Page One of One:
Sophia Albu Ionita: In Memoriam
In the very first year of the Woodcarvers Online Magazine (WOM), which was 1997, even though there was only the scarcest of reference to pyrography on the internet, I nevertheless discovered and met by telephone and e-mail some really important--I would venture to say key--pyro artists whom I featured in some of those six issues that year. Even more unlikely was that two of them turned out to be Romanian artists, whom I never would have found so early on had it not been for the fact that they were both living in the United States at that time. The last artist I featured that first year was someone I felt was a kindred spirit and whose work I admired greatly: the enormously creative Sophia Albu Ionita--actress, linguist, writer, teacher, and visual artist.
Christ on the Cross
>From our interview back in 1997 and that article we did then for the WOM entitled Pyrogravure Colorée: The Art of Sophia Albu Ionita, it was evident that Sophia was not only profoundly spiritual but her Romanian cultural heritage, especially her deep love of iconography and symbolism, pervaded every aspect of her art and her life.
As I got to know Sophia in 1997, she told me about her favorite book.
She referred to it as her "livre de chevet," a French
expression referring to a book that she always kept on her nightstand
because it meant so much to her. What Boethius wrote back in the Fifth
Century A.D. called The Consolation of Philosophy,
inspired both her philosophy of life and her art.
Drawing from her life's many passions--philosophy, religion, languages, literature, music, and theater--Sophia created art rich with visual metaphors and symbols. Through these, she expresses herself personally to us while evoking more universal themes.
Her frequent choice of doors as supports for her art work instead of large wood panels was in great part because she considered the door itself a metaphor, which she talked about in that 1997 article. In the case of literary examples, she often pyroengraved the words themselves, such as the inscription on her work below entitled The Last Hour or the modern French poetry of her friend Eric Boudet.
Wedding of Sophia and Michael
Another glimpse into the life Sophia left behind are the loving
portraits she did of those dear to her.
The work Wedding of Sophia and Michael above is one of the few works she did in pyroengraving alone. Like other double portraits she has done, such as the work Oliver and Farren, a portrait of her son and daughter-in-law from the 1997 article, she adds another concept to her iconographic yet Picasso-esque compositions--how two people complement and complete each other.
Although Sophia was reluctant to talk about her family in public, her portraits, like the lovely one above of her daughter Arta, speak volumes about them even now from the beyond and immortalize her tender feelings for them all.
While preparing this informal tribute to Sophia, I reminisced over some
of our correspondence that to me had forged our friendship:
"friends forever--even if we never meet in person," I wrote
then. Nevertheless, in my mind, I always believed we would meet one
day. When I imagined the real world international exhibition we were
all planning (and which I still imagine for us), I always pictured
Sophia's fabulous large works prominently displayed.
I see the work above, Friends, and envy those who were fortunate enough to know Sophia in person. And I realize that we, as a group, should not miss opportunities to meet one another and share.
According to her family, Sophia said of herself that she "burnt her
life second by second." Sophia was always seeking to express
herself through her art, yet equally, she was also seeking to connect
ultimately to the Divine.
The work Transcendence was created by Sophia in 2002 after the death of her mother. Sophia's family notes the ambiguity in the pyroengraved inscription "Mother, have you met my Father up there in the sky?" Was she referring to her mother being reunited with her father whose memory Sophia held so dear ever since he died when she was only seventeen years of age? Or was she referring to our Heavenly Father? Or questioning the Heavens?
The image above does not do justice to the original work; however, a detail from it, shown following, better illustrates the exuberance of her creativity in the luxury of line, texture, and color that she used.
More of Sophia's beautiful works and her thoughts on her art are in the
1997 WOM article Pyrogravure
Colorée: The Art of Sophia Albu Ionita.
The website of modern French poet Eric Boudet shows examples of her art work inscribed in pyrogravure with his poetry. Note that one of Eric's poems is also featured in that first WOM article--in both French and English.
The Sophia Albu Ionita Salon in the E-Museum of Pyrographic Art is updated to include some additional, more recent works.
The Last Hour or The 24th Hour
In this lovely geometric work, Sophia, nearing the end of her life, reflects on the writings of Blaise Pascal who likened humankind to frail rosebushes--but rosebushes that think. The last part of the pyroengraved inscription translates as "Happiness is not outside of us, nor inside us; it is in God, and outside and inside us."
Sophia was unable to complete this pyrogravure--neither the pyroengraving nor the coloring was completed because of her illness followed by her death on November 28, 2004.
While preparing this humble homage to Sophia, I revisited her salon in
the E-Museum and reread that first article from 1997.
Her doors to heaven resplendent with images of angels, saints, eyes of wisdom, and references to God, and her sublime thoughts, expressed then in words with wings, serve now as her most eloquent eulogy.
The AuthorKathleen M. Garvey Menéndez learned her pyrography techniques in Guatemala in 1975-1977. Her sister, Artist Sharon H. Garvey, later joined her there to collaborate on a pyrography project designed to promote this art form in the United States by means of a didactic book and a pyrography tool made by Navarro of Mexico.
Thanks to the internet, this is the beginning of the ninth year of articles on pyrography for the Woodcarver Online Magazine (WOM), started January 1997, and the beginning of the eighth year of the E-Museum of Pyrographic Art, which opened its virtual doors January 1998. In March of that year, the International Association of Pyrographic Artists (IAPA) was formed and members began meeting on line. Linked from the E-Museum's Café Flambé, which hosts the IAPA meetings, is the Yahoo Groups uniting_pyrographers mailing list, member list, and chat forum set up for IAPA members by IAPA Cofounder Mixo Sydenham of Warragul, Victoria, Australia.
2005, Kathleen M. Garvey Menéndez, all rights reserved.