Though well-known as a poet, Peter Oresick was also an obsessive painter, at least when it came to Byzantine-style iconography. Oresick, who died earlier this month, turned an obsession with the icons he saw as a child in the Ukrainian Orthodox Church into an artistic passion. However, he didn’t paint religious figures in the traditional sense. He painted literary icons as religious figures, treating them in the visual style of Byzantine artwork. 

The Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Yale University recently acquired these three post cards based on Oresick’s paintings that highlight American luminaries Walt Whitman, Herman Melville, and Edgar Allan Poe.

The paintings are kind of like the Orthodox version of the Secular Saints candles—inspired by Catholic votive candles—that urge you to pray to figures like Virginia Woolf and Frida Kahlo. 

Oresick learned icon painting in a workshop with a monk at the St. Vincent Archabbey outside Pittsburgh, giving his work its authentic stylistic touch. Some of his other icon-inspired work, including portraits of Russian authors like Fyodor Dostoyevsky and Anton Chekhov, can be seen on the site for Goldmine, the gallery space Oresick’s son David set up in the front room of his house in Pittsburgh.  

[h/t John Overholt]

All images by Peter Oresick courtesy the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Yale University.

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