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.

 

12 comments to The Color of the Saints

  • EMIL PENA

    Hi Gay, hope you and Ron are well. Emil

  • Geraldine Dellenback

    Beautiful, Gay!
    It has never been the color of skin but knowing someone of color( be it red, tan, black or yellow) that my heart has always seen the beauty of the soul. The color is immaterial! When one gets to know another human being, one forgets that their skin or hertiage is different!

    We are blessed to have a Chinese goddaughter, who is especially lovely! We have a granddaughter from Peru and grandson from Bolivia. They are beautiful human beings and as precious to us as our own blood grandchildren!

    Snow on the valley floor this morning!
    May God bless your day!

  • Barbara Thornton

    I love this icon. The highlights and colors are beautiful! You are a very talented artist.

  • Bobbie Fellers

    Beautifully said. Keep up the good work and words. They are appreciated. Bobbie

  • Alison Jones

    Hi Gay,
    Thank you for your e-letter and picture of your beautiful painting of Jesus and St. Christopher.
    It is nice to hear from you, and to see your photos of rainbows. We also have seen rainbows in the valley
    recently amid clouds, sun, and autumn foliage.
    Our new rector is terrific, as was Ron. We miss you both.
    Love, Alison

  • Leslie

    Hi Gay!!! Thank you for sending this, it’s wonderful and so well said! I heard that you were in the Denver area, I hope you’re enjoying all that great city has to offer. I sure miss you and I hope they all know what a treasure you both are!!

  • I love it, Gay! Such a beautiful sentiment attached to a beautiful icon.

  • Susan Spruce

    This icon is beautiful as are your sentiments.

  • Rev. William Hal Strong

    Hi Gay,

    Your comments remind me of a remark I heard Suzanne Schleck once make at an icon workshop. “When I first started teaching icon workshops,” she said, “my students would ask me why the figures had such dark skin. Now, my students ask me why the figures have such light skins. The color is the same; it is the perception that has changed.”

    When folks ask me about the skin pigmentation of my icons I answer that they reflect the olive-gold complexion of the peoples of the Eastern Mediterranean – the historical birthplace of both Christianity and Christian iconography.

    Since I’ve never made an icon of a contemporary saint I’m not sure how I would handle skin pigmentation for someone with the ivory white and pale pink pigmentation of a Northern European.

    I’m not sure that we don’t preserve some of our earthly identity in heaven. After all, in the icon showing his transfigured state, St. Moses the Black is black.

    For me, my journey seems to be leading me to a deeper and deeper exploration of the cloud of witnesses coming to us from Mother Africa. Rather than taking traditional icons to the tanning salon I am beginning to question why Russian and Greek models of iconography continue to overshadow other models – such as the Coptic and Ethiopian. At this point I have a growing desire to expand my iconological imagination.

    Thanks for indulging my speculations.

    God’s Peace,

    – Dawg

    • Thank you, Dawg. I hope you and your mother are well. As you, I have “a growing desire to expand my iconological imagination.” I have decided this year to paint one icon over and over and explore how the way it is painted matters. We are at The Cathedral of St. John in the Wilderness, so St. John in the Wilderness it is. I had been fascinated by the strangeness of that icon for some time anyway. As I write, I realize that in addition to speculating on the appearance of one who lives in the wilderness, I also need to speculate on the nature of “wilderness.”

      In thinking ahead, I will put Coptic and Ethiopian on my list.

      Gay

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