Angela Manno – Icons of Threatened and Endangered Species

The Marsupial Frog, 7″ x 9″ x 1”, Egg Tempera & Gold Leaf on Wood

I’ve been a professional artist for forty years. During that time, I’ve always focused my work on what is highest in the human spirit and on the beauty of this world. They have taken the shape of landscapes, space scapes, and traditional and contemporary icons.

The key to my practice, as geologian Thomas Berry once advised me, has been to follow what fascinates me.

About thirty years ago I found myself living out West with no art studio (I’d made a temporary move from New York City) and discovered the opportunity to learn Byzantine Russian icon painting with a master iconographer from Russia. I had always wanted to learn the technique, with its gorgeous pigments made from ground up stones and glittering gold leaf.

I thought I’d learn the basics and run with it to do my own thing. But not so fast! Not only did the materials captivate me, but the ideology that went with them. I’d been brought up Catholic and hadn’t realized until I heard my teacher’s first lecture how poor my religious education had been.  As I continued to practice and hone my skills in this medium, I kept having the persistent feeling that something was missing; Nature was relegated to the backdrop for the human drama in this symbolic system. And, being an informal student of Thomas Berry, I was very much aware that humans are derivative of this Earth.

Apis, The Honey Bee, 7″ x 9″ x 1”, Egg Tempera & Gold Leaf on Wood. Private Collection

The first icon I made to break out of the traditional mold was an image of the whole Earth from Space, The Earthly Paradise: Icon of the Third Millennium. In earlier phases of my work, I had been heavily influenced by the Apollo astronauts’ accounts of their view of the Earth during their flights, and their experience of our finite planet as alive and our only home. So this was a natural image to select to begin my wandering from tradition and bring my intellect and aesthetics together.

Loggerhead Sea Turtle, 7″ x 9″ x 1” , Egg Tempera & Gold Leaf on Wood

Into a new century, and as I learned more and more about the extinction crisis — from the massive die-off of honey bees, the devastation to Sea Turtles in the Gulf of Mexico, and so many similar stories —  in 2016, I created my first icon of a non-human being, the Honey Bee. It immediately struck a chord in people.

The Monarch Butterfly, 7″ x 9″ x 1”, Egg Tempera & Gold Leaf on Wood

When the opportunity to display my work in exhibition Endangered Earth last December, I shifted into high gear and created nine more icons for exhibition. At the same time, I realized, though I knew my work would draw attention to the plight of these animals, and hopefully help cultivate people’s sensibilities to recognize that the non-human world is as sacred as other religious subjects, there had to be more. That’s when I decided to give half my proceeds to the Center for Biological Diversity, which I have been supporting for a long time, but not as generously as I had wanted.

The Grey Wolf, 7″ x 9″ x 1”, Egg Tempera & Gold Leaf on Wood. Private Collection

Now, with three pieces sold, I am living my dream of doing what I love, helping to raise awareness and change consciousness, and supporting the people who are on the front lines, securing a future for our brothers and sisters of the non-human world.

Angela Manno, 2020

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blankAngela writes that these works “fulfill my deep impulse to merge art, scientific understanding and religious sensibilities for the purpose of fostering a more integral, diverse, and beautiful world. My wish is that they also strike a chord in you. 50% of the proceeds from the sale of these originals will benefit the Center for Biological Diversity, an organization devoted to protecting species that I’ve been supporting for many years, to help them carry out their invaluable work.”

Visit Angela’s website to view more Endangered Species Icons and learn more about her beautiful work. Her loggerhead turtle, one of those pictured above, will appear in our upcoming anthology, Rewilding Earth, Best of 2019. ~ editors

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