Recently I posted a tile on the Zentangle Mosaic App with the following story:
Armed only with a small (3 1/2 x5”) sketch book, and the tools of my trade, I approached my mission, wholeheartedly. I was hired to find the real reason for these icons. The mission was vague but also interested me. It all began at the Museum of Russian Icons, in central Massachusetts. The fortresslike armory (?) was intimidating, although very beautiful. It must have been a jail of some sort, at some other century. There were cells (albeit lovingly restored) obviously designed for discomfort, surrounding the galleries of this otherwise serene venue. The images on the walls spoke of harsher, more difficult times, where people and their thoughts were imprisoned by religious “rules”. Even performing the sign of the cross in a way not sanctioned, could force them to be imprisoned for life. These were times unthinkable to us as we live our lives now, worrying about things that might cause us to miss our morning coffee. With these thoughts floating through me, I searched the icons for some sort of pattern to help with my mission. The faces of the paintings seemed to look right through me, sad eyes, with no smiles anywhere. I took notes of seemingly meaningless tangled lines, that jumped out at me, hoping that putting them all together would give me some answers. Then it hit me. All the icons were surrounded by simple patterns hammered into metal backgrounds, created by loving hands, almost in spite of the sadness the images projected. I finally found my reason for being there. How these people got through these difficult times: it was the meditation of the patterns. They were there in every image. They knew. . . They knew.
Rick and I had the great good fortune recently of visiting The Museum of Russian Icons, in Clinton Massachusetts.The substantial collection of art is housed in a group of buildings, including a circa 1850's mill building, courthouse and police station. Lovingly restored and presented, this is one man's private collection of icons he started in the 1980's.
We took our time, he with his cameras and I with pens, and my journal, ready to capture any and all tangle-like designs we could find. And then some. . .
All pieces were religious in nature, art that lived in people's homes, not just museums. They were shrines for folks to comfort them, even when they could not be in church.
The Museum is really well organized, with special exhibits and lectures, costs are reasonable. If ever you find yourself in central Massachusetts, it is (my opinion) worth the effort.
And. . . we had a lovely meal afterward at the Clinton Bar and Grill, also worth trying.