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Saint John on the Street

Saint John on the Street

St. John in the Wilderness – 17th Century Russian Pattern

St. John in the Wilderness – 17th Century Russian Pattern

 

I am working on a new icon showing Saint John the Forerunner as a street person in a winged costume.

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In the Wilderness . . .

In the Wilderness . . .

Women's March Passing Beneath My Window

Women’s March Passing Beneath My Window

The “wilderness” of ancient Judea was a place of danger and death, a place to be feared and avoided. It was in that wilderness that John called people to change their lives and prepare the way of God.

With his angel’s wings, John is the immortal messenger moving through time and space, shouting, “In your wilderness, prepare yourself to see God where God is, to do the work of God, here and now!!” John preached repentance/change and the sign for that was washing in the river. The baptism did not just mean cleaning our bodies but also cleaning up our act.

I am not sure, but last week’s marchers may well have been doing just that. The marchers were saying that they would be seriously working to save the environment and make life better for all human beings.

Recently Mother Evelyn here at Saint John’s Cathedral in Denver posed the question: “How do we keep our faith and our dreams when we find ourselves in the wilderness?”

We pray. We help others. We work to save the environment. We march.

And whatever else it takes.

Saint John in the Wilderness

Saint John in the Wilderness

St. John in the Wilderness – 17th Century Russian Pattern

St. John in the Wilderness – 17th Century Russian Pattern

 

Two years ago at the Kanuga Icon conference, a fellow painter introduced me to St. John in the Wilderness. We exchanged print of some of our work. Later he sent me even more information about that somewhat odd icon. I did some research, found an old pattern I liked, printed it out and taped it to my studio wall in Jackson Hole. It stayed there until we moved.

After I got settled in my Denver Studio, I had to ask, “What next?” Many iconographers paint mostly commissions, responding to the needs of their clients. I did not believe that I was up to taking on commissions at this time, but I still needed to determine what to paint next.

I wanted to paint an exhibit – a series of icons that that would tell a story and provide me with an opportunity to examine something in depth – a series that would keep me working until about the time we leave here. The series did not have to be huge, maybe six or eight pieces.

Sitting in The Cathedral of Saint John in the Wilderness in Denver (my new church home), it seemed a “no brainer” to do something about my itch to paint the icon of St. John the Baptist with wings.

When I got home, I rooted around in various boxes in my studio and found that I already had a number of boards that would work just fine for the project.

And so I began.
Holy Wisdom?

Holy Wisdom?

Holy Wisdom / by the hand of Gay Pogue / Acrylic on board / 14 x 11 x 1 inches

Holy Wisdom / by the hand of Gay Pogue / Acrylic on board / 14 x 11 x 1 inches

Holy Wisdom / by the hand of Gay Pogue / Acrylic on board / 14 x 11 x 1 inches

Holy Wisdom / by the hand of Gay Pogue / Acrylic on board / 14 x 11 x 1 inches

 

Two years ago (2014 -2015), when we were homeless and unemployed, we lived out of Ron’s Taurus for four months. We stayed with patient family members and forgiving friends, and in hotels and motels of various sorts. I had a portable “studio” and a few supplies.

While we were with the Tripps outside of Gunnison, Colorado, I finished the icon of the Holy Wisdom that I had begun in Michigan. I had an extra board, but no extra pattern. So, I just painted the same image over again. I tweaked the pattern a bit before putting it on the board. The icon with the blue border was painted first; the gold border, second.

The icon of Holy Wisdom is essentially Jesus as he is imagined to be in heaven — his heavenly transfigured self. It is a controversial icon because Jesus is portrayed without a beard — an androgynous being. That bears some contemplation.

What strikes me is how different they are. Some of the differences were intentional; some were not.

Looking at these has led me to consider what would happen if I took an old icon pattern and intentionally painted it in different ways — not changing the central figure but rather those things that surround it.

Stay tuned.

The Color of the Saints

The Color of the Saints

Icon of Saint Christopher

Saint Christopher / by the hand of Gay Pogue / Acrylic on board / 14 x 11 x 1 inches

Some of you may recall that I have already painted this particular icon of Saint Christopher at an icon workshop led by Suzanne Schleck in the spring of 2015. I especially love the swirls of water echoed in the clothes of St. Christopher and the colorful red sky.

After arriving in Denver, it seemed appropriate to paint the image again as a meditation on how God, the Saints, and the Angels have cared for us and protected us in our moves.

Additionally, I have been meditating on racism, my own and the evidence of it I see in our nation. What can I do to help quiet this beast that attacks us on all sides?

When I paint the images of Jesus, the Saints, and the Angels, I know that I am supposed to project the figures of transfigured beings. But why is it that “transfigured” beings are usually depicted as White, Northern Europeans? Repeating those features and surrounding them with golden haloes does not seem to say that all God’s creatures are beautiful just as they are, no matter what their skin color happens to be.

So. I decided to paint Jesus and Saint Christopher with dark skin. In truth, there is no evidence to say that their skin was otherwise.

May the Peace of God be with you.