Suzanne Massie Manchevsky is a Canadian iconographer and artist, living in Eastern Ontario in the beautiful Ottawa River valley since 1995. Leaving a successful career in the federal public service for the peace and solitude of a lakefront house in the forest, Suzanne experienced a spiritual rebirth and an epiphany of beauty in nature and credits a divine spark with her call to becoming a full-time artist and iconographer in 2003.
Suzanne’s love of the arts in its many forms spans her whole life. Born in Detroit in the mid-1950’s, in childhood, her constant companions were crayons and paints. Although raised as a Catholic, her faith and church teachings were completely at odds with life in Detroit. Suzanne was deeply affected by what she experienced, from social injustice (e.g., racism, segregation, poverty) to a culture of violence and death (murders, the threat of nuclear annihilation of the Cold War, the Vietnam War and finally the riots and burning of Detroit, for example). She found beauty in the arts and escaped into books and music, studying dance (from classical ballet to modern jazz) and vocal and instrumental music. During high school in Toronto and later in Hull/Gatineau, she fell in love with the dramatic arts, acting and working on numerous stage productions.
Initially studying Fine Arts at the University of Windsor, Suzanne’s interest in working for peace and social justice led to her switch to Political Science and Mass Communications, including photography, film and television production and speechwriting. She worked on Parliament Hill as a Member’s Assistant, political activist and election campaign organizer throughout the 1970’s to 1981, moving to a career in communications management in the federal public service until leaving to become a communications and management consultant from 1998 until 2001.
As she returned to her spiritual and artistic path in the mid-1990’s, Suzanne painted with a group of artists for several years and taking various workshops in watercolour, acrylic and mixed-media. Increasingly, she felt called to paint spiritual subjects, beginning with angels and images of the Madonna and Child. Then, in 2002, she felt ready to paint the “most perfect icon”, Rublev’s Trinity (aka The Hospitality of Abraham), a pivotal moment of great personal joy which cemented her interest in iconography.
Suzanne visited Madonna House in Combermere, Ontario for confirmation and blessing of her calling to iconography and to study the hundreds of beautiful icons in the house and chapels. This experience led her next to Mt Carmel Retreat Centre, Niagara Falls in 2004 where, over the next years, she completed numerous icon workshops using acrylics on wood with Master Iconographer, Phil Zimmerman, St. John of Damascus Studio. Suzanne has since studied egg tempera iconography with Master Iconographer and curator, Rumen Kirinov (Toronto, 2008 and Ottawa, 2012) and with Master Iconographer Vladimir Midvichi, Atelier Valuarda, Montreal (2011 and 2012).
Suzanne travelled extensively throughout the Mediterranean region in 2009 and in 2012 to research icons exhibited in monasteries, cathedrals, museums and even in outdoor shrines, taking literally thousands of photos during these trips. Suzanne’s research and readings led her to develop and present talks on iconography, enabling her to share her passion and introduce others to this spiritual art.
In addition to studying iconography, in 2004/2005, Suzanne completed an intensive full-time art program at the Haliburton School of the Arts (Sir Sandford Fleming College) where she received a Certificate in Visual Fine Arts, specializing in drawing, painting and sculpting. Her icons and art were featured in an exhibit at the Haliburton School of the Arts in 2005, at the Hummingbird Gallery, Arnprior, Ontario, in 2008 and in the Pakenham Maple Run Studio Tour in 2010.
In 2009, Suzanne was commissioned to create an icon of Our Lady of Tenderness for the Canadian Forces Chaplain serving in Afghanistan where the icon has provided comfort and inspiration to our troops. In 2010, Suzanne created an original icon of OMI Founder, St. Eugene de Mazenod which was featured on the cover of “Oblate Spirit” magazine in 2011 (as well as several electronic publications and websites of the OMI worldwide). In 2010, Suzanne was commissioned to create an original icon of Blessed Joseph Gerard, OMI and has since been commissioned to create a number of additional copies of this icon each year in perpetuity to be given as an award for outstanding sponsors of African missions. Several articles about Suzanne’s iconography have also appeared in “Ecclesia”, the newspaper of the Diocese of Pembroke in 2010 and 2011.
Suzanne has shared her love of the spirituality and art form of iconography through workshops she has taught since 2006 at her home studio or at the Galilee Retreat Centre in Arnprior, Ontario with her friend and partner, Fr. Jack Lau, OMI.
In 2012, Suzanne became a co-organizer of the inaugural Arnprior and Beyond Arts Discovery Tour and a founding member of Abartsa, the Arnprior and Beyond Arts Association.