Christl and the Icon Panties

Some of Christl’s notes from the icon-painting workshop. Photo by Gerald Grow

Christl liked to tell this story on herself.

A local Catholic church brought in an expert to teach a series of workshops on painting religious icons.

Icons are not considered works of art, and they offer no opportunity for individual expression. Icons are meant to serve as windows into the spiritual realm, windows through which spirit instructs in ways that are deeper than language. Because icons have such a serious role, they are created prayerfully, with great care, by skilled practitioners who follow strict traditional formulas.

Christl arrived at the building late, just as the class assembled and the teacher was about to begin.

She rushed down the hall toward the open door, churning over why she had allowed herself to be talked into signing up for these sessions. She was already an accomplished painter, she had grown up immersed in Western religious art, and she doubted that a woman steeped in an archaic tradition had much to teach her. She had been studying Monet and Matisse, and she was developing her own expressive style. She was busy, it was expensive, the workshops would take too long, and she thought this might be a big waste of time.

As she approached the door, just out of sight of everyone, something happened that had never happened to her before:

Her panties fell down to her ankles.

She stopped in shock, closed her eyes, let out a long breath, then bowed low to pull up the panties and cover herself.

A few seconds later, she quietly took a seat in the classroom, ready to learn something she did not understand.

After a marriage that filled 42 years with life, Christl Kaserer Grow died Feb. 15, 2021, three weeks after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. She was 76. Read more about Christl here: “Home Birth, Home Death,” “Christl’s Resume as a Mom,” “At the Nude Beach in Vienna,” “A Myth that Guided Christl’s Life.”




Gerald Grow is a retired journalism professor, cartoonist, and photographer. More at

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Gerald Grow

Gerald Grow

Gerald Grow is a retired journalism professor, cartoonist, and photographer. More at

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