Peter Pearson, M.Div., Th.D., a nationally-known iconographer, who has been painting icons for more than 50 years, will speak at the opening of an exhibit, “A Brush With God,” on Thursday, July 1 at the Saint Vincent Gristmill, Beatty Road. The exhibit will feature approximately 25 icons, the works of Pearson as well as some of his best students.
Following the opening, which is from 7 to 9 p.m., with Pearson’s talk to begin at 7:30 p.m., the exhibit will be open Mondays to Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. through July 25. The Gristmill exhibit space can be accessed through the General Store.
Byzantine Iconography is a highly structured and disciplined art form which combines prayer and painting techniques to create serene images of Christ, Mary, the angels and the saints following centuries old guidelines handed down from teacher to student for nearly sixteen hundred years.
Pearson has studied under nearly a dozen master iconographers. He has been teaching iconography throughout the United States and Canada for more than 30 years and has authored three books on the subject. Icons by his hand grace the walls of churches, monasteries, and retreat houses, mainly in North America but have also found their way throughout the world.
“I saw an icon when I was twelve,” he said, “and became interested in it and have been pursuing iconography for 52 years.”
A former monk of Saint Vincent Archabbey, and graduate of Saint Vincent Seminary, Pearson said when he was a novice, “at that time Antiochian Village in Ligonier had an icon studio over there, and I was permitted to go out to study there. I ended up helping with classes there and some other projects in the Pittsburgh area, which has a number of iconographers. Things sort of took off from there.”
He said his favorite subject is “the holy face… what the western Church would call Veronica’s Veil, the face of Christ. Although oftentimes my favorite image is whatever I’m working on at the moment. I frequently have five or six things going on simultaneously.”
While he has painted entire churches, the largest icon he has done is ten by ten feet for a church in Hazelton, Pennsylvania. Two of his works locally are icons of Saint Benedict and Saint Scholastica in the entry to the Mary Mother of Wisdom Mausoleum Chapel at Saint Vincent Cemetery.
Pearson is an organized and accessible teacher and guide in the history, technique, and theology/spirituality behind these ancient images of faith.