I’ll deal with the issue of Robert Lentz, his school, and their apparent attitude to their work.
Eastern Iconography is not just religious art. No one is denying that Lentz has the technique down pat. But Iconography is just not about technique.
Iconography is a traditional, liturgical art that expresses the Faith of the Church in color. It’s not for nothing that Icons are called “theology in color.”
When the Deacon reads the Gospel on Christmas, he doesn’t make up a nice story about Baby Jesus, but reads the appointed Biblical pericope. Why? Because this is the LITURGICAL expression of the Faith of the Church.
Robert Lentz and his school do not express the Faith of the Church, but their own notions–sometimes even political ideas.
Example #1: Christ the Liberator showis a black African man in a dashiki and claw necklace; the figure doesn’t become “Jesus” just because you have put a Christological halo on it.
Example #2: The traditional icon of Ss. Sergius and Bacchus. shows them on horseback–he doesn’t. He’s merely drawn two pretty boys in armor.
Example #3: There are the imitation icons of Harvey Milk and Mohandas Ghandi, even daring to call them “saint.”
Several very skilled traditional iconographers I know have said that the Lentz school might build bridges, but they are bridges to Hell.
The personal piety of Robert Lentz is not the issue. The issue is spiritual delusion.
By the same token, an iconographer has to be a man or woman of prayer, first.
The central idea and motivation for iconography never caught on in the West–or maybe the West lost it. In fact, if you look at early Mediaeval western Christian art, it bears strong affinities to Eastern iconography. That’s why Western art degenerated into “religious art”, which embraces everything from Michaelangelo to saccharine holy cards to Corita Kent type scrawls.
I’m not saying all Western religious art is bad. Salvador Dali’s Crucifixion and St. John of the Cross are powerful works. I admire them greatly. But they are not icons.
In short, iconography is not about the personal ideas of the artist, nor fulfilling subjective devotional needs of the viewer, but expressing the teaching and tradition of the Church.