SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y. - Some would call George Filippakis the modern-day Michaelangelo.
The 76-year-old is known for his Byzantine iconography installed inside close to 100 churches in the United States. His most recent installation and what may be his last large project adorns the dome and ceilings inside the Dormition of the Virgin Mary Greek Orthodox Church in Southampton.
"I was 11 years old and I fell in love with this artwork," he said. "Every day, all the time, the brush and the pencil are in my hand."
The original sanctuary of the church was completed in 2013. A photo shows it was plain and white. Now after billions of brush strokes and hours of work, George brought it to life almost five years later.
"We wanted the best iconography to complement the structure we created," Father Alex Karloutsos said.
Completing this latest installation took more than two weeks. George used printed diagrams to carefully map out where each piece would go before he glued them onto the ceilings of the church.
"We have here the Christmas icon — nativity of Christ, we have over here what we call the Deposition from the Cross," Father Constantine Lazarakis said. "Over here we have the Feast Day of our Church. Usually, we see Mary holding baby Jesus but in this icon, we see Jesus holding the baby Mary as her soul has its advent in heaven."
Different from Renaissance paintings, Byzantine iconography is a purposeful abstraction. Each icon tells its own tale through symbolic language.
Funding for the project was made possible thanks to members and friends of the church but George, who insists he didn't do it for the money, said you can't put a price on making history.