I have been selected as for the Scholars residency at Vaughan Park Retreat Anglican Center in Auckland New Zealand. When I arrived, words could not express how delightful the place is. I am here and grateful to begin a collection of icons called On Holy Ground. Iconography is the process of converting simple stones into a world of beauty, like to, God created the planet and it is our calling to recognize its beauty. My intention on retreat is to dedicate myself to finish 8 new icons. Using all my five senses I hope to journey more deeply with stones and image.
Windows to the Divine
Nearly thirty years ago, Father Ray Ormond my spiritual director, given me a large coffee table book on iconography. He said he had no use for it and as an artist I might like the images. looking at the images immediately, I remembered sitting in the Boston Museum School library studying those same cleverly distorted buildings and landscapes with the wild and glorious shapes and colors.
With the new book in my hands I clumsy tried to copy one of the icons in crude cold acrylics. I began painting one image after another. That next Christmas my friend JJ gave me my first set of dry earth pigments. He said, “Here, teach yourself egg tempera.” I laughed and said “you’re not serious, why egg tempera?” he said, “because it’s your turn!” and so it is.
The Translation and Message
Years of painting has taught and revealed nearly everything I know to be true about God. I understand better how flesh becomes spirit, how eternity works, the difference between soul and consciousness, and the value of breath, mind, light, etc. It is a privilege to be chosen by Vaughan Park Retreat Center. They have given me time uninterrupted to play in this divine dirt as a witness to a world of beauty that belongs to God. I would very much like to share some of the insights after years of experience. Open discussion during the presentation is welcome.
Thursday Vaughan Park Scholars’ Lectures
Sacred Image and its Language
7:00pm – 8:30pm In October 3rd, 10th, 17th and 24th
Deepening our faith through Thought and Image
This four week series promises lively contemporary discussions on Iconography, a tradition that dates back 1,500 years. Miller will be a resident artist with Vaughan Park. The Saturday format will be four power point presentations with question and answer time, to explore the meaning and message of ancient icons and what they have to say about contemporary life. The lecture series will open with Feast Day Icons, follow with the relationship of Mary and Jesus and go forth to include St. Francis, Women in Iconography and new directions in iconography. Mary Jane Miller will represent in October both ancient work, contemporary iconography and parts of her own collections.
The history of Byzantine iconography shaped a good deal of the early church. Its images are the foundation of doctrine and theology for much of the Christian faith today. The origin of the tradition evolved precisely because people could not read or write. The images were painted as a visual language to be contemplated. We will explore how icons are painted as a prayer form and why contemplating ancient image has always been central to religious experience.
About Mary Jane Miller
To register please email
There are extensive Orthodox teachings, manuals of rules, books on pattern and techniques. However, the best teacher is to copy an old icon. The pure energy of love that those early icon posses can and will teach you about God while trying to copy them. In the paint, in the brush strokes and in the color you cannot help but find a world of beauty. If you copy enough icons their shapes, forms, patterns, and harmonies all become important to you. Certain proportions and stylistic signatures the early iconographers all shared, become identifiable within a variety of images. Iconographers throughout the ages have changed the images giving their own expression to the same ideas.
God as Unrealized Potential
The images open and invite us to come close and see with eye in the heart and mind. By familiarizing yourself with early iconography, through silence you begin to see the God who lived in those early iconographers. They wanted to find a way to record Christ’s true message. Their powerful painted images portray and honor the same essence that lives in everything and everyone.
The early Byzantine iconographers painted real presence; their images descend into our hearts and make us yearn for more contact with the divine. Their ancient images endlessly remind and affirm who we are in God. We live in a world of beauty, ongoing and repeating everywhere. The shape, form and thoughts within a icon repeat in my everyday life like a symphony of Gods presents. The discipline of Iconography is a life style, you paint enough of them and you see the world as an icon.
2020 Workshops in the USA Delaware and Florida
I am delighted to meet another iconographers whose work I admire and even more when a student’s icon is unexpectedly fantastic.
There are many websites of teachers, classes, galleries and schools popping up around the world to expose more and more people to this fine and magnificent discipline. I want students to notice that learning to paint an icon reveals a world of beauty. You do not have to paint one skillfully, all you need to do is be still and present enough to get the message they allow us to experience.
What took me twenty eight years to learn; I try and teach in a week. I have a responsibility to honor the tradition which rightfully belongs to God. I hope all students and other iconographers continue to preserve this practice of experimenting the divine through the paint. Our relationship to God shifts and changes with time, like particles of color on a board.
Iconography is a tradition without a ceiling, it is limitless like the mind. One retreat at Vaughan Park Retreat Center is not enough time for deep spiritual work.