Middlemist Rose Icon
13 in. x 13 in., Gouache & gold leaf on panel. 2022. Commissioned for the collection of Rare Earth Alchemy (REÅLEA — Santa Rosa, CA) Web site link: https://www.petergerakaris.com/icon-series/peter-d-gerakaris-middlemist-rose-icon-commission ABOUT THE ARTWORK – Set within a luminous context of metaphysical symbolism and Byzantine brushwork, the Middlemist Rose Icon is the latest addition to the artist’s Icon oeuvre as a special painting commissioned by Rare Earth Alchemy (REÅLEA). The Icon Series transposes endangered species of exotic plants and creatures from around the globe as the iconographic characters of our contemporary natural environments. Inspired by its namesake – the Middlemist Rose – this particular work showcases a fantastical hybrid flower flanked by a glowing, yet distressed gold surface. Actually a member of the Camelia family, only two of these “rose” plants are known to exist worldwide – an environmental preciousness and rarity that resonates with both REÅLEA’s mission and the artist’s vision. Inspired by the rich and vibrant traditions of Byzantine Icon painting, Gerakaris relishes the processes of gold leafing and painting on wooden panel by hand — a sacred process by which the object and picture ultimately frame a view into another dimension. Here, the flower provides a meticulously detailed and hypnotic focal point in tension with the panel’s charred, chipped, and tarnished edges. As the series presently evolves, the artist has begun conceiving of each work as an archeological fragment that entices its audience’s imagination. The latest paintings, such as the Middlemist Rose Icon, deploy a more poignant, antique feel through their distressed materiality. Here, the artist intentionally abrades fragile gold leaf, while chiseling away and burning the edges of wooden panels. These fragmented edges and marred surfaces are meant to echo our society’s fractured relationship with an increasingly distressed natural environment. This work also offers additional layers of symbolic interpretation and intrigue as cameos by a vibratory pelican and enigmatic serpent complete the triadic composition. In addition to meditating on his own Cretan-Greek ancestry, the artist’s genuine fascination with art history and love for the natural world — coupled with an urgency to mend the Nature-Culture divide — form the core of this intimate series. With this icon, the artist has embraced the challenge of confronting a visual cliché head-on: a gilded flower, which adamantly refuses to be just another “pretty picture”.