Kodiak Daily Mirror - New Baranov Museum exhibit showcases embroidery talent of Orthodox priest
  
New Baranov Museum exhibit showcases embroidery talent of Orthodox priest
by James Brooks / editor@kodiakdailymirror.com
Aug 11, 2011 | 90 views | 0 0 comments | 7 7 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Baranov Museum director Katie Oliver and Abbot Gerasimov of Westchester, N.Y., look through the photographic exhibit devoted to Gerasimov’s namesake, Saturday at the Baranov Museum.
(James Brooks photo)
Baranov Museum director Katie Oliver and Abbot Gerasimov of Westchester, N.Y., look through the photographic exhibit devoted to Gerasimov’s namesake, Saturday at the Baranov Museum. (James Brooks photo)
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A pair of miters used by Father Gerasim Schmaltz are seen in a special display, Saturday at the Baranov Museum. (James Brooks photo)
A pair of miters used by Father Gerasim Schmaltz are seen in a special display, Saturday at the Baranov Museum. (James Brooks photo)
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KODIAK — Even if you weren’t able to travel to Spruce Island for the annual Orthodox pilgrimage, a new art exhibit at the Baranov Museum offers you a taste of that place.

The exhibit, titled “Father Gerasim, Monk and Artist,” features photography by Kodiak artist Mary Jane Longrich, who chronicled Gerasim’s fabric work during a trip to Spruce Island in 1985.

The exhibit opened Aug. 6 to coincide with this year’s pilgrimage and will run through Nov. 26.

“I was baptized by Father Gerasim,” Longrich said, “but I didn’t ever meet him when I was old enough to understand.”

The longtime priest was born in 1888 in Russia and was assigned to Alaska in 1916. He served in Sitka and Kodiak before becoming village priest in Afognak for 18 years.

He arrived at Spruce Island in 1935 and remained on the island until the late 1960s. During that time, he created needlepoint and embroidery, frequently giving his handcrafts as gifts to friends or selling them to raise money for maintenance on the island.

Longrich traveled to the island in 1985 but kept her film proofs in storage until last year, when she rediscovered them.

“I felt there was something of value there,” she said.

After some trouble finding a photo shop still able to process film, she contacted Baranov museum director Katie Oliver.

The museum had coincidentally just received a collection of materials Gerasim gave to a family in the 1930s, and Oliver saw an opportunity.

“He was an artist,” Oliver said. “He was able to embellish his modest home with things he made.”

Despite the happy coincidence, Oliver said the museum still faced challenges in reconciling an art exhibit with the museum’s mission as a historical archive.

“We tried to strike a balance between the two,” she said.

A steady stream of people walked through the exhibit on opening day, including Abbot Gerasim from Westminster, N.Y., whose ordination name honors the man at the center of the exhibit. The abbot spoke at length about Gerasim’s importance, not only as an artist, but also the way he influenced the Kodiak region’s history.

“He gave several descriptions of villages that no longer exist” after the 1964 tsunami, he said.

On display alongside Longrich’s photos are a pair of Father Gerasim’s miters as well as other artifacts, including church records written in his hand and illustrating how he made his mark on history.

The Baranov Museum is open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Saturday. Admission is $5 per person older than 12.

Contact Mirror editor James Brooks at editor@kodiakdailymirror.com.

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