Signs of the sacred: Oklahoma workshop focuses on creating religious imagery

Oklahoma City couple Rodica Focseneanu Cunningham and Christopher Cunningham recently conducted an iconography workshop at St. Gregory’s University in Shawnee.
by Carla Hinton Modified: July 18, 2014 at 2:23 pm •  Published: July 19, 2014


photo - 
Religious icons created during the “Sacred Images: Icons on Glass” worskhop are displayed during a blessing of the icons ceremony and reception at St. Gregory’s University in Shawnee. Photo by Chris Landsberger, The Oklahoman
  CHRIS LANDSBERGER -
Religious icons created during the “Sacred Images: Icons on Glass” worskhop are displayed during a blessing of the icons ceremony and reception at St. Gregory’s University in Shawnee. Photo by Chris Landsberger, The Oklahoman CHRIS LANDSBERGER -

It was the delicate details and vivid colors of the iconography that captured her attention:

the expressive eyes of Mary, the mother of Jesus.

the deep purple of the grapes hanging on a vine.

the majestic glory symbolized by the pure gold leaf used to create the halos depicted in the religious imagery.

As a teen growing up in Romania, Rodica Focseneanu Cunningham watched with fascination as her grandmother created religious icons with a measured balance of skill and patience.

These days, Cunningham and her husband, Christopher, convey the same expertise as they teach others the techniques she learned all those years ago in her native land.

The Oklahoma City couple recently conducted an iconography workshop at St. Gregory’s University, 1900 W MacArthur. The pair also have taught similar workshops at local churches including St. George Greek Orthodox Church, 2101 NW 145.

At the recent two-week workshop at St. Gregory’s, students learned various techniques aimed at creating reversed glass icons, including how to mix the egg tempura paint, how to use fresh garlic to apply the gold leaf and how to layer the paint over several days to produce the right color.

A blessing of the icons ceremony was held at the conclusion of the workshop. About 25 people gathered as the Rev. Nicholas Ast blessed the icons that had been created during the workshop by students including Sarah Morris and Mireille Damicone. Ast also blessed other icons on display that were previously created by the Cunninghams.

“Each day was a joy,” Damicone, a Stillwater artist, said of the workshop. “I definitely wanted to learn the tradition of the egg tempura, because it’s not something that they teach anymore. I felt like I was studying with a master, plus you don’t see this type of art every day.”

Rich with meaning

Rodica Cunningham, 41, said she grew up in Communist Romania at a time when her family kept its Orthodox Christian faith a closely held secret. She said she remembers her grandmother checking her out of school under the pretense of taking her to the doctor — and taking her to a church instead.

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by Carla Hinton
Religion Editor
Carla Hinton, an Oklahoma City native, joined The Oklahoman in 1986 as a National Society of Newspaper Editors minority intern. She began reporting full-time for The Oklahoman two years later and has served as a beat writer covering a wide...
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To learn more

For more information about the iconography created by Rodica Focseneanu Cunningham and Christopher Cunningham, go to www.iconsbyrc.com.

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