Monday, September 10, 2012

Halo




Yep. That's my icon above. The one I was 'writing' (you write rather than paint them) in the basement of the beautiful Italianate House of the Redeemer on East 95th Street with the well-known iconographer Vladislav Andreyev.  The place had/has ghosts. No. I am not kidding. I didn't see them. But a colleague of mine did. Apparently, he was in the basement late at night doing some catering, and turned around and saw a woman approach him. She was wearing a black dress and small glasses, and then disappeared before his eyes. He dropped the pan that was in his hands. Me? I was there for six weeks or so and didn't see a thing. I did ask one of the priests who ran the place if it was true that the place had 'presences,' and he told me that - yes- it did. He hadn't seen the lady in the basement, but he was present when the organ in the library starting playing one night. Others heard it too, even though the pipes had been removed long ago, leaving only the casement behind.

Back to the icon. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to progress past the first of three 'floats,' egg tempera being applied in three successive layers. My teacher thought I did pretty well however, even asking me if I had studied art. A nice compliment, I actually made it my business to study his work. What I didn't get right, however, is the red line around the halo. It's too wide. But that's another matter. 

Learning to write an icon is not unlike learning to sing, the process involving a 'going within.' Hard to explain to those who haven't had either experience, creating beautiful images or beautiful tone  involves intention and attention - both bringing about 'focus.' In the case of writing the icon above, I had a curious experience which I remember still. I was applying the halo, which is done by using one's breath, getting very close to the wooden surface and applying breath as a vapor from which the gold can then adhere. This took me awhile. It also took a tremendous amount of 'focus.' That night, after having finished the application of the halo, I dreamt I fell into it. It was bliss. The kind of which made me realize that there are some things - that are not things - far beyond our comprehension.

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