The Lufkin Texas Daily News February 2019
Artist Mary Jane Miller taught 13 people to paint Byzantine icons during a week long Sacred Icon workshop, St. Cyprian’s Episcopal Church. Miller lives full-time with her husband in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, but traveled to give a First time Icon Workshop, ST. CYPRIAN’S EPISCOPAL. She gives classes and teach the tradition of icon painting workshops.
“We were artists that lived in the world, worked in the world, made our money from the world, the community where we lived. Twenty Five years ago I was invited to paint an icon, and it just changed my life,” she said.
“About 15 years ago I started teaching,” Miller said. “I was kind of feeble at that, but now I feel pretty adept. I’m not a master by any sense. I do understand what the message in within iconography as a historical, spiritual, traditional practice. The practice revealed through the discipline allows for a better understanding of the world we live in and this entity we call God.”
Invited to Teach an Icon Workshop
Lufkin artist Jeanelle Mc-Call wanted to try her hand at the art form, so she asked the “active can do” women — as she called them — of St. Cyprian’s to figure out how to set up an Icon Workshop. The women managed to make Lufkin an official icon retreat location.“They supported the idea, they’re not artists, they just wanted to experience this,” McCall said.
The students came from all over the state of Texas. Barbara Marcel brought her husband Jerry — who suffers from Alzheimer’s disease — from Massachusetts. “I never really thought about coming to Lufkin, she said. Students from out of town stayed primarily with those students attending the Icon Workshop in St. Cyprian’s Episcopal Church and relied on them for transportation.
The 12 women and one man sat in a small, brightly lit classroom at St. Cyprian’s with their icons placed in front of them. Small palettes held the egg tempera paint that were created with egg yolks and dirt for pigmentation.“You take a small amount of creation and all the potential for life in an egg yolk and make an image of the divine,” Miller said. Miller mixed the paint all week as it was needed, enabling the students to paint their versions of the icon.
A week’s work yielded 13 soft, personal renderings of ‘’The Samaritan Woman at the Well’’ in the Byzantine style. The class was taught to anyone with personal curiosity for the art form, Miller said. None of the students needed any experience with art and it didn’t matter what faith they practiced.
“You can’t talk about this practice secularly. you have to be talking about Jesus, spirituality, God, creation,” Miller said. “The practice leads you into the understanding that it is not my God or your God. The class is painting with the raw potential for life found in the chicken yolk as the emulsion. That raw potential for life is mixed with dirt, million- year-old stone ground into dust to create divine image.”
The Samaritan woman at the Well Icon
Miller chose this icon painting topic partially because of the relevance found in the ‘’
The Samaritan woman at the Well ’’ story, and its meaning in today’s context, she said. The story of the ‘’Woman at the Well’’ is recognized as being the longest conversation Christ has with any person in the Bible.
“He’s talking to a woman, which is significant in this day as women are being elevated to a higher place in society,” she said. “Not to be outflanking men, but just to have an even understanding and an even chance at being the little expressions we are as we cruise around the planet.”
The Halo With or Without
Although the original icon they were copying from did not have a halo, Miller agreed with the students, deciding to add a gold leaf halo to the ‘’
The Samaritan woman at the Well .’’ “Women often don’t get recognition for sanctity,” Miller said. “We get to take care of the children, we get to educate the children, we get to clean the house and cook. We don’t get honored for the consciousness we have and have always had. Our voices have not been heard for the last 500 years.”
The Rev. Bobbi Kraft, from Waco, explained the role of women in stories like the ‘’Woman at the Well”, affirms our need to be recognized a new’’ she said. “There are 93 encounters with women mentioned in the bible, named or not. There are 14,000 words they speak of the 150,000 words he spoke with men in the (NRS Bible),” Kraft said. 1.1 million words in the entire Bible.
Miller said Kraft’s comment affirms the need for more icons of women based on Biblical text and what it means for women to follow the teachings of Christ.
Master iconographer and author Mary Jane Miller
On the last day Miller, gives ample instruction to the participants on how to seal their paintings with egg yolk after a week long egg tempera icon painting workshop in St. Cyprian’s Episcopal Church. Miller, a full-time artist for more than 30 years, she currently lives in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, where she paints and teaches the art of icon writing as a prayer form. Pictured is “The Samaritan Woman at the Well’’ in the Byzantine style.
At Lufkin Daily news, By Jess Huff firstname.lastname@example.org.