Salem said Papas was chosen for the project because his color palette matched that of the iconography in place at the church. He said instead of a hodgepodge of iconography, the church wanted to partner with an experienced iconographer who would be available for other iconography projects in the next 10 to 12 years.
Papas said he created the iconography with acrylic paint in three separate pieces of canvas in his Houston studio.
Orthodox religious leaders say icons are divinely inspired, setting them apart from other artwork.
The colorful depictions — rich with symbolism — are a pictorial history of Christianity, they say. With that in mind, many Orthodox religious leaders prefer to say that icons are “written” rather than “painted.” They say the images are to be understood in a manner similar to Holy Scripture.
As part of his recent project at St. Elijah's, Papas also did some touch-up work to other areas of iconography that were peeling.
Papas and his daughter, Irene, spent about five days working on the iconography project at St. Elijah's, using scaffolding brought in by a local contractor. The scaffolding allowed the pair to affix the iconography to the walls over the altar area about 36 feet high. Salem said the church's dome over the altar area is an additional 12 feet high.
Papas said his work as an iconographer blends his love of art with his love of Christ.
“Every job is unique, and this particular job required some of that blending.”