The new Walsh Gallery art exhibit, “Windows to Heaven,” opened its doors on Sept. 14, with the official gallery opening on Sept. 16.
“Windows to Heaven” explores icons used in the Byzantine Church and was collaboratively curated by Seton Hall graduate students Sasha Makuka and Allison Stevens. They are required to curate a show in the Walsh Gallery as part of their training.
The exhibit gets its name from the Byzantine belief that icons are direct links to divine beings.
“They view [icons] as visual scriptures,” Stevens said. “A painted image is equivalent to the Word from the Bible.”
Thus, icons are considered, contrary to Western thought, to be written rather than painted. Because of this, small differences in the icons become incredibly important.
Visitors to the gallery will notice similarities in the groupings – eerie if they do not understand the reading behind them.
“The artists don’t take artistic liberty,” Makuka said. “They don’t think of themselves as artists, so when they paint they try to replicate an icon of that particular saint from before. So, no matter when they’re painted, they all look the same, or very similar.”
Makuka explained how the gallery is split into sections.
“It begins with the Holy Trinity, then moves to the Virgin Mary. We have Christ icons, St. Nicholas icons, and ones for important feast days in the church. In the center section we have icons that can be found in the typical Byzantine home. Then we move to icons that are found within the church during a church service.”
Most of the icons featured in the exhibition are from the 19th and 20th centuries from countries around the world, including Egypt, Poland and Russia.
“It’s for people who like art and for people who like history,” Makuka said. “We have both in here.”
Stevens continued to explain that the historical, educational gallery isn’t just for followers of the Byzantine Rite, but it’s an artistic outreach to the entire campus community.
“Windows to Heaven” will be on display until Oct. 16 in Walsh Gallery, with “Journey to the Holy Icon,” a special conference concerning the exhibition, scheduled from 10 a.m. to noon on Oct. 10, in the gallery.
Bonnie Falconer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.