At the London Arts-Based Research Centre International Conference “Divine Art: Iconography, Ekphrasis and Archaeology”

Such an honor to be participating in the London Arts-Based Research Centre (LABRC) International Conference “Divine Art: Iconography, Ekphrasis, and Archaeology”, Birkbeck, University of London.

My presentation is entitled “The Eyes Have It: Iconography and War Memory”.

Throughout history, theologians, art historians, and iconographers have written extensively about the symbolism of eyes in Christian iconography. St. John of Damascus believed that the eyes in icons represented Christ’s divine and human nature. Xenia Pokrovsky saw the eyes as a mirror of the soul, a source of light and life, and the symbol of the highest power of the spirit. Leonid Ouspensky emphasized the importance of the direction and color of the gaze in icons. He believed that the eyes served as a portal to the spiritual realm and conveyed the divine power and presence of the figure depicted in the icon. By using the eyes to create a personal connection with the viewer, icons became an embodiment of the divine, inviting the viewer into a direct experience of the sacred.
The eyes have been used symbolically throughout history across different disciplines and cultures. In Edward Lucie-Smith’s book “The Spiritual in Art,” he writes about how eyes are frequently used in modern art as symbols of vision, insight, or spiritual seeing. In “The Eye of the Lynx,” David Freedberg discusses how eyes are used in natural history illustrations to represent the act of looking and seeing. In his essay on Egyptian religion, Erik Hornung writes about the symbolic importance of the eye of Horus as a source of healing power that symbolizes the light of the sun and the life-giving forces of nature. In “Pictures and Tears,” James Elkins discusses the emotional power of icons and the role of the eyes in conveying that power. He argues that the eyes in icons can evoke a strong emotional response from the viewer and create a sense of engagement and connection between the viewer and the icon’s subject. Overall, the symbolic significance of the eyes lies in their ability to convey both physical and spiritual seeing, to create a sense of intimacy and connection, and to evoke deep, primal emotions that are universal across time and space.
My recent collections of integrated iconography artworks depict scattered elements of women torn by the vicious cycle of physical and psychological war and give shape to the absence, the missing, the unspoken, and the disintegrated. The focus of my ‘icons’ is on the eyes, which represent the spiritual window or gateway to the soul, and sublimate reality while transforming immutable darkness into transitory realms.

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