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Solo Exhibition- Gallery 21, Norfolk, VA

posted Oct 4, 2019, 7:45 PM by PI Home   [ updated May 14, 2021, 9:29 PM by PI Home ]

Potential Saints 

Petya Evtimova- Ivanova 

Gallery 21, Norfolk 

Opening- 11/23/2019 

Few years ago I was on my way for a wedding in the South-West part of Bulgaria. I am from the North - Central part so, although Bulgaria is a small country, the South-West part of it was still new to me and potentially had secrets yet unrevealed to me. I couldn’t remember who told me about this small and ancient church in an isolated area in the middle of nowhere. Soon, I found myself on a winding road which ended in the small village of Dobarsko just where the mountains start. This is how I got introduced to the many mysteries of the Dobarsko church. My interpretation of that experience inspired the art work that will be presented at Gallery 21 in Norfolk. 

Allow me to share some facts firs- this is a three-naved stone basilica half dug into the ground, constructed no later than 1614 (with some sources claiming as early as 1122) The church is small, about 1720 sq. foot - 27 feet long, 21 feet wide, with a highest part of 17 feet. The wall paintings literally cover every square foot- there are 460 human figures. The most famous, striking and curious fact about the church is a frescoes of Jesus in a spaceship and Mary in a capsule of red light. What stroke me even more was the mystery of having frescoes of more than thirty women-saints! No other Orthodox church has so many female figures like this one. How was this even possible?! Thirty Women – saints in a century when the role of a woman mandated by any institution, religion or culture at that time, was too be at home, caring for the kids and for the household. The fact so amazed me that I did some research about these women. Although I did not manage to find much but the clear fact that they all had similar destinies. They believed in something strong, fought for it and many of them lost their lives…Probably they did this without any idea that one day they will be pronounced Saints. 

My exhibition presents two series - Iconography series and Potential Saints series. Works from the first series are painted on wood with gold leaves and thus reminding of an old Orthodox icons. The second series comprises works made with oil on canvas. 

The paintings are not religious. None of the portraits is related to any physical character. Rather, they are attempted portraits of today’s women – they can be our mothers, grandmothers, relatives, friends or any women around as. The Potential Saints holds portraits in black and white - like an old picture with a glimpse of a documentary. The background is quite the opposite - decorative and reminding us of the old frescoes in churches and saints nimbus. Women of these portraits are powerful, striving to improve themselves and the world around them whilst, at the same time, they are so real and feminine and thus fragile – they are today’s new icons.