When you stand before an icon for any amount of time, you cannot help but see its beauty as a work of art. Well done iconography about women is a powerful tool and provokes insights and vision.
When you stand before an icon for any amount of time, you cannot help but see its beauty as a work of art. A well-done icon is a powerful tool and often provokes insights and visions. Icons are supposed to transcribe through images the Bible stories, word for word, and uphold theological doctrines. A scribe diligently re-writes original text with no changes. My thinking mind has no reluctance in portraying Mother Mary as the perfected quiet servant and a silent contemplative. Yet, I believe limiting her identity to these attributes has been a hindrance to the development of women. Women’s voices in church institutions, families, and society are still silenced by a biased image of women beginning with Mother Mary.
Icons are supposed to transcribe through images the Bible stories, word for word, and uphold theological doctrines. A scribe diligently re-writes original text with no changes. My thinking mind has no reluctance in portraying Mother Mary as the perfected quiet servant and a silent contemplative. Yet, I believe limiting her identity to these attributes has been a hindrance to the development of women. Women’s voices in church institutions, families, and society are still silenced by a biased image of women beginning with Mother Mary.
Including more art and iconography about women, their history, and their portrayal will stimulate new perspectives on theological issues, which are still in their infancy. The fullness of what women have to offer remains deficient in our societies and religions around the world. We live in an age of increasing bigotry, self-righteousness, and personal isolation. Both genders are experiencing this on many levels. Creating art and Iconography for and about women will help to rectify an incomplete and flawed image of the Christ message.
Blessing the Women
Jesus extends his hand of blessing over twelve women stepping out of a dark cave to greet their teacher. He could be extending his hand to name them apostles, followers, and disciples. A slight break in the landscape is all that separates them. It represents the small yet treacherous chasm we need to cross for the church to thrive with gender equality in the future. Closing the gap will allow the feminine voice and new icon imagery into today’s church community.
Inquisitive women like myself have always been around Christ, listening to Jesus’s message. It is easy to imagine women cooking and cleaning at the Last Supper, the wedding at Canon, and feeding the five thousand. Where Christ is the principal character in a narrative event, the children and mothers were there too, yet unmentioned or depicted. Women have been imbued with unacknowledged human qualities: healers, prophetesses, teachers, mystics, administrators, servants, and those who contemplate. Women have always ministered with their wise directives as they live and walk among us.
New Iconography about Women
Iconographers believe their work to be God’s boundless presence reflected in sacred text using visual language. The New Eve can and should live in communion with the New Adam to offset the gender imbalance in science, art, government, religion, and all other facets of social life. World leaders have recently published a statement that declares: “A higher authority did not prescribe the justification and discrimination against women and girls on grounds of religion or tradition.”.
It is time for the church Fathers to draft a similar statement. Painting new iconography of women will challenge various aspects that re-frame parts of the Holy Scriptures. Christian church denominations and their priests can and should alter the text to include women. They can refrain from the misguided use of text that perpetuates the idea that men are superior to women. We are told we are ‘One body in God,’ called to be ‘One mind in Christ’. Let us live into that reality where Christian women serve as deacons, priests, bishops, apostles, mystics, healers, teachers, and prophets, etc. through image and word.”
I am a practicing Christian. For half of my life, I have been dedicated to the practice of contemporary iconography painting, or as some would call it, icon writing. My new collections representing the iconography about women have become a recent curiosity and inspiration for women around the world. I would like to share several observations and conclusions encountered while searching for recent and old Christian paintings that depict women.
Let’s Start at The Beginning of Iconography about Women Analysis
Theological time begins with the story of Adam and Eve. The biblical account defines Eve as being created second to Adam and responsible for original sin. First, the story emphasizes the long-standing idea that women were created as an afterthought. Then we become responsible for original sin (at least in the eyes of ancient men). This idea would imply at least in part, that God had made a mistake.
How is it that all of humanity’s sin ends up hanging on the temptation in the garden and half the human race? How did the sexual behavior provoked by females translate into evil? It was the idea of ancient men to not encourage equal rights and opportunities for women. You might agree, continuing this prejudice is flawed by today’s standards.
In Ancient Times, Women could not Write Icons
Corinthians 14:34 “Women should remain silent in the churches. They may not speak…” The new testament includes plenty of verses that ultimately prohibit women from serving in positions of authority. The like of which has affected every woman’s place in society for 2,000 years. In actuality, beginning as early as the fourth century, the dominant Christian leaders, all men, distorted Holy Scriptures. It may not have been intentional to thwart the ascendant positions or influence of women. But, religious hierarchy in Christian societies and their ancient interpretations of biblical text did set the stage for our silence.
Sacred Christian Iconography about Women
The underlying teachings of Jesus Christ instruct humanity to employ proper and fair treatment of God’s children and to love without restriction. I have always known in my heart and soul, women are not inferior to men. Without a doubt, God loves humanity equally. As an iconographer, self-taught and inspired, I have not had to look far to see this glorious tradition has failed to include iconography about women. In the first millennium, women could not be iconographers working on their own. Looking at the evidence, the male iconographers did not include women in the principal events they visually narrated because the text was not there. However, the disciples, all men are recorded in Baptism, Pentecost, and The Last Supper iconography.
Ironically, women in contemporary iconography may hold the means to preserve this great sacred art. Many women artists are graced with the desire to paint contemporary images inspired by sacred text. We have an obligation as prayer practitioners to re-examine how or why women are barely mentioned. It is not God’s commandment they are not heard of in the text, named, or seen in a sacred image.
If you look at icons that represent the old testament, there are more women included and named. When the feminine voice and new iconorgaphy about women is ushered into today’s church community, the addition will benefit us all.