Sr Faith Riccio has been a Sister of the Community of Jesus, in Orleans, Massachusetts for 39 years. The following words are Sr Faith’s reflections on the discipline of icon painting and her workshop experience in April under the direction of Gabriele Wilpers from Essen, Germany:
“As a Sister of the Community of Jesus, I am privileged to paint the icons we use in Emmanuel Chapel, a prayer chapel in our church. I have found the task challenging and rewarding and continue to see so much about God through the painting process. I find creating icons is a way for me to talk with God and find a place near to Him. I often take my frazzled, needy human point of view to work with me and find tenderness, answers and a closeness to God as I work in my studio.
Last April, I had the wonderful opportunity to attend Gabriele Wilpers’ workshop. The focus of the retreat centered around the concept of wabi sabi, the Japanese aesthetic honoring the art of imperfection. Using various painting techniques, Gabriele taught all of us on the retreat to view the imperfect, brokenness and impermanence in a new way; to accept the beauty of imperfection. I was very inspired and touched by the topic of the retreat. Gabriele had an openness and free spirit as she shared about her work and as she shared her belief in the beauty of the flawed. Having had my own share of suffering, I saw her imperfect creations as beautiful; Gabriele celebrated moments of imperfection with golden loveliness. I was encouraged to see a newness within my own work as the retreat progressed.
From my own studio practice, I have found that icons create a place where the imperfect man or woman feels at home with the divine. There is no judgement and there is complete acceptance. Having spent years with icons, I view them as my friends and know of their healing gift to me.
The techniques used in icon painting are very different from those I learned with Gabriele, but the spirit of beauty and the desire to see through the imperfect to the restored life, is dear to me and I see this more clearly now in my art work. All the saints I paint were once human and walked as I do. They had their struggles and hardships and yet they found that path toward God which is filled with light and love, and lived it. As icons, they reveal healed lives and are given to us to encourage and help us in our daily walk. I am grateful to have participated in the workshop.”