Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
June 7, 2010
Marian treasures revealed at exhibit
New curator discovers stacks of portraits and icons of Mary stashed in storage rooms at Basilian Fathers Museum
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER
Mary, the Mother of God, is venerated in the Ukrainian Catholic Church more than any other saint. She is in every Ukrainian church and throughout May, the month of Mary, people say special evening prayers in her honour.
Now the Basilian Fathers Museum in Mundare is also honouring Mary with a temporary exhibit called Images of Mary, containing some 30 icons and religious prints.
Karen Lemiski, the museum's curator since April 2009, says all of the icons and prints have been in the museum's extensive collection for decades, but few have seen them. Some have not even been catalogued yet.
"I came across piles and stacks of these icons in (our) storage rooms."
The exhibit opened in late April and the response has been so amazing, "we are actually going to keep it up through the summer," Lemiski said. "So it'll probably stay up until September or October."
The images on display at the museum's main conference room portray Mary as the Mother of God in three of the four primary poses of traditional iconography:
The Hodegetria style, which depicts Mary holding the Divine Child at her side while gesturing to him as a source of salvation;
The Eleusa style, which portrays Mary in a more personal and affectionate manner;
The Orans style, which shows Mary holding her arms outwardly in prayer.
The Throne of Wisdom is seen in an icon of Mary with St. Anne.
200 PLUS VARIATIONS
"Within those four categories of poses there are over 200 variations," Lemiski says.
The five largest icons on the exhibit are from local Ukrainian churches, three of them painted by renowned artists/iconographers Julian Buchmaniuk, Peter Lipinski and Modest Sosenko.
The smaller prints on display are mostly donations from pioneer families.
In traditional eastern iconography, Mary wears a cape-like veil (maphorion) that covers her upper forehead and all of her hair. This is in contrast to western religious art in which Mary's hair frequently shows beneath the veil or is sometimes completely uncovered.
ROMAN CATHOLIC INFLUENCE
Several of the images on display are western or Roman Catholic in style, reflecting the influence of the Roman Catholic Church on the early Ukrainian pioneers.
Lemiski said they are included in the exhibit "as a reflection of the close relationship between the Roman Catholic and the Ukrainian Catholic churches during the early years of settlement."
"So for example the pictures of the Immaculate Heart of Mary - that's not something that you will find in a Ukrainian Church traditionally," Lemiski said. "Or, we have Our Lady of the Rosary or Our Lady of Mount Carmel on display here.
"Those are western or Roman Catholic depictions of Mary, but the pioneers became acquainted with them through their contact with the Roman Catholic priests before the Ukrainian Church was really established."
Lemiski seems fascinated by the elaborate framing of some of the prints. "(It seems) they wanted to emphasize how important Mary was to them by putting a good frame and an elaborate frame around this print of her," she said gesturing to a print.
"You see some of them where they put moulding after moulding to make the picture grand."
Lemiski also points to a print where the pioneers "actually painted on the inside of the glass with a strike of gold to enhance it, to make it more beautiful for Mary."
A HUMAN MARY
The curator then motions to a large icon of the Orans variety painted by Modest Sosenko in early 1912 for Mundare's Sts. Peter and Paul Church.
"When I was putting together the exhibit, (I found) this one by Sosenko," she says. "It seems so dark and so gloomy when we are so used to vibrant colours to have this one.
"When you look at one of the others this isn't the most appealing, but it's so human of Mary."
Sosenko's icon, which Lemiski describes as Mary for Protection, depicts "very typical Ukrainian peasants, pioneers of the area, the costumes, the early priest and the bishop (praying at the feet of Mary)."
The Basilian Fathers Museum has a much longer history than many of Alberta's museums and attracts several thousand visitors annually.
It began to take form in 1953 and was officially opened in 1957. In 1991, to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Ukrainian settlement in Canada, the Basilian Fathers built an attractive new museum housing an impressive collection of religious and Ukrainian folk artifacts.
The museum is open year round, weekdays 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., summer weekends 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.
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