The Byzantine Legacy of the Balkans
|Visocki Decani Monastery|
Byzantine art has become my raison d'etre -- a perfect marriage of my art and my faith. When I was 15 years old, I was first struck by the beauty of Orthodox churches and their iconography while in Jerusalem and Bethlehem. Since then, my passion has become the art of icon painting in the traditional Byzantine style. It has become a way to express my Christian faith visually. A Lilly Endowment Teacher Creativity Fellowship received in 2012 jump-started that otherwise slow icon painting journey. As part of that project, I visited Athens, Greece, studying Byzantine chanting and icon painting from masters in their fields, Ioannis Arvanitis and Tom Athanasios Clark, respectively.
The subsequent nine years since that trip of a lifetime have been fruitful and productive. At my own church in Goshen, Indiana, I took what I learned and painted numerous icon murals to adorn the holy space. As director of the church’s music, I taught Byzantine chant to our parish choir. In my community and beyond, I began teaching icon painting workshops and have now taught this art to over a hundred students across Indiana. My first Lilly fellowship gave me a boost to connect more deeply with my local community, and find deeper meaning and fulfillment living in Indiana.
Now, I seek to deepen my knowledge by both experiencing important Byzantine masterpieces firsthand. Drawing is the single best way to grow as an artist and to experience art, I plan to extensively sketch the art I see. When drawing a master study, one very carefully studies every line, edge, shape, and color in an artwork, as each line is followed by the eye and transferred to the paper. When I visit these churches, sketchbook and pencil in hand, I will grow artistically and spiritually by absorbing myself in sacred art and sacred places.
|Saint Sophia Cathedral, Ohrid|
My goal is to spend as much time as possible at each church I visit in this journey, immersing myself in the language of icons as I draw and study these masterworks. Spending 15-30 minutes in front of a single artwork, carefully studying it by drawing it, gives a much deeper and enriching experience and understanding of the work than a cursory glance.
|Church of Saint George, Kurbinovo|
Although it is rooted in tradition and antiquity, Byzantine art isn’t a dead artistic style from a fallen empire. It has been kept alive within the life of the Orthodox Church, and is currently experiencing a renaissance. I hope to make my own small contribution to this artistic revival by bringing my own experiences back to Indiana and sharing them with my church community, high school students, and adult iconography students.
|Church of Saint Panteleimon, Gorno Nerezi|