Plattsburgh State graduate Matthew Gaul, who graduated with a degree in English in 1998, has recently seen much success with the publication of his book “Tales of Glory: The Stories Icons Tell,” a book that focuses on Byzantine iconography — an art style founded during the Byzantine Empire in the year 330.
As an undergrad at PSUC, Gaul originally wanted to become an English teacher, and he pursued his master’s at The College of St. Rose near his hometown in Albany. Little did he know this would not be his career path a few years later.
“I was able to take traditional English, British literature, Western art history, and Russian civilization classes,” Gaul said. Among other courses, Gaul said it was then that he really found his appreciation for literature.
According to an article written by Carla Beecher on the PSUC website, the idea for the book originally came from his parish priest, who asked him to write a simple book about the church’s icons.
“Since I’ve had enthusiasm for civilization, it wasn’t a hard sell,” Gaul said about writing his book. “I was raised Roman Catholic. A lot of visual language descends from Roman art. I am looking at the beauty of life. It is more than just the art form, it is a lifestyle.”
PSUC English Professor Lauren Kiefer was Gaul’s academic adviser and professor during his time on campus and said that although she arrived at PSUC around the same time as Gaul, she remembers him as a student because of his friendly and artsy personality.
His combined interest of philosophy and English classes also led her to recall his thoughtfulness, she said.
“I was not aware until recently about his book, but I was very excited because it was my field,” Kiefer said. “I got it as soon as I found out about it and I might even be able to use it because it is my field and it’s what I teach.”
Kiefer said she was overwhelmed when she found out about the topic of “Tales of Glory,” as many people are moving away from writing about periodization all together.
“People don’t teach medieval the way they used to back when I was hired, so you don’t see as much of that.”
Gaul said he has been studying Byzantine iconography for about 10 years, but he has always been a “liberal arts minded guy” and interested in medieval art.
“Historically, I have interest in the Ancient Eras of Rome and Greece,” Gaul said. “These are consistent and punctuated by evolution.”
When looking back at his time at PSUC, Gaul said, “It was the best four years of my life. I regret graduating.” He also attributed his research and writing abilities to PSUC.
Interestingly enough, Gaul said much of his research that he does is not via the Internet. “I’m sick of screens,” he said, “It’s old-school, but I do all my research on index cards and compile them.”
“Tales of Glory: The Stories Icons Tell” is available on Amazon and in several locations in the Albany area. Kiefer also said she will make the book available to anyone who has interest in reading it.
Email Jessica Miles at firstname.lastname@example.org.