OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) — She works in a medium almost as old as Christianity itself.
“The first icon is attributed to Saint Luke,” says artist Janet Jaime.
Jaime is an iconographer.
She paints with pigments, like ground up malachite first discovered by artists from a different time.
“It’s kind of like alchemy,” she smiles.
Her studies are the saints themselves.
She continues, “You are honoring the person and the life they lived.”
The one she’s working on is Micheal the archangel.
“The big guy,” she states while painting.
A recently completed icon is a more recent example – Saint Nikephoros “The Leper” who died in 1964, and to whom some people are now praying as an intercessor for the coronavirus.
“An icon is the incarnation,” she explains. “It’s personal. It’s not the icon. It’s the person.”
Iconography in the Eastern Orthodox tradition remains an exercise in discipline.
The faces, the surroundings, everything convey a message in symbols.
“An enlarged forehead is knowledge. The ears might be bigger. The mouth is smaller. It’s always closed, silent,” says Jaime.
She was a fashion artist once, drawing and painting from photographs of models.
Now, she works for Orthodox priests.
The Byzantine style is egg tempura on wood panels, working from darkness to light.
“Light is coming from the object instead of falling from it,” she said.
She is alone as she paints, a kind of solitary pursuit she now shares with a lot of fellow Christians.
“We’re all exiles now,” she smiles.
In sad times, in times when the future seems especially dark, and hope far away, we all draw on the symbols we know.
The light from within her icons points to the story of Easter no matter who the saint might be.
‘Don’t worry,’ they say. ‘Do not lament.’
“Every icon is an icon of Christ.”
Hope arrives with every new day.
Janet Jaime, like other iconographers, does not sign any of her paintings.
She and her husband are members of the St. Elijah Orthodox Church in Oklahoma City.
‘Is This a Great State or What?’ is sponsored by WEOKIE.