Peace Is possible through Dialogue and Discussion of Icons?
For Mary Jane Miller, it began as an intense, memorable nighttime dream, articulated with repetitive daytime doodles and finally an obsession to paint numerous icons outside the time tested tradition of classic iconography.
Who is Mary Jane Miller?
Mary Jane is a woman who grew up with a father whose art was a lifestyle.
His love of color, shape, shadow, beauty and determination to capture it was one great gift he passed on to his youngest daughter. At age 12, both parents died, which launched Mary Jane into 50 years exploring “what is peace within.”
Twenty years ago, Mary Jane attended a five-day workshop in New York at Prosopone School of Iconography. She says, “One class is all it took to fall in love with the Byzantine Images made with the Dirt of God. I was drawn to their incredible beauty and capacity to tell stories.”
She continues, “I was hooked, absolutely enslaved by God; I could not un-earth myself. The egg tempera technique is an ancient art medium utilized in traditional icon painting. The symbolism within the technique is; raw egg yolk mixed with million year old dirt to create divine image”. Twenty years of playing in the dirt and asking God to teach me peace within enabled me to realize exactly how spirit and image are linked: heaven and earth /flesh and spirit. I am still in love with the whole process, idea, history and divine presence found in this work.” Ancient earth history mixed with the human expression for the divine, what a match!
What was the dream which transformed into image?
Mary Jane doodled tiny sketches of nagging thoughts she had about a dream she had 25 years ago. She explains in a video, “I was standing in a large dark blue arena, surrounded by walls dotted with tiny fragmented pieces from different cultures. Right in the center was an illuminated table. I immediately sensed an overpowering love. It was an awe-inspiring safe place to be standing. One day, quite unexpectedly I decided to take a sabbatical from painting Jesus, put away all the icons and begin to explore what that dream might look like.”
She goes on, “I started with the Mayan corn god to honor the Mexican culture, then the Navajo culture, then the Sumerian gods, onto the Hindu gods. I finished with seventeen images of Gods and Goddesses, image fragments of cultures around the world.”
Mary Jane continues, “What next? Keep painting! But instead of primitive images from forgotten cultures, I decided to paint momentous people that walked among us and had influenced today’s societies around the Globe. I looked for people that everyone could relate to. For me, Mohammad was the most difficult to paint because of 911-the war in the mid east was raging at the time. I wanted to know why in this day and age we still had what looked like a religious war brewing. I wanted to know more about great thinkers. Moses, Copernicus, Confucius, Christ, Mother Teresa, Atisha, the first Dali Lama each made significant and valuable contributions to peace and understanding human behavior.”
What does the Dialogue Peace Project look like?
After two years working, she, her husband and a carpenter named Octovio together had built and designed a structure called an iconostasis, an architectural feature found in most Orthodox Churches.
The work presents cultures and philosophies around the world and their respective spiritual teachings. Five continents and 5,000 years, seventeen of gods and goddesses are at the top, followed by ten painting of master teachers all crammed in together. Forty prayer wheels rotate in forty different languages, saying “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us”. Lastly, seventy archetypal symbols border three ascending steps to a doorway where the viewer can see themselves in a smoky mirror.
Above this central doorway sits the portrait of our beloved planet earth. The entire finished installation is a free standing 30 wide’ X 11’ high curved wall, 7‘deep. It is assembled in 16 pieces, in three hours. Weighs about 700 lbs and fits in a 16ft shipping container, a fine design which travels beautifully.
The artwork provokes us to ask; what is dividing us?
Mary Jane explains, “It took years to fully realize and digest the fact there is no one answer found in any one faith and practice, but there are many commonalities in between. We are diverse and wonderful creatures. However, regretfully we continue to rage war against one another, globally as well as individually. I think I realized after so much work, peace begins with the individual. Each of us struggles everyday with life not being what we want, for interior peace we must strive to find ways to allow for that discomfort without anger, condemnation or aggression.
Mary Jane proposes, “What I want most is for everyone to realize what I have realized: Peace starts with your own self, if you need to have a master choose one which will help you learn to think. If you love God, Allah, Buddha, Elohim, Brahma, Jehovah, and The Dali Lama – you will love our planet. If you love our planet you will be open to all spiritual practices.”
Mary Jane shares one more thought; “We can build a better society in which to live tomorrow. Become like these philosophers and spiritual thinkers by seeking solutions. Make your peace be based on our commonalities rather than our differences, in everything you do, think and say.”
She needs Sponsors to Promote this art installation.
- A patron to sponsor the cost, shipping, crating and insurance for the installation to become a traveling exhibit worldwide.
- To utilize social media for lectures, light shows, events, slide shows and movies that focus on the allowing peace to happen in the lives of people around the world today.
- A written curriculum of ideas to discuss peace through art projects for children.
- To build an interfaith music theater and dialogue forums using the ‘Dialogue Installation’ as a backdrop.
- Suggestions and investors to create promotional materials (banners, prayer cards, highway signs, on cars, on trucks, life-size stickers to place in store windows, lampshades, clothing.)