Meet the deacon iconographer

Meet the deacon iconographer September 16, 2011

Imagine my surprise when I stumbled on this engaging and interesting piece, about a Friend of the Bench (FOB), Deacon Charles Rohrbacher, and his daughter, Phoebe, both artists based in Alaska who have shows opening later this year:

About 10 years ago, Charles, with the help of his father and other friends, stripped his garage down to the beams and built a heated room with lots of lights to serve as his studio. There are flat files, books and drawers that help the Deacon stay organized. It’s here that he makes his own egg tempera paint from a powder.

“The advantage of tempera paint is you can paint rather transparently,” Charles said.

Charles came to Juneau in 1982 from San Francisco and married his wife, Paula, a Jesuit volunteer.

He had always done art, including woodcuts, relief prints and drawings, but he became interested in iconography when he realized he could bring his faith and his art together.

In icon paintings, the artist is not supposed to be represented. Icons are meant to be a locus for prayer and, as such, belong to the church.

They have certain general characteristics that distinguish them from religious paintings: their lines are deliberately frontal, and they often have halos and inscriptions. Icons are designed to get past linguistics and draw the viewer in, becoming a still point in a tumultuous world.

Charles had the opportunity to study abroad on three separate occasions with the great iconic artist Egon Sendler, a Byzantine Catholic priest. He also studied with about 25 other iconographers in Évian-les-Bains, on the south shore of Lake Geneva.

“I showered in Evian water,” he joked.

In addition to technical direction, he says the experience introduced him to other iconographers, which was very confirming, and a testament to the iconographer explosion that has occurred in the last 20 years.

He’s painted hundreds of pieces for Catholic, Orthodox and Byzantine Catholic churches, including many private commissions.

Charles just became a member of the Juneau Artists Gallery cooperative and has a show scheduled in November at the Canvas featuring the original artwork from his soon to be released book “The Illuminated Easter Proclamation.” It is being released by Liturgical Press and has been 10 years in the making.

There’s much more about Charles, his daughter, and his wife Paula (a frequent commenter here!)  Check it out.

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6 responses to “Meet the deacon iconographer”

  1. It’s so great to see this! I was honored to serve Charles and Paula as their retreat director prior to his ordination. I was actually with him in his studio!

    God bless,

    Deacon Bill

  2. I was actually with him in his studio!

    Posing?? Is there a Deacon Bill icon in the works?? 😉

  3. Saint William of Monterey? Or maybe Saint William of Tampa? or what about Saint William of Washington DC.

    Let me tell you something .. ask him where the good Mexican-American restaurants in Monterey are !

    I know two priests from Eastern Europe who are ready and willing to sing his praises !

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