Local iconographer pursues artistic dream

Austin Kachek has been painting

religious works in area churches
By:Alec Moore
   For Manville resident Austin Kachek, iconography is more than an art form — it is an expression of his devotion to his Greek Orthodox faith and his teacher.
   The 39-year-old Mr. Kachek, a native of the borough and Manville High School graduate, made his foray into iconography — the art of painting religious icons — six years ago, marking the resurrection of an artistic talent within him that he had nearly given up on earlier in his life.
   Throughout his life Mr. Kachek had always displayed an exceptional aptitude for the arts, particularly painting. While in high school, he was named one of 12 finalists for the New Jersey Teen Arts Festival.
   Following his graduation from MHS in 1981, Mr. Kachek enrolled at Kutztown State College (now Kutztown University) to further hone his artistic abilities. After one year, however, Mr. Kachek left the school disenchanted because his art instructors wanted him to do work that contradicted his own artistic style.
   Mr. Kachek said he became increasingly disillusioned with modern contemporary painting because of its emphasis on self-expression.
   "The artistic endeavor I encountered while I was in college was vain and self-centered," said Mr. Kachek, who soon stopped painting altogether after his college experience.
   For the next several years, Mr. Kachek worked as an interstate truck driver and mover, rarely giving thought to taking up what had once been his passion. Then, he met a man who reawakened the artist within him.
   George Filippakis, a native of Greece, and one of the most acclaimed iconographers in the world, happened to be laying icon tiles at Saints Peter and Paul Orthodox Church in Manville when Mr. Kachek, a devout practitioner of the Greek Orthodox faith and congregant of the church, walked in to pray.
   During that meeting six years ago, Mr. Filippakis agreed to take Mr. Kachek under his wing to teach him the art of Byzantine Orthodox iconography.
   "He’s quiet a remarkable man," said Mr. Kachek, of his mentor, Mr. Filippakis, whose iconographic images adorn Saints Peter and Paul Orthodox Church today.
   Although Mr. Kachek considers himself to be a student of iconography, he says he is humbled and honored that Mr. Filippakis has "blessed" him as an iconographer, granting Mr. Kachek permission to do his own iconography work.
   "My teacher refers to me as an iconographer. I’m very humbled by that, but I feel I have a long way to go," said Mr. Kachek.
   Iconography is an art form in which an artist’s devotion to his work is equaled only by his devotion to his faith, according to Mr. Kachek. "Byzantine Orthodox iconography is very faithful to the tradition of the church," said Mr. Kachek.
   That faithfulness is keeping Mr. Kachek busy — he has worked in six churches in the tri-state area to date and is in demand from other churches as well.