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Church's panels tell story of Christ

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  • Bill Samsonoff
    http://www.woodtv.com/Global/story.asp?S=6039371&nav=0Rce Church s panels tell story of Christ JACKSON, Mich. -- Borrowing from centuries-old history, members
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 5, 2007

      Church's panels tell story of Christ

      JACKSON, Mich. -- Borrowing from centuries-old history, members of
      St. Demetrius Orthodox Church have commissioned a piece of historic beauty.

      A painter and a woodcarver are working on icons, or paintings that
      tell the story of Jesus. They were created centuries ago because most
      people could not read. But people could sit in a church pew, look at
      the paintings and learn the story.

      The icons are placed in what is called a "screen," a wood wall bolted
      into the floor of the altar, which divides the congregation from the altar.

      "This is a very visual reminder you are looking at heaven on earth,"
      said the Rev. Dusan Koprivica, who has served the 80-member parish.

      Bill Georgopoulos, a church member, said the artwork "creates a very
      uplifting atmosphere that we'll have for years to come. It is a very
      enriching, comfortable feeling."

      A 10-member committee was formed two years ago during the church's
      50th anniversary celebration to research the cost and find artists.
      The congregation raised $120,000 in one year.

      Constantine Tingas, 60, of Toronto was commissioned in August 2005 to
      build the Byzantine-style screen.

      "We looked at three woodcarvers. His is the most authentic and
      traditional," said Patty Koprivica, the priest's wife and a committee member.

      The screen, carved freehand from bass wood, is 33 feet long and 8
      feet high. The nine "royal arches" in the center are 12 and 14 feet
      high. Only the priest or bishop may walk through the royal arches.
      Others use openings on either side of the screen.

      Tingas said he built the wall in Toronto and transported it in pieces
      to Jackson. He installed it in early December, clearing the way for
      Niculai Enachi, 55, also of Toronto, to add the icons.

      Enachi said he paints them at his Toronto studio and makes the
      finishing touches at the church. Each panel requires at least seven
      layers of gesso, a primer-like application. It is sanded after it
      dries, for the acrylic paint to adhere to.

      Then he sketches the figures on them, paints gold leaf background and
      paints the figures, which range from church martyrs to saints.

      "An iconographer is supposed to paint the face last so you don't
      spill anything on it. But I paint it first because I'm inspired by
      the face," Enachi said.

      For its screen the parish chose Jesus, the Virgin Mary, St. John (a
      patron saint of the church), the archangels Michael and Gabriel, one
      panel with American saints and another of handmaidens.

      Last month, Enachi added final touches to his work, based largely on
      how it looked in all kinds of daylight _ sunny to rainy _ as well as
      evening with artificial lighting.

      "I also have to adjust some colors so they don't conflict with the
      woodcarving," he said.

      The bass wood is very light so he cannot use oranges, and even red
      doesn't show up well. For his purposes, Enachi said, a darker wood is better.

      Jesus is dressed in a garment that the Virgin Mary wears as an inner
      garment. Part of it is red to represent earthly existence, the other
      is blue for heavenly existence.

      "We don't sign our works because we are carrying on a tradition.
      Icons are copies of masterpieces, and we don't have the right to sign
      our work," Enachi said.

      It is an art Enachi has been doing for 30 years.

      "It is nothing you learn in school," he said. "You study your entire
      life. It all depends on what master you work with and who you copy. I
      don't consider myself an artist."

      Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.
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