One Loveland artist has spent the last decade writing biblical figures into art through the classic practice of iconography.
Barbara Heller, who has lived in Loveland since the early ’80s, now works as an iconographer, writing — the term used for the process — pieces of work for different churches and private collections; religious iconography is described as the practice of translating religious figures, concepts or events into a visual art.
Heller said that she works out of a studio near her house, an artistic situation she described as “perfect.”
She said that, while she found her interest more than 10 years ago, she continues to find a strong passion in her creative work.
“I am one of those lucky people who gets to do what I love,” she said.
So far, do you have a favorite iconography piece you have created?
I have many favorites, but I’ll share (my) top two. The icon I’ve written at least six times is known as “Our Lady of Tenderness.” It depicts a very human scene of an adoring mother cradling her baby while the child grasps his mother’s mantle. Anyone can respond to this loving intimate scene no matter what beliefs they hold. The other icon I hold dear is known as “Holy Angel Hesychia” or the Angel of Contemplation. It is taught that every icon studio should display this icon. I wrote a large Hesychia for my own space during (COVID-19) lockdown. It was like being on an extended retreat.
What were your first steps into the world of iconography?
One day, about 12 years ago, I saw a catalog of mass-produced icons and a strong desire to learn this art form overtook me. I was familiar with Byzantine icons but had never considered delving into the subject. I had no idea how to proceed! Two days later, I was listening to a talk show on Catholic radio and the subject was an upcoming icon workshop to be held in Denver. I ended up attending this intense and grueling six-day workshop at St. Dominic’s in Denver and was hooked. This method of doing art was beautiful, contemplative and prayerful and it called to me.
What is the most difficult aspect of each piece you do, or does it depend on what you are doing?
Besides keeping the studio cat from drinking my rinse water, the most challenging aspect is creating a design for the Paschal (Easter) candles I paint for several Front Range parishes. To create a design with appropriate religious meaning that will look beautiful on a 4- (to) 5-foot tall, 11-inch diameter cylinder is as difficult as it is fun. Knowing that these candles will be not only lit during the Easter Season but also at every baptism and funeral is incredibly humbling.
Why do you find passion in creating iconography?
Iconography is as much a spiritual practice as it is an art form. Prayer and fasting go hand in hand with paint mixing and gilding. In the end, it is using one’s God given talent to, in turn, glorify God and hopefully touch the viewer. It is a gracious way to live and work.
What do you hope others get when viewing your work?
Truth and beauty.
Time in area: Moved to Loveland Aug. 6, 1983.
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