Icons of Origin


Icons visualize origin. They multitask as history books, anthropological guides, and sacred aesthetics. Icons point to the root of a people’s existence, keeping record of what is held in common.

It is said that icons are ‘written’, not ‘painted’, a nod to the narrative timeline that exists within each one. Something that is ‘written’ has an author, a story-teller. And the stories that are told through icons, all icons without exception, are universal stories of reconciliation between the Seen and the Unseen.

This week The Art Blog brings its readers images from the exhibition ‘Icons of the Desert.’ The icons here are aboriginal paintings from Papunya (Australia), most from a brief project in the 1970’s headed up by teacher Geoffrey Bardon. Bardon’s own interests lay in the process of providing a generation of aboriginal students and elders with art supplies and a simple suggestion that they paint from their own experience and spiritual teachings. Bardon’s genuine compassion for displaced Aboriginal students in urban settings evolved into what has become known as the Australian Aboriginal Art Movement. Read more here.

I cannot help but wonder what the outcome of a similar project within The Episcopal Church would be. Give paint and brushes to Episcopalians, with the suggestion that that they paint from their own experience and spiritual teachings. What do TEC members hold in common and what would it look like if it were written iconically?

On View: Above, Mystery Sand Mosaic, by Shorty Lungkarta Tjungurrayi. Acryllic on board, 1974. In the homepage masthead, left, Mystery Sand Mosaic, by Shorty Lungkarta Tjungurrayi; center, an untitled work by Turkey Tolson Tjupurrula, 1973; right, Pintupi Women’s Bush Tucker Dreaming, by Johnny Scobie Tjapanangka, 1972.

This show has been touring throughout the United States this year, and it is currently open at New York University’s Grey Art Gallery.

Past Posts