Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
April 13, 2009
Students tap into angelic power through icons
Iconographer worked with Vital Grandin pupils as they created icons of Archangels Gabriel and Michael, dedicated them to a loved one
WCR PHOTO | CHRIS MILLER
Vital Grandin Catholic School students proudly show their completed icons of Archangels Gabriel and Michael
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER
ST. ALBERT – Angels are sent to serve individuals and societies, believed to be in charge of the material world, its development and evolution.
Of these heavenly powers, Gabriel (Power of God) and Michael (Who is Like God) are mentioned in the Bible by name.
From November 2008 until the end of March, an iconographer worked with the kindergarten to Grade 6 students at Vital Grandin Catholic School to produce a haloed image of these archangels, Gabriel and Michael.
The school in St. Albert, as part of its 50th anniversary celebration, initiated the project.
Elizabeth Anderson, a music and religion teacher, said that this was an appropriate year to undergo the project because it ties in with their school’s history.
ANNIVERSARY SPIRITUAL PROJECT
“St. Albert School District started in 1863 before Canada went to Confederation. Those women were here teaching already in our first schools.
“So for us to be celebrating anniversaries and remembering our history of the Oblates and the Grey Nuns and the people of faith who have carried on this school district, doing a spiritual project is very special,” said Anderson.
Anderson had never painted before, and was doubtful at first that her icon would turn out as well as it did.
“I experienced time moving in a way that I had never experienced time in my life when I was writing that icon. It was stretched out in such a way that it didn’t seem time was moving, and yet the end of the day would come. It was the most interior kind of time and prayerful time. It was absolutely phenomenal,” she said.
The students shared similar experiences while working on their icons.
“It was very calm and quiet, settling,” said Emilio Bazzarelli.
“When I worked on the icon, I felt more open to God,” said Kasandra Magyar.
Principal Sandra Kordyback said that for a Learning Through the Arts school, this project was a perfect fit. She and the students enjoyed three days of uninterrupted devotion to this creation.
“This was a such a unique prayerful experience,” she said.
Everybody who created an icon dedicated it to someone. Kordyback dedicated hers to her mother, who died when she was still in high school.
Similarly students dedicated theirs to deceased family members and relatives diagnosed with cancer or other ailments.
“I designed a workshop and I wanted to pass it on to children, and one of the ways is in the school system,” said Marianna Savaryn, who has been teaching iconography since 1995.
Of iconography, she said, “It’s a symbolic language. It’s no different than music or any other language that we share.”
Savaryn is educated in the arts and has conducted iconography workshops and given lectures on the subject. She’s had exhibitions at the Muttart Conservatory, Jasper Park Lodge, St. Thomas More College and in numerous group shows.
PAINTING AND PRAYER
“Through the process they learned the technique of painting, and they understand that this is kind of a prayer. We can sing and we can speak a prayer, but we can also paint an icon, and that is another form of prayer,” said Savaryn.
The students used carbon paper to outline a simple archangel image onto a wooden panel, the wood symbolizing the trees in the Garden of Eden and also the cross on which Christ was crucified.
The grain of the wood goes perpendicular, connecting heaven and earth, a direct tie to the archangel.
“We are human, so we need to have some kind of connection to the angel, and that’s why we have this image that has human qualities to it because, really, it isn’t a body, it’s a spirit,” Savaryn explained.
Next, the students applied a base coat of acrylic paint. Then they were given a second, more detailed image, which was again transferred onto the panel. The students used 23-karat gold for the halos.
SYMBOLIC THEMES, COLOURS
“Everything was very symbolic. Gold symbolizes light. It is the highest form of light,” she said. “The paint has the two symbols, water and pigment. Water is a symbol of our Baptism. Colour, of course, is a gift from the old story of the flood, and we are gifted with the rainbow.”
Other symbols used included mountains (prayer going to heaven), circles (represents eternity), fish (the first symbol of Christianity), and ribbons (constant motion of singing the liturgy).
The students completed their artful creations March 24.
A blessing of the icons will take place at the school May 28. At the celebration the children will carry their icons in procession and then place them at the front to be blessed by a priest.
“The blessing is the pinnacle of the whole exercise.
“Of course, when they are blessed, they become sacred objects,” said Savaryn.