Recently during the Open Studios Tour I discovered a rare talent creating true iconic masterpieces as good as many I have seen in my visits to European museums and historic churches. Mary Frances Dondelinger creates work she sees as visual allegories, metaphors and icons from her observations of the anxieties and motivations of humanity in the West.
Her studio is located within the Splinter Bros. & Sister’s studios complex in Tucson. She is currently working primarily in egg tempera and gold leaf. Since 2003 Ms. Dondelinger has focused on the ancient tradition of orthodox religious iconography: its theology, history, materials and practice. She studied at the Monastery of St. Gertrude in central Idaho with iconographer Sr. Carolyn Miguel in 2003 & 2004.
In 2005 Dondelinger apprenticed with master iconographer Fr. Gianluca Busi in Bologna, Italy and thereafter worked with him online for education and critiques of her work. . In 2006 she assisted Fr. Busi in the U.S as he worked and taught at the Monastery of St. Gertrude’s. She was awarded a position in the Florence Biennale in Italy in 2007 with the sponsorship from the Ampersand Art Supply and private supporters.
These crucial experiences, while seemingly an odd divergence especially for one who respects but does not participate in organized religion, have proven beneficial to the maturation and development of Dondelinger’s contemporary work
The below images explore divinity and nature and our connection and disconnections to the two.
In 1995 Mary Frances was awarded a NEA Fast-Track grant through the Idaho State Arts Commission for her exhibit “A Place Called Ferdinand.” The exhibition was a series of oil pastel paintings about the demise of small towns focusing on a rural Idaho community. In 1997 she received an NEA Professional Development Grant from the Washington State Arts Commission.
Ms. Dondelinger served as director of Gallery One Visual Arts Center in Ellensburg, Washington from 1997 through 2004 during which time she was responsible for a $1.2 million renovation and restoration of its historic building. Completion of the project and the death of her husband in 2002 led Ms. Dondelinger to re-direct her energies to her studio work,
Over her career, Ms. Dondelinger has won 39 awards in local and regional exhibitions, most recently the Award of Merit presented by Julie Sasse, Contemporary Arts Curator of the Tucson Art Museum at the Tubac Center for Arts (2010).
In September 2011 she will exhibit The Writing’s on the Wall: A modern illuminated manuscript, at Gallery One in Ellensburg, Washington.
Her work will be included in the invitational exhibit GOLD in 2012 in Vienna, Austria at the Belvedere Palace Museum curated by Thomas Zaunschirm.
For those wishing to learn the art of iconography, Ms. Dondelinger will be teaching five workshops across the country in 2011. Those interested in attending one of these workshops and their locations should email her at: firstname.lastname@example.org or visit her website: http://themaryfrances.com/