The following is an interview of Suzanne Debold. Suzanne Debold is a long time member of the Emmanuel Community and an artist. She dedicates her time to her family, her art and other work involving her God given talent of painting and icon writing. She is a beautiful woman filled with the love of Christ and the fire of evangelization. Read below to find out more about our sister and wonderfully talented friend, Suz.
Tell us a little about yourself?
Well, I’m a mom, a wife, and an artist. I feel very blessed to have it “all”; as St. Therese said “I choose all.” I live in Brooklyn, NY with my husband and daughter. I work as a scenic artist in the the film and television business when I’m not working on an icon. My husband and I both enjoy our artistic freelance schedules so we can share being home with our daughter Pia.
When did you realize you wanted to be an artist?
Actually, it was 1st grade.
Can you tell us a little bit about your faith life? Did you grow up Catholic? Has the faith always been a central part of your life?
I was raised catholic and like many left the sacraments when I left home to attend university. Although I wasn’t practicing my Catholicism I did feel the grace of the sacraments I had received in my youth and this I know, kept me from wandering too far. It almost seems that the mark of Baptism allows God to guide us and take care not to lose sight of us until finally we return to Him. I returned to Mass in my early twenties and it really was an encounter with the living Christ in the Eucharist that sealed the deal. The journey continues, “ever ancient ever new “- St. Augustine.
Tell us about your journey with the Emmanuel Community?
My journey with the Emmanuel Community (EC) began in 1996 during World Youth Day in Paris. I was told about EC from the community where I learned to paint icons. After a period of discernment to religious life I knew being a part of a lay religious community was vital for me. I found the deeper commitment I was seeking reflected in the lives of the members of Emmanuel. The community members loved daily Mass and Adoration and were driven to share their faith . In Emmanuel I also found priests, consecrated brothers, sisters and families that lived out their vocations with depth and joy.
What made you start painting icons?
In my twenties I took a vow of silence and lived in a monastery for a year with an order of Carthusian nuns. The silence was difficult yet beautiful; it yielded many fruits. It was through silence that I realized the beauty of icons. They were no longer mere works of art, but ‘Channels of Grace’ and ‘Windows on Eternity’. Icons were all around me: in the cloister, the chapel, and in my cell. I remember a sense of awe as I gazed at their simple and quiet presence. The icons helped me to recollect my wandering mind and to direct towards prayer and contemplation.
What attracts you to iconography?
During this year of silence I learned to paint (or write) icons. As a trained artist, I learned to forget the self-expression that I was taught in art school and became a faithful adherent to the traditions of iconography, especially the Russian tradition of the beginning of the 15th century. The Russian masters of this period seemed to write their icons with light, shaping color and form to create a Divine silence that “invited the viewer to encounter and celebrate communion.” It is precisely this silence that I try to recreate with each icon I paint.
What else have you done as an artist in recent years?
In addition to painting icons I’ve also been commissioned to design sacred spaces and chapels both in the U.S, and Europe. I see these projects (and icon commissions) as a collaborative effort with the larger community of the Church.
What are your plans for the future in regards to your art?
A small part of me would love to study more. I’ve heard of universities in Rome and other places which offer degrees in sacred art , liturgy etc. I feel I’d be better prepared and more helpful in creating art for larger churches. However, in the near future I’d like to continue painting icons and building our little family business which sells prints of icons. We love icons and wish they were a more present, familiar and accessible part of the Roman Rite. We make beautiful prints and mount them on wood. I think everyone should have an icon!
For more information on Suzanne Debold, her art and how to order prints, please visit her website at www.silenticon.net