Icon conference at the Rubin Museum

It is my great pleasure to inform you and your students about wonderful academic opportunities this fall related to the RMA exhibition Embodying the Holy: Icons in Eastern Orthodox Christianity and Tibetan Buddhism.

For the first time, the Rubin Museum will be hosting an Icon Conference on October 8 – 9. The conference will bring together an outstanding group of scholars to mark the opening of the Embodying the Holy exhibition. In conjunction with the conference, we are screening eight fascinating films dedicated to the history and visual arts of Eastern Orthodoxy as part of our Lunch Matters series. Combined together, conference, exhibition, and films, provide a dynamic discourse for exploring sacred traditions as expressed through the visual arts.

The Embodying the Holy exhibition compares sacral representations in the Eastern Orthodox Christian and Tibetan Buddhist traditions, juxtaposing Greek, Russian, and Byzantine icons with traditional Tibetan Buddhist thangkas. While the exhibition focuses on a comparative analysis of Tibetan Buddhist imagery and Orthodox Christian icons, the conference and film series cast a wider thematic net.

Phyllis Granoff and Koichi Shinohara, both professors of World Religions at Yale, will draw connections between Chinese and Indian texts and the assimilation of representational imagery into esoteric Buddhist rituals. Tadeusz Skorupski, Director of the SOAS Centre of Buddhist Studies, University of London, explores the evolution of images of the Buddha represented in architecture and painted images.

Looking to Eastern Orthodoxy, Annemarie Weyl Carr, History Emerita at Southern Methodist University, examines the “reinvention” of the Mother of God of Kykkos, a miracle-working Byzantine icon. Applying the interpretative lens of “neuroeasthetics,” Gary Vikan, Director of The Walters Art Museum, explores the icon of Christ Pantokrator (AD 600) proposing that its artist had an innate understanding of human cognitive responses.

This is just a brief sampling of the rich array of Icon Conference topics. In particular, educators and students of art history, comparative religion, and visual literacy will find much more to mine. Personally, I have incorporated the Icon Conference into my own course on religious iconography at Eugene Lang College. I invite you, too, to take advantage of generous incentives provided by the RMA: faculty and students may pre-register for the conference at the discounted rate of $20 and those who purchase a Lunch Matters ticket in advance may do so for $7. Now, and throughout the year, student tickets are very reasonably priced at $2. A guided tour of the Embodying the Holy exhibition is $50.

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