The Transcendent Beauty of Icons

The Imaginative Conservative | 12/9/2019 | Michael De Sapio
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While much Western art immerses us in the richness of this world with its spacial and emotional realism, the Eastern Orthodox tradition uses only painted images, with icons of Christ, Mary, and the saints functioning as “windows into heaven,” by way of stylized forms that convey a Platonic ideal of beauty and truth.

We live in an era in which words are routinely diluted of their meaning. One feels the need, especially around Christmas, to go back to the root senses of things, to their primitive origins. Consider the words “icon” and “iconic.” They have been so trivialized and commercialized that one can easily forget their original, concrete meaning in the Christian church—a meaning that becomes clear the minute you walk in a church of the Eastern tradition, where the glow of sacred images dispels the vulgar world outside.

Time - Objectivity - Simplicity - Calm - Timelessness

For a long time I have admired icons—their objectivity, simplicity, calm, and timelessness. I wish they were more frequently seen in our churches. While much Western art immerses us in the richness of this world with its spacial and emotional realism, icons function as “windows into heaven,” with stylized forms that convey a Platonic ideal of beauty and truth.

To gain deeper insight into the aesthetics of icons, I spoke with Christina Kokosari, a young artist in New York City who makes some fine examples. Born in Albania and trained in Greece, Christina now runs a home art studio in Astoria, Queens. While some of her work is secular (including some lovely impressionist landscapes), a good portion is devoted to sacred icons on wood panel or canvas. These grow directly out of her intense Eastern Orthodox faith, which she learned as a child during the waning days of Communism.

Communist - Governments - Albania - Repression - Religion

Of all the Communist governments, Albania’s was particularly ruthless in its repression of religion. Christina’s parents...
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