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De Pree CenterGallery to Feature
"Gabra Sellase: Ethiopian Icon Painter"

Posted August 28, 2001

HOLLAND -- The gallery of the De Pree Art Center at Hope College begins its 2001-02 season with "Gabra Sellase: Ethiopian Icon Painter," an exhibition which highlights the tradition of devotional imagery in Ethiopian Christianity.

The exhibition will open on Friday, Sept. 7, and continue through Friday, Nov. 16. It is held in conjunction with a juried show of contemporary icons at the Holland Area Arts Council. An opening reception on Friday, Sept. 7, and a series of related demonstrations and lectures, will also be held at the De Pree Art Center and the Holland Area Arts Council.

The public is invited to all of the events. Admission is free.

Gabra Sellase was an Ethiopian painter born in the early 20th century. He began his education in a church school, learning the ecclesiastical language of the Ethiopian church and reading important religious texts. As an apprentice to an experienced master painter, Gabra Sellase would have studied technique, learning how to prepare painting surfaces and pigments and to fabricate brushes in addition to the subject matter and accepted style for church painting.

From the mid-1960s until his death in the early 1980s, he lived and painted in Makale, the capital of the province of Tigre. His panel paintings are found in numerous churches in northern Ethiopia, but Gabra Sellase was best known as the Cardboard Painter for his works painted on cardboard or inexpensive, heavy paper. Many of these paintings were collected by members of the local foreign community in Ethiopia teachers, Peace Corps volunteers, academics and others.

An opening reception is scheduled at the De Pree Art Center on Friday, Sept. 7, from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. At 5:30 p.m., Neal Sobania, professor of history and director of international education at Hope, will present the lecture "Ethiopia Stretches Forth Her Hands to God: Traditional Ethiopian Church Painting." The event will be followed with a reception at the Holland Area Arts Council beginning at 7 p.m. with a demonstration by Daniel BerhaneMeskel, a Hope College student who draws on a family heritage of Ethiopian icon painting.

An additional lecture series will be held the following weekend. On Friday, Sept. 14, at the De Pree Art Center, Raymond A. Silverman of Michigan State University will present "Qes Adamu Tesfaw: A Priest Who Paints" at 3 p.m. At 5 p.m., also at the De Pree Art Center, Marilyn E. Heldman of the University of Missouri-St. Louis, the exhibition curator, will present "Tradition and Innovation in the work of Gabra Sellase, an Ethiopian Icon Painter." On Saturday, Sept. 15, at 11 a.m. at the Holland Area Arts Council, Cressida Marcus of Oxford University will lecture on "The Icon in Popular Usage."

In addition, Marguerite D. Stephens, a sixth grade teacher at Black River Public School, has written a related teaching curriculum unit being sent to history teachers at area middle schools and a student guide to the exhibition.

The De Pree Art Center is located on the corner of 12th Street and Columbia Avenue. Regular gallery hours are Monday-Saturday from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. and Sunday from 1 p.m. until 5 p.m. The gallery is handicapped accessible.

Additional information may be obtained by calling the De Pree Art Center at (616) 395-7500.

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