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PICTURED PRAYERS: "Iconographer" brings ancient religious art to Columbia

"Prayer offered through images," icons date back to early Eastern Christianity 
 
COLUMBIA, 4/8/12  (Beat Byte) -- "Icon" comes from a Greek word meaning "image, figure, or representation," explains a Columbia artist who has brought the ancient art of icon design and creation -- iconography -- to 21st century mid-Missouri. 
 
Originating with early eastern Christians, sacred icons "go beyond a simple picture," explains Rebecca Ruppar.  "An icon of Christ, the Blessed Mother, or the saints draws in the gaze of the viewer, moving the person beyond the artwork into prayer and contemplation of the Divine." 

From her Columbia-based studio, Ruppar uses a "process which has been passed down through the centuries" to create icons, some showing images of saints, Christ, and the Blessed Mother; others more abstract. 
 
"The iconographer is guided by strict theological, aesthetic, and liturgical rules to produce an icon rich in symbolism and eternal truth," she explains.   "It is a method involving prayer, meditation, fasting, and study. The iconographer seeks to bridge the material and spiritual realms, using techniques of abstraction and conscious distortion in order to make visible what is normally regarded as invisible and beyond our understanding."
 
Though it sounds complex, the idea is simple:  what the New Testament is to the written word, icons are to pictures and images.  So literal is the translation that Ruppar describes the process, not as painting or sculpting or shaping, but as writing, with strong hints of creative calligraphy, another Greek word that means "beautiful writing." 
 
"Each icon is written on a birch wood panel which has been prepared with layers of gesso and linen," Ruppar explains.  Gesso is a chalky binding material.    The rest of the process sounds like a combination of Picasso and print. 
 
"The images are hand painted in acrylic gouache, and gold leaf is applied and hand tooled with close attention to detail.  The entire icon is sealed with a protective finish." 

Now living in Columbia with her husband and two sons, Ruppar wrote a Master's degree thesis about the relationship of faith to contemporary art.  She also holds Bachelor's degrees in Theology and Fine Arts-Art History from Saint Louis University, and studied iconography in Belgium.  
 
Ruppar takes commissions for home, school, church and office and she sells greeting cards online.   She can be contacted at 573-340-3315 or rebecca at sacrediconography.com.  
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