Monday, January 21, 2008

The Healing Power of Sacred Arts

I'm back in front of my computer after a weekend visit to the 12th century. I was at a workshop with Jed Gibbons. Jed is a Chicago-based designer and craftsman who specializes in illuminated miniatures using historic pigments and techniques.

Years ago, I noticed his workshop at the St. Michael Institute of Sacred Art at Enders Island. This island of sanity is where I first studied iconography with Vladislav Andrejev and then Peter Pearson. I never made it back for the week-long workshop in illuminated miniatures. As it turned out, I wouldn't have to.

This fall, I discovered Jed would be teaching this sacred art form at a nearby parish. There was a weekend option. How could I not register for it? Never mind the convenience factor, I've known for months that it was time for me to get back to spiritual basics. This always means returning to regular prayer and Eucharist, as well as opening myself up to the healing power of sacred arts. I had returned to making music during Advent. Clearly it was time to reenter the sacred through visual arts. (Factoid about me: I studied Art & Design at Rochester Institute of Technology from 1969-1971.)

Jed characterizes his workshop as "transforming the mystery of color into the color of mystery." It was all that and more. It was prayer. It was meditation. And it was community built, in part, through the grace of painting sacred images under a magnifying glass with a 20/0 round brush along with twenty-two other faithful souls. And an over-the-top wonderful potluck lunch.

I had the unexpected blessing of sitting next to a Biblical Studies professor and Coordinator of the Great Spiritual Books Program at the Immaculate Conception Seminary School of Theology at Seton Hall University. We yakked almost nonstop about Scripture, Catholic publishing, Catholic-Jewish reconciliation, the Catholic blogosphere, and myriad other topics which, as far as I am concerned, more than made up for how much I goofed up the landscaping around the depiction of St. John on Patmos.


  1. What a dream weekend, I'm so glad it turned out so well :) Care to impart any wisdom regarding that last paragraph, I'm ALL ears ;) Happy Monday!

  2. Well, the "dream weekend" included having a minor meltdown in the stairwell at one point. Guess I neglected to mention that painting saints is very cathartic.

    As for wisdom, I was treated to a fascinating mini-seminar about Biblical narratives in which someone "calls out" or "cries out" to the Lord and then one about reluctant prophets.


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