Spring 2006 Vol. IV, No. 3
A Journey from Geology to Iconography
Lena Kelekians (BS 81) exceptional career has been a journey
of faith coupled with perseverance and passion. This internationally acclaimed
artist, iconographer, muralist, restorer, conservator, environmental designer,
and geologist believes that prayer and food must provide equal sustenance
for the fulfillment of the body.
It was an inspirational incident that drove her to iconography.
I knew about icons from my family. My mothers prayers that
helped me overcome an ordeal during the civil war turned me into a true
believer, says Kelekian.
With her scientific background, artistic talent, and faith, Kelekian decided
that nothing will stop her from expressing her beliefs through
iconography. After I graduated from AUB in 1981
I chose to
attend the University of London where I studied restoration and painting.
Later I trained in many places all over Europe.
I was part of the team that restored the frescoes of the Duomo of
Florence. I was the pigment expert on a team of ten working under the
supervision of Giorgio Mathieni. I painted in Greece, Spain, Portugal,
Yugoslavia, and in the Macedonian area where I restored frescoes at medieval
The distinctive feature of Kelekians iconography is her use of traditional
Byzantine methods and natural pigments. As a geologist, Kelekian learned
how to extract colors from minerals.
I rediscovered 89 mineral-extracted colors, and discovered a few
types of green and yellow. In keeping with Byzantine methods, she
paints her icons in an egg tempera (the egg being the biblical symbol
of life and fertility) and embellishes the gold or silver backgrounds
with precious and semi-precious stones and pearls.
Despite the technical knowledge that enabled her to restore and create
religious art, Kelekian felt something was missing. My faith needed
to be corroborated with the proper theological knowledge. I decided to
study theology. She earned a Doctorate of Theological Studies from
the Institut Supérieur pour la Formation Religieuse. When
I learned about the history of the church and the unwavering faith of
the early believers despite the torments they underwent, my perception
of religious art changed. Now, I paint the same religious figures knowing
their life story...
Kelekian and her sister Hilda, a calligrapher and arabesque designer,
held their first exhibit in 1992 at the Salon des Artistes in Beirut.
The ensuing media coverage led to requests to exhibit their work at galleries
around the world.
Kelekian has won numerous medals and awards. Italy gave me the title
of Lady for my achievements in the fields of arts and sciences.
She has been honored with more than 12 international awards including
Frances La Toile dOr, and appointed ordinary academician by
the Accademia Internazionale Greci Marino, Italy. She has exhibited in
nine countries. Eight museums around the world have purchased her artwork,
as has Queen Sophia of Spain. In 2001, the sisters launched the Kelekian
Art Gallery during New Yorks International Art Expo, where they
exhibited their work for two weeks. Currently, Kelekians art studio
and laboratory are located in Zalka, Lebanon.