11 Comments

  1. Anthony Cornett

    Wonderful work. I am particularly impressed by the mission priest’s observation about how the genuineness of the iconostasis has not only changed the space, but also the movement therein. In regards to your proposal for a 2.0 version, are you familiar with the work of Elena Tsitoglou? I believe she paint icons in Cyprus. Her style reminds me much of this painted approach: https://www.facebook.com/photo?fbid=1101687970026052&set=pcb.1101687993359383

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    1. That’s a great example. Beautifully done. And there’s plenty of precedent for painting like that in American folk art – Pennsylvania Dutch chests, for instance.

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      1. Anthony Cornett

        Exactly. I’m amazed at some of the early Americana needlework that Presvytera Krista West displays with her company Avlea that are so reminiscent of Greek and Baltic works. Often times a slight tweak to the color palette is all that is required to shift an entire continent.

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  2. William Manning (Reader Gregory)

    Congratulations! Well done! Well done, indeed!

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  3. Jerry Hamilton

    Beautiful, Beautiful Work. A wonderful idea of passing this down to another mission church if the parish moves to a larger location.

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  4. Chris

    I think there is more to unpack from your comment that, “The iconostasis is the single most important feature of an Orthodox church.” Not that I disagree, exactly, but I think it points to several questions. First, why is the iconostasis seen as “most important” than, say, the altar? Second, given the American religious landscape – a reductionism common to the West to ID a hierarchy of what is “most important” together with the Roman Catholic focus on the mass and the Protestant focus on atonement (both pointing clearly to the altar as a focal point) – perhaps it isn’t surprising that American Orthodoxy has tended to focus on a certain understanding of what is “essential”. Later, when financially able, American Orthodox churches seem to either go deeper in that direction to create the most theologically correct (and therefore “most important”) iconostasis or they go as far as possible in the other direction recreating the most grand of Old World iconostases (in a way pointing to a change in what might be seen as truly “most important”).

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    1. This is a very interesting topic. Of course I am speaking of visual importance. If one is speaking of sacredness, then the altar is most important, or maybe the chalice, or far more so, the contents of the chalice. But at each step of increasing sacredness we see decreasing visual prominence. The most sacred things are veiled and invisible. That’s no accident. Sacred and secret go hand in hand. From an architectural standpoint, this is a conundrum. How do we give visual prominence to something small and hidden? It does not make sense to lavish the greatest artistic effort on the altar when the altar is mostly blocked from view and usually veiled by cloths, and not very large to begin with.

      So the church has always found ways to surround the altar with visual glory on a bigger scale. In the western church this takes the form of a reredos – that splendid wall of sculpture and color that rises up behind the altar, visually dominating the entire church. The reredos itself is not sacred, but its artistry is obviously there to honor the altar and the sacrifice that takes place there. I think that in Orthodoxy the iconostasis serves very much this same role. When you enter an Orthodox church, you instantly know which end is sacred – which direction you’re supposed to face. The iconostasis shows you the liturgical order of the space. And by facing the iconostasis, you face the altar. The iconostasis literally reveals the sacredness of altar by showing the saints and angels gathered around it. It actually makes the altar sacred by simultaneously veiling it from view, while also making visible the heavenly host around it. That which was visible is veiled, and that which was invisible is revealed. This is as close to a miracle as art can get. In my opinion the iconostasis is the single greatest invention in the history of liturgical art – the perfect expression of the very concept of sacredness.

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  5. Dorothy Alexander

    What a beautiful iconostasis! This mission church is richly blessed.

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  6. Dear Andrew, thank you for sharing your work! I love the bare wooden texture and how actively the pine-tree works in this very intense ensemble. It gives the feeling of authenticity and materiality to the iconostasis structure.

    My only hunch is, that for this conceptual low-budget project the backgrounds on icons could also demonstrate less expensiveness and correlate more with the timber.

    Not sure, what reason pushed together the natural rich expression of pine-tree and monetized richness of fully gilded backgrounds?

    History of iconography has great examples of deepest spiritual treasures, – icons with colored backgrounds with no gold on them. Even though iconography always operates traditional symbolic language, it looks very disturbing when someone crushes together the modernity of minimalistic wood and presumably traditional gold without traditional sensibility in it’s use.

    Sorry for being tough. I really love the idea of portable iconostasis as a universal structure, – an Orthodox Altar Screen for any church building!
    Thank you again for sharing.
    May God help you in your projects!

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    1. Hello Philip. I partly agree with you. Certainly people in historical times would not have paired such rich icons with a plain wood framework. This is why I’m interested in doing an iconostasis in more of a village/folk style, with simple un-gilded icons and painted wood, of which there are plenty of historic examples.

      On the other hand, Americans are very fond of beautiful unpainted wood. It has been a ‘signature’ of American craftsmanship for centuries. And to my modern eye, the gilded backgrounds do complement the polished pine quite effectively. So perhaps there is room here for a new juxtaposition – something not exactly seen in times past.

      I will keep experimenting. I would enjoy trying this with simpler icons and various colored backgrounds, maybe even looking to colonial-American portraiture for inspiration.

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  7. Fr David Patterson

    The timber is stunning and reminiscent of older baltic pine furniture and woodwork which one finds in Australia (and similarly in Scandanavia). Coming from NZ originally, a lot of the colonial churches built of wood also have this warm beauty when left unpainted.
    I would endorse seeing how less richly gilded icons work, esp their lovely muted tones.

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