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Clinton Museum to Feature Unique Christian Art

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

 

The Museum of Russian Icons in Clinton is hosting a new exhibition entitled "Imaging the Invisible: Angels, Demons, Prayer and Wisdom" through February 2nd. Nearly 60 Russian icons and artifacts from the Museum's collection will be on display, including a mix of new acquisitions and previously unrevealed icons that will make their debut as part of the largest collection of Russian Icons in North America.

Russian icons give us pictorial representations of sacred or holy things, such as biblical stories, historical events important to the history of the Russian Orthodox Church, or portraits of saints or other figures especially esteemed by the Russian Orthodox Church and Christianity in general.

What makes this exhibition particularly unique is the type of iconic artwork that is displayed. As the title suggests, iconic paintings representing "invisible", otherworldly objects and personifications such as "angels" and "demons", or abstract concepts and themes like "prayer" and "wisdom", will be able to be seen. 

"I was curious about images depicting God the Father who is not supposed to be painted in Orthodox Icons," says Laura Garrity-Arquitt, the curator of this exhibit explaining the inspiration for it.

"While I was reading up on the phenomenon of Russians painting God the Father, I encountered many discussions about using symbolism to depict non-corporeal beings and concepts. The information I encountered was so fascinating that I decided to design an exhibition around it all."

Since the paintings are designed to represent the "intangible", a great deal of creativity and use of symbolism by the iconographer is necessary to define the imprecise nature of the subjects involved. This gives iconic imagery a certain power to awe and inspire those who choose to view it.

"It is one thing to paint an image of a Saint who lived and had a physical description, it's quite another to sit down and try to paint the Wisdom of God, or a Prayer to the Mother of God," says Garrity-Arquitt.

A few examples of the iconic paintings on display include a famous depiction of Christ entitled Christ Pantocrator, or God Rested on the Seventh Day, depicting God the Father resting on a bed, and Descent, which depicts a popular symbolic representation of Paradise and Christ rescuing figures from Hell.

In addition, there is a set of four icons that together make up a prayer to the Mother of God. A set of prayer icons like this are extraordinarily rare, as they are often separated from each other at auction.

The ages of the objects and artwork in the Museum range from a few hundred to almost one thousand years old, with the oldest icon dating back to 1450.

There is more to the art than just the mere images represented, reminds the Curator. They together represent  a culture and a history. Indeed, the main goal of the Museum itself is to get this point across and, in the process, help relations between Russia and the United States through understanding and cultural exchange.

"Many of the icons and images in this exhibit stray from the path that the other Orthodox churches followed. These icons came from the Russian people and the mission of the museum is to essentially build a cultural bridge between Russia and the United States. The best way to do that is to teach about the Russian People."

In order to understand a people, one must understand their beliefs and how they express said beliefs, which gives icons a particular power to help us learn.

"The best way to teach a culture is through artwork and faith, the Icons are an amazing teaching tool," according to Garrity-Arquitt.

The Museum of Russian Icons is located 203 Union Street in Clinton. The Museum's visiting hours are 11 am-3 pm Tuesday through Friday, and 9 am-3 pm on Saturday. For more information, click here.

 

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