NOTE: This feature was posted on the original Icons of Kemet Blogger blog on Sunday, December 28, 2014.
My icons are not art in the conventional, contemporary sense. In fact, it may astonish some when I say that the purpose or function of my icons is not to be looked at or seen, but rather to serve as a house or vehicle for the deity portrayed, allowing the deity to take residence in our world in an image that can receive cult offerings and stand as a portal through which the goddess or god can enter our world.
Many of what we regard as art masterpieces of ancient Egypt were never intended to be seen by human eyes once they were sealed away in the tomb, and the cult statues of the Gods were not viewed publicly, but only in the exclusivity of the Temple environment.
My icons are composed of precious natural minerals, pure gold and semi precious and precious stones, and are thus suitable houses for the essences of the Gods to dwell inside. Once installed in Temple or shrine, the icons I create are seen in a ritual context only, receive cult offerings and worship, and function on a wholly metaphysical level. The idea of an icon simply hanging on a museum or gallery wall or being seen as just something pretty to look at defeats the entire point of what an icon is created to do. A true icon is functioning, living thing, not an inanimate decoration. Regardless of what tradition they come from, all icons are expected to bring the viewer directly into the presence of the Divine.
When I work on an icon I am constantly chanting the deity's names and epithets, and concentrating my devotion and adoration into the piece as it manifests. The water I use with the mineral pigments is first consecrated on the offering table in our Temple, as are all the materials I use for each icon. Before I begin each painting session, I sprinkle water and say a prayer to honor Djehuty and Imhotep, the two divine patrons of the Kemetic iconographic arts. The God Ptah, Supreme Artisan of Creation, Chief of all craftsmen, is given offerings and asked to enter my hands. When an icon is finished, copious offerings are given in the Temple and the deity represented in the icon is asked to take possession of the icon.
Though the icons I create for commission technically belong to the patron paying for them, the actual icon, being given over to the deity as a sacred home, in fact belongs to the Goddess or God and not to the patron. An icon cannot be owned because truly it belongs to the deity who inhabits it. An image that is not awakened or consecrated as the home of a deity is not an icon, though it may be beautiful or look holy. A true icon is an image that is awakened with an interior life force that is literally part of the body of a deity, and is thus part of the earthly flesh containing the heavenly presence. The icons I create are living gods, not inanimate decorations. They feed us and are meant to be fed through the celebrations of the divine cult. As above so below.