Sometimes artists create something spontaneously, sometimes from imagination and sometimes they have a detailed plan. A visual artist can tell a story, comment on current events, express psychological drama, or create series of works based on a theme and more. Whichever form their creation takes - paintings, drawings, sculptures, mosaics, murals, icons, etc. - in all cases it is intended for a viewer and they must interact with the art. Even if that interaction is by simply using their sense of sight to view a work.
Well before we get to the beast, let's talk about icons, painted wooden icons. Icons were created to tell stories, venerate persons that had historic significance and more specifically designed to give the viewer a point of contemplation and/or to evoke the presence of 'God.' I mention them specifically because a few years ago I had considered taking a class in icon painting in Kiev, Ukraine. For whatever reason, it didn't happen. So now a few summers later, I've taken up icon painting on my own.
The Legend of Saint Martha and the Tarasque
My first icons depict the the Legend of Saint Martha and the Tarasque. This particular legend was made known through a collection of stories from the 13th century named The Golden Legend. In the legend there is a Tarasque which is a horned, lion-headed, dragon like, half-fish creature and a woman named Martha.
Martha was the sister of Mary Magdalene and Lazarus of biblical fame. Some historical figures are venerated and made saints by various religions. Both the Orthodox, Greek and Roman Catholic religions recognize Martha of Bethany as a saint as do the Anglican and Lutheran religions.
In the legend, the Tarasque has been living in the forest and has been terrorizing the community. Martha wields her power not by slaying the dragon but by taming the beast. She is a role model of what is possible and knows that there are other ways to stop terror. There is no need for violence. That is why I've chosen her story as the subject of my icons.
Charles Lepec from the 1800s illustration
The icons still follow some of the traditional guidelines and techniques but I'm not keeping an strict rules. The first icon that I created is based on an illustration of her story from a medieval manuscript, the second one uses medieval manuscript iconography but is somewhat different and the third in progress puts Martha in another pose.
What do you think of icons? or about myths and legends? Do you think this artform has a role in the 21st Century?
 God, the force whatever that is or isn't to you. It is whatever you want it to be, this article doesn't promote any specific viewpoint. I'm not trying to be politically correct here. Live and let live. Everyone has the right to believe in or not believe in a power that might often be referred to as God. You choose.
The Golden Legend by Jacobus de Voragine
If you want to learn more about Saint Martha check out the following links:
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