Wednesday, March 6, 2013

INSPIRE ME! Artist Christina Saj

I hope to inspire a spiritual connection.
"LastSupper" oil on canvas 54x72
By Ernest Disney-Britton

We are excited to introduce you to Christina Saj, our A&O INSPIRE ME! Artist of the Month for March 2013. Christina is a painter who lives in New Jersey, and who is always exhibiting somewhere in the NYC area. When she isn't exhibiting, she's curating or creating. Her love of God is reflected in her use of vibrant living colors. Her work is traditional and progressive. Her work looks to the past, present and future all at the same time. Christina's paintings are such an inspiring display of spiritual light and color that we couldn't wait to share them with you!
Christina Saj
1. What is your faith tradition, and how did you develop into an artist who explores religion? I am Byzantine Catholic. I grew up surrounded by icons, and when in the pursuit of embracing and mastering traditional art techniques in school it seemed natural to learn egg tempera when I had the chance. While in college, I had a chance to study with noted Ukrainian iconographer Petro Cholodny the Younger. 
"Archangel" mixed media and leaf on panel 14 x 11
2. How do you describe your artwork? What style or genre is it? I am a painter. My work is contemporary and abstract, but deeply rooted in tradition. I work in a variety of media, in rich jewel tones featuring familiar stories and symbols. The works are often based on traditional prototypes of byzantine icons, but rendered to reflect sensibilities of the age in which it was made.
"Archangel" 6x6 egg tempera and gold leaf on panel
3. Have you ever had to defend exploring/engaging religious themes? The contemporary art world often takes a cynical view of work created within the confines of traditional boundaries. Although the work breaks significantly from Byzantine prototypes, it is done from a respectful place and has found its way to faithful communities. This makes people nervous.
"Seraphim" 8x8 mixed media on panel
4. What do your collectors say about your work? They are supportive, engaged and understand the importance of the delicate balance required in creating objects of beauty imbued with potent messages. They encourage me to keep working.
"Annunciation (diptych)" 18 x 36 mixed media and gold leaf on panels
5. Who would you like to collect your work, and why? I want my collectors to have an understanding of where it comes from, to remember the ancient examples that inspire the work, but to appreciate and enjoy its modernity, to delight in the pure and decorative aspects of the painting as well as it’s subject. I hope to inspire a spiritual connection for them.
"Hope" 10 X 8 mixed media on panel with gold leaf
6. What other artists have influenced your work? My teacher Petro Cholodny (See below), a contemporary iconographer who provided a living example of a working artist. That said, I love the modernists. As a product of the 20th century it is impossible not to feel the influences of the Picasso, Matisse, Paul Klee, & Kandinsky. Their use of color and space actually relates quite specifically to how traditional icons are painted.
"Mother and Child" by Petro Cholodny the Younger
7. How can A&O readers collect your work? You can always visit my website to see examples of my work, find current listings of upcoming exhibits and galleries featuring my work at www.ChristinaSaj.com
"Mother of the Sign" mixed media on panel 12” x 12”
IN CLOSING, I met Christina Saj on Twitter, and immediately fell for the powerfully vibrant and colorful messages. Her 2013 calendar "Angels" even hangs in our home. You too can follow her on Twitter @Christinasaj. Do you know someone else who should be added to the A&O Roster of American Religious Artists? Invite them to make a submission online this month at INSPIRE ME!