Tatiana Nikolova-Houston
  • Female
  • Austin, TX
  • United States
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Profile Information

Organization or Business Name
Sacred Illuminations
Contact Email
Art Interests
Art History, Calligraphy, Iconography, Liturgical Design, Metal Work, Mixed Media, Theology
Artist / Personal Statement
My family taught me to love nature, the arts, and music. My father, artistic director of the puppet theater in Gabrovo, Bulgaria, has the soul of an artist and creates graphical images through crafts and painting. I studied landscape architecture and designed municipal gardens and parks, rich in color, flowers, and spaces for recreation and meditation.
In America, I received degrees in Biblical and religious studies from the Institute of Christian Studies/Abilene Christian University and Information science from the University of Texas at Austin. Pursuing the Ph.D. in Information Science, I encountered Slavic and Byzantine manuscripts in critical condition and pitied those poor orphans, left without love and care, locked away and hidden in the black dust of time in the HACI archive in Sofia. Insects, moisture, filth, and rot had pierced their clothes and bodies, while deep in their margins they hid a secret history of the Balkans and beautiful illuminations, texts, and marginalia. After an intense year of restoration, this darkness, dust, and chaos became one of the finest manuscript research facilities in Eastern Europe.
An estimated 95% of Slavic manuscripts have disappeared due to fire, theft, neglect, and expatriation. The remaining 5% give a window into the Eastern Orthodox soul. Lack of access, however, has kept these treasures from Western medievalists, most of whom have never encountered a Slavic manuscript. Compared to Western manuscripts such as the Book of Kells, Slavic manuscripts appear to be orphans, dressed in worn leather covers or no covers at all, consumed by time and exposure, and bearing the marks of fire and sword. They also bear the tears and blood of their scribes and readers because non-Orthodox overlords punished Orthodox worshipers. Hidden in cellars and caves, these manuscripts bear the marks of moisture and rot.

The value of these orphans rests not so much in the aesthetic realm, but as primary historical evidence. They witness the challenges confronting the people of the Balkans under foreign rule. Early marginal authors demonstrated humility before God. Later authors described the social and political calamities of foreign conquest. That they wrote at all is a testament to courage. In this manner, the Orthodox heritage survived and endured.

I resolved to save those treasures and to present them to the West. The project developed into publications, websites, and conference presentations, and most recently to my dissertation that explores historical marginalia inscribed during the Ottoman rule of Bulgaria. I seek to continue in the footsteps of those medieval scribes and to create in relative isolation simple and meaningful illuminations of beauty. The original scribes had a rather small color pigment spectrum and virtually no gold for illumination. Paper was scarce. I recreate their original designs, adding a bit of gold, somewhat enriched colors, and my prayers, to re-create what I believe to be their original vision.

These manuscripts are precious to God and to humanity for preserving Slavic culture during centuries of foreign subjugation. To their scribes, I humbly bow and dedicate this catalog of my interpretations of manuscript illuminations, to provide illumination and inspiration to our world today.
Accomplishments / CV
Ph.D. in Library and Information Science, UT-Austin, 2008
MLIS - UT-Austin
MS in Biblical Studies - Abilene Christian University, 1999
MS in Landscape Architecture - Bulgaria, 1885

50 SHOWINGS (2009-2011) -- 24 gallery exhibits and 25 festivals and bazaars in Texas, Colorado, New York City, Pennsylvania, and Bulgaria, including seven juried exhibits and six solo exhibits:

The University of Phoenix (March-June 2009)

Austin Museum of Modern Art (AMOA) (April 2009)

Texas Capital Rotunda (April 2009)

East Austin Art Tour (November 2009 & November 2011), featuring 26 originals and prints

First Night Austin Art Tour (December 2009)

Sacred Illuminations at Scarbrough (January-February 2010), solo exhibit of 60 originals

The Gallery of Sacred Arts (February-August 2010 & March-August 2011), juried exhibits

Sacred Illuminations at 300 West 6th Street (March-May 2010). Solo exhibit and presentation

Union Theological Seminary, New York City (March 2010), Bulgarian Madonna chosen for exhibit, presented by Judith Scott

Austin Graduate School of Theology (April 2010), solo exhibit and presentation

Sakralni Miniaturi (Sacred Illuminations) (June-August 2010) at Sveta Troica Church, Gabrovo, Bulgaria, presentation of 50 originals

CANA Gallery Exhibit (November-December 2010 & April-May 2011), juried exhibits

St. David Episcopal Church (December 2010, May 2011, & December 2011), solo exhibits and presentations

Real Gallery @ I Love Art Congress 101 (February 2011 & March 2011), featuring originals and prints

Real Gallery @ 11th and Navasota (September 2011), juried exhibit

St. Mary Cathedral (December 2011), La Posada art exhibit and sale

Texas Council of Churches Conference - St. Catherine of Sienna Church, Austin, TX, (January 20, 2012), featured artist

“A Journey of Faith” (February-April 2012), juried exhibit by UT Prof. Tim High FIRST AWARD PRIZE for I AM THE LIGHT

The Gallery of Sacred Arts (Catholic Diocese of Austin) -(March-August 2012) juried exhibit, Christ Emmanuel icon, The Passion of Christ, Come Holy Spirit

Upstream People Gallery - 14th International Judeo-Christian Exhibit - one of 38 artists selected from 170 entries. Seven of the submitted works, with special recognition: Theotokos in vines - icon, Come Holy Spirit - prayer illumination, Tree of Life - Holy Spirit, Tree of Life - Eye of God, Tree of life - Generations, I AM the Light and I AM the Bread of Life.

LECTURING -- including presentations at 14 international scholarly conferences and congresses in the U.S., England, Norway, and Bulgaria, and 25 publications (articles, book chapters, websites) about Bulgarian libraries, medieval manuscripts, marginalia, and preservation and conservation of medieval manuscripts, published in the U.S., England, Norway, Poland, and Bulgaria.

Agia Sophia Coffee House. Colorado Springs CO (November, 2009). Lecture on Slavic medieval manuscript preservation and historical value

Holy Theophany Orthodox Church, Colorado Springs CO (November, 2009). Lecture on the practices of Slavic manuscript illuminations and preserving the legacy today

Antiochian Orthodox Church Conference Center, Antiochian Village Retreat, Pittsburgh PA (April 7-10, 2011). Solo exhibit and presentation

The Bread House (Hlebna Kushta), Gabrovo Bulgaria (July, 2011), exhibit, presentation, and discussion


Creative Arts Festival, St. Elias Orthodox Church (2000-2008), preparing students for annual national art competition

Pease Elementary School, Austin TX (October 2007), presentations and classes in clay tablet inscriptions

Regents Christian Private School, Austin TX (October 2011), exhibit, presentations, and art classes in iconography and manuscript illumination

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Press Release - Upstream People Gallery, 14th International Judeo-Christian Exhibit

Posted on April 18, 2012 at 10:04pm 0 Comments




            Artist TATIANA NIKOLOVA-HOUSTON of AUSTIN, TEXAS has received SEVEN Special Recognition Awards for artwork  in the "14th Annual Judeo-Christian Juried Online International Art Exhibition" hosted by Upstream People Gallery.  This international exhibition received approximately 170 entries from around the world and 38…


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