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Learn an ancient form of Christian art

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By Special to the Monitor

An icon painting workshop in the Byzantine-Russian tradition will be held June 21-26 in Santa Fe.  

The Prosopon School of Iconology introduces students to the practice and theory of the ancient Christian art of icon-writing in the Byzantine-Russian tradition.

In the intensive, “hands-on” workshop each participant will paint an icon using traditional techniques and materials.

The workshop is accessible to those with no art training or background as well as previous students of iconography, artists and individuals with some art training, workshop coordinator Elizabeth Bezzerides said.

In the 12 three-hour sessions, students will be shown the many steps in icon painting. As in antiquity, only natural materials are used: wood panels, genuine gold leaf, egg tempera and linseed oil finish.  

Instruction will be personalized as needed and everyone should be able to take with them a completed icon at the end of the workshop. Beginning students will work on the icon of the Archangel Michael.

Students are introduced to iconology, which is both the practical and the theoretical part of the iconographic tradition. Explanations of iconic symbolism and the theological/philosophical bases of each step of the process are presented parallel to the technical instruction.

The workshops offer a unique opportunity to study this ancient artistic tradition as well as an opportunity for a focus on personal spiritual growth.

Tuition costs $565, which covers the cost of materials: gessoed icon board, pigments, gold leaf, brushes and other materials and a share in the workshop expenses.  

Space is limited; those interested may contact Bezzerides at 660-9113 or at ebezzerides@gmail.com

Iconographer Vladislav Andrejev who was born in 1938 in St. Petersburg, Russia, founded the Prosopon School. After receiving a formal education in fine art, Andrejev worked for a time as a book and magazine illustrator. After working for several years in this area, he became interested in religious art.  

During the Soviet regime in Russia, he was not able to express this art freely, so at great risk, he journeyed in the search for deeper meaning in art and life.

This led him to solitary travels in the Russian wilderness from monastery to monastery in remote areas of Russia in order to meet monastics practicing Christianity in the midst of Soviet religious repression. In these travels, Andrejev met a monk who was an artist and icon restorer with whom he spent a year studying iconography in the Russian Orthodox tradition.

Andrejev was able to immigrate to the United States in 1980 and currently lives in New York. He has written a large number of icons, which can be seen in many churches and homes throughout America and the world.

He has taught iconography in North America for more than 20 years and during this time, a growing number of students have been introduced to this ancient Christian art.

Over the years, Andrejev’s iconographic technique and teaching method have undergone development and, to a fair degree, standardization.

As a result, a distinct “school” of painting and interpretation has evolved, one that strives to be a continuation of the ancient Russian-Byzantine tradition as well as a further its living development.

Consequently, Andrejev, his two sons and a handful of his students have recently begun to organize in a more official manner all the aspects of this school. Upon being named, the Prosopon School received the blessing of the Archbishop of New York and New Jersey, and the approval of the Metropolitan of the Orthodox Church in America.

The instructor for this year’s workshop is Father Mefodii, a priest-monk (Hieromonk) from the Skete of Saint Maximos the Confessor in Palmyra, Va.

Mefodii has been an ordained priest for almost 32 years during which time he has been a parish priest, spiritual director of a college seminary, diocesan representative to various religious and interfaith organizations and an author and student of Byzantine-Russian Iconography.

Mefodii holds two degrees in theology from the Theology Faculty of the University Innsbruck, Austria and from the John XXIII Institute for Eastern Christian Studies at Fordham University, Bronx, N.Y. He has been a student of Andrejev since 1991.