Visiting the Getty: Seeing the Mount Sinai Icons

Visiting the Getty: Seeing the Mount Sinai Icons

Thanks to the generosity of Morgan and Lindsey of California, I was able to visit the Icon Exhibit currently on at the Getty. If you’re interested in seeing more about the exhibition you can go to: http://www.getty.edu/art/exhibitions/icons_sinai/

Today I spent the whole day at the Getty. Going into the exhibition space I had a idea in my head of how the exhibition would look. It was pretty crowded in the late morning and after walking through for the first time I wasn’t really sure what I had seen. The icons were smaller than I expected and many were not built that well. So I left the exhibition and sat in the beautiful garden area for a while (this was especially a treat given that it was +20 degrees out versus the -20 degrees I had left the day before).

I went back twice more during the day and slowly I warmed up to the icons. I realized that the smaller size was an indication that these icons were for private devotion and were gifts from individuals who wanted to offer something to the monastery (unlike the grand, large icons given by kings); there is something very inviting about that genuineness. I also began to make sense of the dates attached to the icons: Recognizing that those icons that didn’t make use of fine materials were created during those centuries when I knew, from my history studies, that times were tough. I also liked this within this perspective.

When I called my wife this evening she knew exactly what had happened, “You needed time to warm up to the icons.” I have often had people coolly accept an icon I have painted for them because I believe the work didn’t match with what they had in their mind. But, usually, when I talk to them later I get a very warm report. The same was true of my visit to the Getty: I needed to have a little time to begin a relationship with the icons.

Half and hour before the gallery closed there were few people left. In fact, at certain moments I had entire rooms filled with these icons to myself. The quiet of the exhibition space allowed for my budding appreciation of these works to blossom. It was a moving experience to visit this exhibition.

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