It occurred to me recently what the most controversial art I have ever created has been. It has been my icons! Never, when I began painting them, would I have thought that these works would be so controversial.
In the shows I have had with them and my secular work, and comments I have received from people who have looked at my work online, the icons have always provoked the strongest reaction. Not from icon "purists," mind you, who don't approve of my technique, but from non-religious and atheists! The reaction has never been negative... just a strange sort of... "I am really drawn to these icons for some reason," sort of thing. Invariably the person cannot explain why he is drawn to them when he should be repulsed at them. Even those with no interest in religion find them to be fascinating and intriguing. Does this point to some inherent grace and power in the language of the icon? Who knows.
(NB: I should add that my icons also get many positive reviews as well from spiritually-minded people who are seeking God's will in their lives. To me it is simply fascinating that these simple works that have been around for centuries and centuries can still generate such powerful feelings in people!)