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Iconographer combines painting with prayer

All Angels gallery will be displaying Christine Hales' icons from April 7 to June 28.

Christine Hales
Christine Hales
Photo by Petra Rivera
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Iconographer Christine Hales’ first icon exhibit on Longboat Key will open April 7 at the All Angels by the Sea Episcopal Church gallery. 

Over 20 Byzantine-style icons painted by Hales will be displayed. 

“Iconography is all about bringing prayer into your art practice,” said Hales. “It brought me closer to God in a new way and allowed me to maintain my prayer practice consistently and on a deeper level. I’m very inspired by the technique of the most famous iconographer, Andrei Rublev. He was all about combining your breath, and your prayer with what you’re doing with your paintbrush.” 

Originally from Boston, Hales graduated from the Massachusetts College of Art and Design with a bachelor's in painting and art education. She got her master's degree in art therapy from the College of New Rochelle. Before discovering iconography, Hales was a contemporary painter.

After their marriage, she and her husband spent time exploring France and England and visiting different monasteries.

“In a convent in France, I met an iconographer named Sister Miriam,” said Hales. “She explained to me about icons and it just changed my whole world. It just seemed to encompass great art. Before that, I was not really floundering, but my direction was not clear. So icons gave me clarity of purpose.”

Icon art by Christine Hales
Courtesy image

Hales began studying iconography in 1994 with private teachers and through her own practice. She specializes in combining traditional Byzantine icons with modern contemporary art and themes.

Hales said that Byzantine iconography started in the sixth century. It uses ancient materials such as dried powdered pigments, gold-leaf gilding and rich, deep color sets. 

Her process starts with prayer and meditation in the morning before she goes to her art studio. She said that reading the Bible and prayer inspires her art daily. She also incorporates current events and situations happening in her everyday life.

“We modern artists have a lot to learn from these icons,” said Hales. “They really encapsulate what I think is all the best in art. What I find challenging for today is that the Byzantine art reflected the needs of the people at that time. So when we copy Byzantine art, we're copying what was important to them. The challenge today is to create icons that reflect what's important to us in the 21st century.”

Hales moved to Sarasota in 2019. Her icons are displayed in churches, colleges and private collections across the country. She wrote a book on the art of iconography titled “Eyes of Fire.” She also teaches iconography classes remotely. 

“This is my first exhibit on Longboat Key so I’m really looking forward to sharing it with everyone there,” said Hales. “I haven’t done a big exhibit of my icons for quite a while here in Sarasota. It is right in time for the Easter season so I want people to be able to take away a feeling of peace and comfort from it. I'd like them to look at everything and walk away feeling really good.”



Petra Rivera

Petra Rivera is the Longboat community reporter. She holds a bachelor’s degree of journalism with an emphasis on reporting and writing from the University of Missouri. Previously, she was a food and drink writer for Vox magazine as well as a reporter for the Columbia Missourian.

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