There’s something transportive about the works of Efthimios (Altin) Stoja, on exhibit in “Angels and Icons” at New York Folklore in Schenectady.
The Albany County iconographer and visual artist has a knack for pulling viewers from the gallery space and into his paintings. Whether the canvas features a local landscape, a Greek shoreline or a Greek Orthodox icon the viewer can’t help but be drawn in.
According to New York Folklore, Altin’s love of art was sparked by the ancient frescoes decorating the church walls of his father’s village in Albania. Earlier in his artistic career, he trained with artist Tsuni Spilio in Nea Makri, Greece, before starting his own studio. Altin later moved to the United States and worked with the St. Sophia Orthodox Church in Albany, painting both small and large-scale iconography throughout the building. Altin continues to work full-time as an iconographer in the Macedonian tradition, which features more expressive figures, brighter colors and more movement than other traditional styles.
One work on view at New York Folklore features an unframed canvas that stretches from floor to ceiling depicting vivid gold wings spilling from the back of an angel. The gold color is juxtaposed with a lush green cloak, draped over the angel’s body. Other icons are featured with bright orange halos, eyes looking just off to the side of the viewer. The exhibit also includes sketches and studies for some of Altin’s works, showing the process of how these figures are created.
While most of the icons are on the south wall of the exhibit, the north wall focuses on Altin’s contemporary works, such as “Cohoes Falls.” The landscape of the local roaring waters is depicted on rough linen, adding a fitting texture to the edges of the canvas. A more impressionistic-style painting depicts Peebles Island, featuring golden and deep red leaves and a lone figure canoeing on the water.
Not too far away, another type of icon, Kateri Tekakwitha, is seen holding an abundance of pumpkins, corn, fish and other food. Unlike the Greek Orthodox figures, her gaze is aimed directly at the viewer. The halo around her head is set against a vibrant blue sky and it echos the color of the moon.
In another landscape, Altin brings viewers to a flower-filled countryside, inspired by his time in Greece. Vast fields of yellow and yellow flowers in the foreground lead the eye to the rolling green hills in the background. A flowering tree on the lefthand side of the piece grounds the composition.
Other works reflect vibrant seaside vistas with blue-green waves lapping at the shoreline. In one particularly transportive piece, the sea is seen from a window, with a sliced pomegranate, its seeds tumbled out, and a pear positioned on the ledge. Several buildings are set right out on the water, with mountains directly behind them.
“Angels and Icons: Greek Orthodox Iconography by Efthimios Stoja” will be on exhibit through mid-October. New York Folklore is open from 10 a.m. – 3:30 p.m. Tue. – Sat. and 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. Sun. For more information call 518-346-7008, email [email protected] or visit nyfolklore.org.
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