in northern Scandinavia, largely within the Arctic Circle, and stretches across Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Russia. The holy preacher suffered much hardship, enduring hostility and beatings. But gradually, through his wise and kindly words and meekness, many in the region were converted to Christ.

Please see more of my work at www.brianwhirledge.com.

13 March 2013

Saint Nektarios


 
Saint Nektarios, acrylic and 23k gold on panel, 9"x12"
 
Today, I completed this icon of Saint Nektarios, to the glory of God, who is wondrous in His saints.
Saint Nektarios was born in Thrace (central Greece) in 1846, grew up in Constantinople, attended seminary and became a monk.  The Patriarch (Pope) of Alexandria summoned him to Egypt, where he was quickly ordained Priest and Bishop.  He was slandered by his brother clergy, and he returned to Greece, humiliated, where he became an itinerant preacher.  He forgave his slanderers.
 
This is the chapel in the convent on Aegina where St. Nektarios served.  His holy skull is in the shrine on the left.
 
He eventually settled in Aegina (an island near Athens), where he founded a women's convent.  He devoted his life to prayer.  He was seen floating above the ground when he prayed.  Through his prayers, he healed the sick and cast out demons, and saved Aegina from drought.  He worked many miracles during his lifetime, but many more since his repose.  He fell asleep in a hospital in Athens in 1920.  The hospital filled with a heavenly aroma.  Immediately after his death, a nurse tossed his sweater onto the next bed, which instantly healed the paralytic who was lying there.  He has healed many people of their illnesses, and he is especially well known for healing cancer.
 
On my last day in Greece this summer, I went on a pilgrimage to Aegina.  I visited his monastery and venerated the holy relics of St. Nektarios.  I wrote about it here.

Pray to God for us, O Wonderworker Nektarios.


Troparion To St. Nektarios
The offspring of Selyvria and the guardian of Aegina, the true friend of virtue who appeared in the last years. O Nektarios, we faithful honor you as a Godly servant of Christ. For you pour out healings of every kind for those who piously cry out, glory to Christ Who has glorified you, glory to Him Who has made you wondrous, glory to Him Who works healings for all through you.
 

 St. Nektarios also gave us this beautiful hymn "Αγνή Παρθένε" or "O Virgin Pure," which he wrote down after hearing angels singing these praises to the Virgin Mother of God.
 

27 February 2013

Anapeson-Christ's Unsleeping Eye

Anapeson, or The Unsleeping Eye of Christ. Brian Matthew Whirledge, 2012. 72"x42" Acrylic on Canvas. Installation at St. Mary's Antiochian Orthodox Church, Goshen, Indiana
 
 The icon Anapeson, or The Unsleeping Eye of Christ, is a beautiful and mystical meditation on the paradox of the incarnation of the Son of God.  The very God who created and sustains the whole cosmos humbled himself to become an infant.  As a man, Christ slept, being a helpless newborn baby, needing rest, food, warmth, and protection.  But simultaneously, as God and Creator, Christ maintained the entire universe.   
 This icon depicts the infant Christ reclining in sleep, being cared for by His Mother. Christ is depicted as an infant Child, but with all of the divine attributes, namely, the halo inscribed with a cross and the Greek letters Ο ΩΝ, which is "I AM" in English: the name God told Moses in the burning bush. An angel is nearby, holding a cross, as a reference to the time when Christ would ultimately sleep in the tomb after his death on the Cross. 
This icon has also been described as showing Christ as the Lion of Judah, specifically fulfilling this prophechy in Genesis 49:9 
"Judah is a lion's whelp: from the prey, my son, thou art gone up: he stooped down, he couched as a lion, and as an old lion; who shall rouse him up?"
The primary prophecy related to this icon comes from the Psalms of the Prophet-King David, himself an ancestor of God, who foretold: "Behold, He shall not slumber nor shall He sleep, He that keepeth Israel."  The reason that this icon is traditionally placed above the west (or back) door of an Orthodox Church comes from the latter portion of the same Psalm: "The Lord shall keep thy coming in and thy going out, from henceforth and for evermore."

Psalm 120

An Ode of Ascents.
I have lifted up mine eyes to the mountains, from whence cometh my help. My help cometh from the Lord, Who hath made heaven and the earth. Give not thy foot unto moving, and may He not slumber that keepeth thee. Behold, He shall not slumber nor shall He sleep, He that keepeth Israel. The Lord shall keep thee; the Lord is thy shelter at thy right hand. The sun shall not burn thee by day, nor the moon by night. The Lord shall keep thee from all evil, the Lord shall guard thy soul. The Lord shall keep thy coming in and thy going out, from henceforth and for evermore.

Holy Transfiguration Monastery (1974). Psalter According to the Seventy.
 
I painted this icon in October 2012 for a multitude of reasons, both technical and spiritual. It is my first icon using the maroupage technique, that is, painting on canvas, then gluing the canvas to the wall to achieve the effect of a fresco/mural/wall-painting.  I also wanted to work in a larger format, study from Theophanes of Crete, and paint an icon with multiple figures and architecture.  I based the icon from the 16th century fresco by Theophanes of Crete, from the Katholikon (main church) of Stavronikita Monastery on Mount Athos.  Theophanes is a master of line.  His faces exhbit exquisite expression. My training is mostly in the Cretan school of icon painting, so in all respects, this was an appropriate prototype.  The arching top of the icon harmonizes with the other arches in our church of the iconostas and the windows.
St. Mary's Antiochian Orthodox Church, Goshen, Indiana
 
I sketched directly on the canvas, which was taped to the wall in the painting studio in my house.  Another benefit of the maroupage technique is that the icon can be painted under optimal lighting and other conditions.  After icon was completed, and the walls of the church were painted blue, I ascended scaffolding to mount the icon to the wall.  As an icon of the paradox of the incarnation, I was glad to have it finished and in place for Christmas.
Anapeson in situ, above west doors of St. Mary's Antiochian Orthodox Church, Goshen, Indiana
 
 
 

References and Sources:


Chatzidakis, Manolis and Stavronikitianos, Archimandrite Vasileios (1986). The Cretan Painter Theofanis. Mount Athos, Greece: The Holy Monastery of Stavronikita.

Holy Transfiguration Monastery (1974). Psalter According to the Seventy. Holy Transfiguration Monastery, Boston, MA retrieved from: http://orthodox.seasidehosting.st/seaside/psalm?_s=lb6asmgaVjKb2uOS&_k=BWGzhamK

Lesko, Archpriest David (1995). The Unsleeping Eye. Orthodox America. Retrieved from: http://www.roca.org/OA/95/95k.htm

Sanidopoulos, John. (2012). Jesus Christ: The Reclining Lion of Judah. Retrieved from: http://www.johnsanidopoulos.com/2012/12/jesus-christ-reclining-lion-of-judah.html

26 February 2013

Saint Dunstan

Today I completed a miniature icon of Saint Dunstan, Archbishop of Canterbury (+988).  This is my first icon of Saint Dunstan, and is also one of my smallest (3x5").  I have always felt a close connection to this saint: I was born on his feast day (May 19), he was English, he was an artist, and a musician.  Because of his association with bells, this icon will be placed in a outdoor shrine near our bell at St. Mary's Orthodox Church in Goshen.
St. Dunstan was from Glastonbury (home of the Glastonbury Thorn, which grew from the staff of St. Joseph of Arimathea when he planted staff in the ground when he evangelized England after the Resurrection of Christ).   St. Dunstan led a cultural and monastic revival in tenth century England, which had been ravaged by the vikings.  He established many monasteries.  He encouraged the arts; Glastonbury became a center of culture.  St. Dunstan became Archbishop of Canterbury, and advised kings (of whom was St. Edward the King-Martyr).  As a visual artist, St. Dunstan was an iconographer, illuminated manuscripts, designed vestments, cast bells, was a goldsmith and made holy vessels from precious metals (such as chalices and censers). Below is a manuscript which St. Dunstan illuminated, and contains a self portrait of the humble Dunstan prostrate at the feet of the mighty Christ.

As a musician, St. Dunstan composed hymns for the Church.  He played on a harp to accompany the nuns of his abbey as they worked.  His dying words were sung from the Psalms of David. One surviving hymn is "Kyrie Rex Splendens," which Saint Dunstan, in a vision during Mass, heard the angels in heaven  singing.  He quickly wrote it down to preserve it.  It is sung below.

Kyrie VII, "Kyrie Rex splendens", Vocals by Matthew J Curtis from St Antoine Daniel on Vimeo.

Troparion, Tone 8:
By thee, O Dunstan, hath the whole land of England been wondrously adorned, for thou didst labor unceasingly to restore all the monastic houses laid waste by the heathen, to people them again with zealous monks and nuns, and to provide them with strict rules of pious order wherewith to govern their lives. Wherefore, the Church of Christ doth ever praise thine all-honorable name, O holy bishop.

Kontakion, Tone 3:
Like a master helmsman, O Dunstan, thou didst ably pilot the ship of Church and state in England, skillfully avoiding the treacherous rocks and reefs hidden beneath the tides of thy times, and bringing it safely to the calm harbour of heaven, fully laden with its freight of men's souls, which thou didst deliver, rejoicing, to Christ thy Master.
Source

References
Daniels, R. W. (1987). Dunstan, jewel of the English. Tulsa, OK: St. Dunstan's Press.
Lambertson, I. (n.d.). Service to St. Dunstan. Retrieved from: http://orthodoxengland.org.uk/servduns.htm


 

23 February 2013

I Made the Front Page

Our local newspaper featured a generous front-page story today on the new iconography at my church. Click here to read it.

16 February 2013

The Platytera

Today, to the glory of God, I finished the icon "Platytera ton Ouranon" or "More spacious than the heavens" on the east wall above the altar of St. Mary's Orthodox Church, Goshen, IN. I also installed the moon and the star of Bethlehem, concluding the painting of the heavens. Soon I will write more extensively on these topics.


 

13 February 2013

What I've Been Up To...

I apologize for the seven-month hiatus from this blog.  I ceased posting with the conclusion of my grant activities in July.  I have since realized that this blog is about more than my travels and experiences in the summer of 2012.  Those experiences have set new courses on which I now travel.
Now I will very briefly fill in the blanks in my artistic endeavours in the past seven months.
In late July, I returned from New York working with Tom Clark.  On my way home, I attended the Sacred Music Institute at the Antiochian Village in Ligonier, Pennsylvania.
Upon my return home, I resumed my masters of education program through Indiana Wesleyan University.
I began painting several new icons, experimenting with new and different styles of painting: on canvas, on a easel, while standing.
In mid-August, I returned to teaching elementary art.
In September and October, I worked on the icon of Christ Anepson (or Unsleeping).
In October and November, I painted angels to surround Christ Pantokrator.
In December, friends and I painted the ceiling of our church a deep blue and installed the angels and Anepson.
Over the Christmas holiday, my wife and I visited family on the east coast, where I was able to again visit Archangel Michael to see Tom's completed iconography.
In January, we painted stars on the ceiling at church.
In early February, I attended my first Sacred Harp sing with several friends.
Currently, I am finishing a large icon of the Virgin Mary "Platytera ton Ouranon" or "More Spacious than the Heavens" for the east wall of our church above the altar.
Over the next several posts, I intend to write in depth on each of these projects (including photos), and then continue to update this blog according to present activities.