Cathedral of the Madeleine to host icon workshop

Friday, Feb. 03, 2012
Cathedral of the Madeleine to host icon workshop Photo 1 of 2
Heather Van Zyl holds two works that she painted using the techniques learned in Matthew Garrett's workshop in Billings, Mont., in 2009. IC photo/Christine Young

SALT LAKE CITY — The Cathedral of the Madeleine will host iconographer Deacon Matthew Garrett for an upcoming weeklong workshop at the Cathedral of the Madeleine. Participants will paint the Holy Mandylion during the class; no experience is necessary.

Garrett will give a step-by-step demonstration of the entire process of painting the icon so the participants can watch how it is done and then have the opportunity to try it themselves.

"A lot of times people will have artistic experience, which can actually detract because the process is very different from most Western art," Garrett said. "People with artistic training sometimes have to unlearn certain things in order to do iconography."

Garrett is a member of Saint Seraphim of Sarov Russian Orthodox Churchin Boise, Idaho. He began painting when he was 14 as a summer job in 1991. "Over time I found that I really enjoyed the process and wanted to continue," he said. "In college I arranged my schedule so I could paint during the week and on weekends. When I graduated, I started painting full time."

Garrett graduated in liberal arts with a minor in psychology and a concentration in religious studies from Saint Vincent College in Pennsylvania.

"Iconography is a religious art and is meant to be approached prayerfully," he said. "Icons are a symbolic and theological art; an expression of the Gospel story that God became a human being in the person of Jesus Christ. In the Orthodox church, the Mandylion is about the story of a king who was ill. He sent an artist to find Christ to paint him so he could be cured, but no one could paint his image. So Christ took a cloth and wiped his face and his image appeared on the cloth."

The story is similar to the sixth Station of the Cross in the Catholic Church, in which Veronica wipes the face of Jesus and his image appeared on the cloth.

The icon workshop in Salt Lake was arranged by Heather Van Zyl, a Cathedral of the Madeleine parishioner, who participated in Garrett’s workshop in Billings, Mont., in 2009.

"Every stroke is a prayer," she said, adding that religious music is played in the background while participants paint. "When you have finished the painting, there are prayers that are prayed. The icon is then blessed by a priest and placed on the altar for 40 days so that Our Lord or Our Lady can become a part of it. In my first workshop I painted the Konevitsa Mother of God icon. People who meditate on icons become drawn into them, and that’s when Our Lord or Our Lady can speak to what’s in their heart or on their mind and guide them."

Garrett said some people attend the workshop because they are fascinated with icons and want to see how they are made, while others come for a chance to spend time in prayer and are not sure if they are going to be able to paint anything.

"They want to contemplate the face of Christ," said Garrett. "Most people come away with an experience worth repeating; they enrich their own spirituality."

The workshop will be held April 30 to May 4 at the Cathedral of the Madeleine, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day. The cost of the workshop is $425, with a non-refundable deposit of $200 due by March 1. Class supplies, snacks and lunch will be provided. For registration, contact Lisa Garrett at (208) 921-5585 or at

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