Father Joe Dirbas, rector of All Souls, is nothing less than honored to have the exhibition at the church.
“This incredible exhibit of ‘Icons in Transformation’ provides a way for us to offer art to the San Diego community, but it is more than simply an exhibit,” Dirbas said.
The works of Pawlowska are based upon techniques of traditional iconography. As such, the artwork encourages the viewer to look inward and transcend this temporal world as they seek connection with the eternal, explained Dirbas.
Though icons are pieces of art, they are not referred to as painted but rather as written – that's where the "graph" part of iconography comes from.
Dirbas explained that the icon writer, such as Pawlowska, embarks on a spiritual journey of prayer during the writing of an icon.
“The colors selected, the use of shadows, the concentration on the eyes, all of which you will find echoed in her works, contain meaning and are chosen with purpose.
“In this way, these pieces, and the church as a backdrop, invite people to explore and develop their own spirituality as they come to discover who they are as children of God. This exhibit will be transformational for those who visit and add to the spirituality and arts of the All Souls' Point Loma community,” Dirbas said.
The one hundred pieces of original art by Pawlowska will adorn the halls and walls of the sanctuary. She has always been an artist, from her childhood in Russia, where artists and free thinkers were repressed. When she was a young woman, Pawlowska moved to Sweden with her husband 20 years ago where she could paint in peace. Her paintings were of landscapes, florals and scenes from nature.
But when her mother died nearly six years ago, something shifted within her.
“Everything in my life changed. After the funeral, I went back to Russia. I questioned the meaning of life and talked to many priests in Russian monasteries. During that time, all these icons surrounded me. These classic original icons were created by monks centuries ago,” said Pawlowska, whose own religious faith background is ecumenical, including Catholic and Lutheran.
As Pawlowska contemplated her conversations with the priests and spent time gazing at the holy images, she began to consider a contemporary approach to divine art.
“These icons are like poetry without words,” she said. “I wanted to communicate something of that.”
The centuries-old images proved to be a wellspring of fresh images for Pawlowska’s own work.
“You will notice all the eyes in the original icons and in my work. It’s about God watching you, yes, but not the kind that we all think of today, with cameras all around. This is a good thing. God loves you and watches you. He is listening to you. It is a two-sided conversation,” she said.
Pawlowska insists that her work is not really about religion. “They are about developing your own spiritual life and appreciating its mystery,” she said.
“The title of the exhibit, ‘Icons in Transformation,’ is provocative because you can’t change icons. However, the icons can change you.
“Art never really answers questions. It raises more. It’s a journey of searching and seeing. I hope that all who visit the exhibit will receive this message,” she said.
Pawlowska chose All Souls’ Episcopal Church for this two-month installation of her work for the church’s unusual architecture. “It has a very different circular structure. I am inspired by the shape of the sanctuary and the colors of the stained glass. I have created several new pieces just for this church,” she said.
“This is a great cultural event for Point Loma and all of Southern California,” said All Souls’ vestry member Diane Sooy. “We are expecting thousands of people from all over to visit this exhibit.”
When: The opening reception is March 5, from 5 to 8 p.m.
Where: All Souls’ Episcopal Church is located at 1475 Catalina Blvd.
Info: For a calendar of events associated with the exhibit, including an evening to meet and talk with the artist and an icon writing workshop, visit www.iconsSd.com.