Meet the Artist: David Giffey – Icons (Now-Jan 2)

Bethel is so blessed to have David Giffey’s exhibit of Icons for the celebration of the Advent and Christmas season. Please enjoy David’s amazing work on display in the Fireside Room and on the Emmaus Gallery Wall.

Wisconsin artist, David Giffey, began life on a Fond du Lac dairy farm. Drafted into the Army in 1964 he served as a combat journalist and photographer in Vietnam. With his return home, David expanded his career interests to the world of art. Living in Austin, Texas he explored painting and made a modest living as an art street vendor. In the course of some 50 years, David studied iconography, traveled to Greece, honed and refined his painting into what it is today. Truly his masterpiece lives right here in Madison at the Assumption Greek Orthodox Church, where he still is painting icons.

For more info about David Giffey, go to:

Artist Statement: 

During a visit to the Eastern Christian monasteries of Greece, I met a blind monk. He was middle-aged, dressed in a traditional black cassock and cylindrical hat with a black veil in back. Each time he entered the church for a service, he venerated all of the icons, bowing before them and sometimes kissing them.

At first, I didn’t realize that he couldn’t see. When I learned that this monk was blind, his actions became phenomenal to me. What was he doing? What was he seeing?

Years later, it occurred to me that the monk’s lack of visual sight was irrelevant. Despite his lack of eyesight, he was very much like the rest of us who may be able to “see,” as we call it, with our eyes. But we also have the ability to imagine, to dream, to form thoughts and ideas, to contemplate and to think about things that we can’t “see.”

Art, like life, is an introduction to the unseen.

Life and work have always seemed inseparable to me. Working as an artist for more than 50 years has helped me to merge life and work. Art also resembles life because it is vast and unpredictable, filled with sorrow, joy, peace, war, uncertainty, anxiety, success, failure. On a material plane, an artist lives with insecurity, while also living and working in a secure certainty of spirit.

Some people say that art is an illusion. There’s truth in that. Visual art, painting, represent the unseen.

Painting an image requires countless artistic decisions beginning with an idea. The artist then must choose materials, wood or canvas, acrylic or oil, design and composition, brushes, light sources, spiritual and mental preparation, and, ultimately, choices about where to apply color with each individual brushstroke. An artist also must decide when a painting is completed, or not.

I’ve painted thousands of pictures. Whether I’ve intended the painting to be elevating or bleak, comforting or challenging, I try to make the painted surface pleasing and honest, in order to make it more accessible to the eye.

For decades I’ve practiced the painting of icons. Even though icons are painted in an ancient traditional style, each icon requires artistic decisions and interpretation. The many venerable figures I’ve painted makes me conscious of the wondrous variety found in humanity. I don’t remember all the thousands of individual images I’ve painted, but I clearly recall the value of their collective presence in my life.

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