Image and Matter

Painting has always been a passion for Sean Kramer. It started when he was an art-loving kid growing up in San Francisco. He went to art school for college, intending to pursue it as a career until one day he had a conversation with a classmate.

“We talked and he gave me some writings by some artists about this kind of total dedication to art. I realized I couldn’t do that,” says Kramer. “I had a lot of unsettled aspects of myself, and unanswered questions about life and the world. I couldn’t just settle on art. Art had to be about something.”

He felt he needed to seek answers to his questions about life. So he left art school and attended a Great Books Program at Thomas Aquinas College in California. There, he read the important works of Western thought – Aristotle, Plato, Newton, Einstein – from cover to cover.

The school also offered spiritual retreats, and Kramer developed a meditation practice. The spiritual life beckoned and he spent the next fifteen years of his life as a monk. He lived in monasteries in Massachusetts and South Dakota, and abroad in Brazil, Canada and Portugal.

While he was deepening his religious practice, he wasn’t making art and he missed it In addition, monastery life wasn’t completely satisfying to him. Kramer decided to live as a hermit instead.

“I went out to Colorado and just told people what I was looking for. I was drawn there because of the Rockies, the mountains and the landscape,” says Kramer. “Eventually I met some ranchers who said, ‘We’ll let you put up this trailer and bring you food once a week.’”

It was during that time that some people encouraged him to go to workshop by a visiting Russian master iconographer. Initially, Kramer wasn’t interested, but he went anyway and much to his surprise it resonated.

“I like the idea of being immersed in a tradition, particularly an art tradition that has developed a whole set of visual techniques and symbols to solve a spiritual problem; how to represent some spiritual reality.”

He had found something he had been looking for since art school — an art form that also was a spiritual practice. The desire to learn more about icons was so strong that he left his solitude in Colorado. He went to the East Coast to study icon writing. Kramer studied with several different iconographers.

Since then he has worked painting in his studio at the Button Factory in Portsmouth NH. He also has taught art history, fairy tales and other courses in the liberal arts at the New Hampshire Institute of Art. He currently teaches classes in egg-tempera, fresco painting and metal leaf techniques at Sanctuary Arts in Eliot, Maine.

Visit Sean's website at seandominickramer.com

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