Iconography is the culmination of a lifelong search of this fascinating artist to unify her faith life and artistic life. She tried many art forms – landscapes and portraits, sculptures in clay, marble and bronze, stained glass and architectural design. Finally Bess discovered iconography. When she first saw the Vladimir icon of the Theotokos and ever-Virgin Mary, in the Chapel of St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary,she realized that the visual and theological content of that icon was exactly the art form she needed as a Christian artist.
The beauty of Orthodox worship bathed my soul and drew her Wiktionary (this hyperlink) to convert. Stained glass and social service architecture all had good fruits for a heart desiring to serve God, but they were missing the reverence, awe, tradition and prayer that go along with Orthodoxy and the practice of iconography.
Bess’s icons speak to a modern sensibility. Her figures are in the classical tradition but you will not find morbid, pasty-faced saints with their eyeballs rolled back, gazing int the heavens. Her images are strong, peaceful, filled with passion and the love of God.
Bess explains the tradition of icons,
Icons are sacred images meant for liturgical and personal prayer. Veneration means giving profound respect and honor to the person or moment depicted. Orthodox believers only worship Jesus Christ, God the Father and the Holy Spirit. Icons preach in color and pictures what the Bible preaches in sound and words. Icons guide those who venerate them into a closer relationship with God. They provide a focus of attention and a space for communion in prayer.
The icons she paints are done on specially prepared wooden boards. She mixes dry pigments with egg yolk to make colors . The raw pigments come from the minerals in rocks and different colors of clay in the earth. This egg tempera technique has been continued unchanged for at least 16 centuries.