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May 14, 2018 | Paulette E. Martin

Icons in Transformation Exhibit Inspires Hope and Wonder to Visitors

Walking through the long entry way at St. Thomas the Apostle, Nassau Bay, one can’t help but be in awe of the colorful and captivating art pieces hanging from the ceiling and on the walls. In the foyer, a huge contemporary crown of thorns shimmers in azure and gold and beyond four-by eight-foot panels hang above the pews inside the church with other, smaller pieces displayed on the surrounding walls.

The Icons in Transformation exhibition features more than 150 pieces by Russian-born abstract expressionist Ludmila Pawlowska. The art invites meditation on the nature of the religious image in a life of faith and creativity.

“It’s like an extension of the Menil Collection,” said the Rev. Mike D. Stone, rector of St. Thomas the Apostle. “It’s never a dull moment here.”

Pawlowska’s paintings and installations were created over a decade and include traditional icons painted by the monks of Vassilevsky Monastery in Suzdal, Russia as a counterpoint to her contemporary images.

Icons in Transformation began in Sweden in 1988 and has been exhibited at more than 100 venues in Europe and the U.S.

Much of Pawlowska’s inspiration began after her mother’s sudden death in 1971.

“Since then, I have been able to work through the sorrow with the help of my painting,” Pawlowska said. “My heart was moved to seek new direction because my mother´s guidance was taken from me. I needed to look forward, yet was caught between the space of life and death. My art [has provided] both solace and energy.”                                                                                 

According to Pawlowska, Icons in Transformation reflects the language of the Divine and is a contemporary approach to traditional icons.

The icon became a source of inspiration, of unconditional love, of a new way of seeing the divine,” Pawlowska said.

Stone feels fortunate to host the exhibit. “Each time I enter the church,” he said, “I see something different. The lighting and mood changes the interaction you have with this art.”

And that’s exactly what Pawlowska wanted.

“It is an opportunity to search for self-knowledge and to see into the eyes of the art, a mirror of your soul,” Pawlowska said. “You might find something behind my images that will reach you and bring hope.”

Susan Manville, member at St. Thomas the Apostle for 35 years describes the exhibition as awe-inspiring and hopes others who visit the church feel the same way she does.

Icons in Transformationhave transformed an already very spiritual space into a space that can truly fill your soul with peace and wonder,” she added.

Symbolism of colors play a major part in Icons in Transformation, as shades of blues, reds and gold are prominent in most pieces.

For Pawlowska, blue represents the color of the sky and the mystery of divine life; red symbolizes life—the life that Christ gave humanity by shedding of his blood; and gold signifies divine light.

Icons in Transformation will be on display through August 10. Docent-guided tours are available Saturdays and Sundays from 2 -5 p.m. and the first Wednesday of each month from 10 a.m. – 12 p.m. and 6 – 8 p.m. Admission is free. Stone encourages churches to bring groups to see the exhibit or simply come on your own to enjoy the experience.

Events throughout the summer will also allow guests to learn more about icons: a concert with Grammy-nominated lutenist, Ronn McFarlane and an Icon Writing Workshop.

For further details, visit

To view a picture gallery of the exhibition, click here.