About the Artist: Bess Chakravarty
Iconography is the culmination of a lifelong search to unify my faith life and artistic life. I have practiced many art forms – as a painter of landscapes and portraits, as a sculptor in clay, marble and bronze, as a maker of stained glass and as an architectural designer – before coming to iconography. When I first saw the Vladimir icon of the Theotokos and ever-Virgin Mary, in the Chapel of St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary, I realized that the visual and theological content of that icon was what I had been trying to create all my life. The beauty of Orthodox worship bathed my soul and drew me to become a convert. Stained glass and social service architecture all had good fruits for a heart desiring to serve God, but they were missing the reverence, awe, tradition and prayer that go along with Orthodoxy and the practice of iconography.
I spent a year at St. Herman’s Theological Seminary in Kodiak, Alaska at the invitation of its then-Dean, Father Michael Oleksa, where I studied the first-year curriculum of seminary students. I felt I needed to learn the proper liturgical use, theological content and context of icons. Daily matins and vespers are among the things I still cherish most from that year. In Alaska, I studied with Daniel Ogan, who had been trained in the Patriarchal School in Moscow, and with Sergei Verchenin, an amazing iconographer from Ulan Ude in Siberia. At St. Vladimir’s I have studied Iconology with Prof. Richard Schneider, Orthodox Spirituality with Father Tom Hopko, and Patristics with Father John Behr. I have done iconography workshops with Protodeacon Nazari Polataiko, Ksenia Pokrovsky, Marek Czarnecki, Heather McKean, and Vladislav Andreiev.
My undergraduate work was at the Pratt Institute in New York where I received a Bachelor of Architecture (B.Arch.) degree. I worked as an Architectural Designer at the Pratt Institute Center for Community and Economic Development designing homeless shelters for men, women and children, housing for the handicapped and elderly, single room occupancy shelters and transitional housing for battered women and their families.
I have painted and sculpted almost continuously since I was 16. I worked by invitation of the Lalit Kala Akademi at the Garhi studio for professional sculptors in New Delhi India, carving marble and casting in bronze by the lost wax process. I worked in a stained glass studio to the level of journeyman painter/glazer at Glass Masters in New York, making reproductions of stained glass pieces for the Cloisters and Metropolitan Museum of Art, as well as making original pieces. I studied drawing and painting at Boston University’s Summer Arts Program for the Fine and Performing Arts at Tanglewood in Lenox, Mass and at Hunter College, NY. Work done at the New School in New York in Chinese brush painting, and drawing with Anthony Tony, have helped my iconography immensely.
I am originally from Plymouth, Mass and have been married to Subrata N. Chakravarty for 40 years. We have two children.