One day last week I got a phone call from a woman who had taken an icon workshop from me several years ago. She had since attended workshops with four other instructors, and was hoping to return for another class with me. I was humbled by her request, but had to tell her I was no longer teaching iconography. She asked if I could recommend a teacher. She already knew the first two or three names I mentioned, but there was one more name I couldn’t remember at the time. I told her I’d look it up and get back with her.
I was surprised and saddened to learn that the iconographer I was seeking—Ksenia Pokrovsky—had fallen asleep in the Lord on July 7, 2013.(I got chills when I first read that date. It was the day of my life-threatening car wreck last summer. ) You can watch Pokrovsky teaching iconography in this video.
But when I read “Place Keepers”—a beautiful tribute to Pokrovsky by one of her students, her assistant instructor, Marek Czarneki—I was saddened even more that I had never studied under her. When asked by students where they can find “canons” about iconography, Czarneki tells them:
The best place, if you are lucky enough, is to have a living canon in front of you, in the life and example of your teacher. It’s not in any book, or any one icon, but synthesized in the reality of a human being. Ksenia was my canon.
Pokrovsky encouraged her students to jump over her, to stand on her shoulders to achieve greater heights. And if they couldn’t go higher, they should at least be “place savers.” She said everyone should leave the pathway better for the next person who travels that way.
Read the whole article for more inspirational thoughts… I’ve only scratched the surface here. And I think Pokrovsky’s approach to iconography could apply to many of our pursuits in life—especially in the realms of art and spirituality.
So, as I’m writing this post seven months to the day after her death, I’m thankful for her life. For the living canon she was. May her memory be eternal.