Our team is diverse joining from across the world. We look for creative, leading voices that together join the chorus of AWE. We hold that anything is possible, and that boundaries are only set to help us push the limits of our knowledge and that those who search shall find.
BOARD OF DIRECTORS
John Slifko, PhD, has dedicated his work to issues around the world for democratic civil societies with major contributions to global efforts in improving the education of young women. Dr. Slifko has worked for the Los Angeles City Council and United States Congress, engaging in environmental issues and technology policy. He is a founding member and on the Board of Advisers at the Hannah Mather Crocker Society, Notre Dame University, and C3 Advisory Group. He is also a co-Director of the Roosevelt Center for the Study of Civil Society and Freemasonry. He has contributed to international publications on numerous subjects, including “The Moral Imagination of an Informed Citizenry, Crocker, Hall and Freemasonry”, “A Historical Geography of Louis Goaziou and the Early Years of L’Ordre Masconnique Mixte et International ‘Le Droit Humain’”, “American Federation of Human Rights: the Significance of the Industrial Monongahela Valley of Western Pennsylvania”, and “Worlds of Print: The Moral Imagination of an Informed Citizenry, 1734 to 1839”. Dr. Slifko is a co-Founder of project AWE.
Zhenya Gershman, MFA, is an art historian, artist and museum educator. As a co-Founder of Project Awe she has dedicated her scholarly and charitable work to examine the influence of Esotericism on the Arts. Gershman seeks to provide new dimensions to understanding and experiencing the cultural icons of Western European heritage.
Gershman’s specific area of study and expertise is in the life and work of Rembrandt. In her pioneering article Rembrandt: Turn of the Key, published by Arion and featured by Huffington Post, Gershman was able to reveal the evidence for Rembrandt’s involvement with the early pre-Grand Lodge Freemason fraternity, bringing new light to understanding of this great master. She has worked for over a decade in the internationally acclaimed J. Paul Getty Museum, and has contributed to such exhibitions as Rembrandt's Late Religious Portraits and Rembrandt: Telling the Difference. Gershman’s groundbreaking discovery regarding the presence of a hidden Rembrandt self portrait was published by Arion, Boston University and was brought to European audiences by Le Monde.
Michael Pearce, Phd, is an associate professor at California Lutheran University in Thousand Oaks, where he teaches figurative drawing and painting. In 2010 he introduced an atelier-style system to the CLU Art Department, in which each faculty member was provided with their own studio space on campus, welcoming their students to study alongside them as they lead by example in the production of their own work. He served as Chair of the Art Department between 2008 - 2013.
Between 2005 - 2016 Pearce was curator of CLU's Kwan Fong Gallery where his programming emphasized the work of representational artists and interdisciplinary exhibits. In December 2014 the California Art Club named Pearce "man of the year" and presented him with the William & Julia Bracken Wendt Award for his service to representational art.
Michael Stetka is a veteran of the United States Marine Corps, a student of philosophy and Western esotericism, and a working professional in banking and finance with strengths in business development and client engagement. This combination of experience and interests produces the wide-ranging convergence by which Michael brings his unique knowledge to Project AWE as the Chief Financial Officer. Michael is proficient with working specifically with non-profit community organizations. Additionally, he has helped the Public Schools Advisory Council in San Francisco by raising scholarship funds for high school students on their way to college, many of whom are the first in their family to pursue higher education. Based in San Francisco, Michael feels a personal responsibility to extend his love and appreciation for the arts from his own family and children to community at large to ensure the arts are both accessible and applicable to all that would seek them out.
Evan D. Pepper, PhD, is the Chair of Science at West Coast University. He received his Doctorate of Philosophy at University of Southern California. Dr. Pepper was awarded an NIH Fellowship for gerontological studies and has published extensively on molecular processes that contribute to Alzheimer's disease, antibiotic resistance, and DNA repair. These studies have implications for treatments of neurological disorders, infection, and cancer. Dr. Pepper is also Associate Faculty at Santa Monica College and has taught courses in Microbiology, Public Health Epidemiology, Environmental Science, and Chemistry. He is a long standing member of the American Society for Microbiology and has presented at Biological conferences throughout the United States.
Corine Couwenberg, managing partner of Full Circle Entertainment Group (FCEG) was named Director of the Project AWE Gallery by its founders Zhenya Gershman and John Slifko shortly after its inception in 2015. Corine brings over 25 years of experience in the arts and entertainment field to the AWE team, by adding marketing, financial development and exhibition opportunities to its internal dynamic. As a student of both the arts and Western esotericism, she is uniquely qualified to lead the Galley into the future while utilizing her extensive background in the non-profit arena as a cornerstone to insuring its viability and growth in the present.
Dr. Trevor Luke is an Associate Professor of Ancient History and Classics at Florida State University in the United States. His research focuses on the role of religion in Roman imperial politics and society from the Late Republic to the third century CE. His first book, Ushering in a New Republic: Theologies of Arrival at Rome in the First Century BCE (University of Michigan Press, 2014), explored the staging and narration of divine involvement in the arrivals of the great commanders from Sulla to Augustus at Rome. His current book project, Healing and Empire, will elucidate the Roman emperor’s role as healer. Dr. Luke researches the ancient roots of Western Esotericism as well as the reception of antiquity in Western Esotericism. His interest in this field was initially sparked by childhood visits to the George Washington Masonic National Memorial, which architect Harvey Wiley Corbett modeled on the ancient Pharos of Alexandria. Dr. Luke has also delivered public lectures on esoteric aspects of the career of Joseph Smith, Jr., the founder of Mormonism.
Dr. Pinchas Giller was brought up in Cocoa Beach, Florida. He was ordained at Yeshiva University and received his doctorate at the Graduate Theological Union, Berkeley. Rabbi Giller has written extensively on Judaism and his field of expertise, Jewish Mysticism or Kabbalah. He has written four books, The Enlightened Will Shine: Symbolism and Theurgy in the Later Strata of the Zohar (State University of New York Press, 1993), Reading the Zohar (Oxford University Press 2000), Shalom Shar’abi and the Kabbalists of Beit El (Oxford University Press 2000) and Kabbalah: A Guide for the Perplexed (Continuum Press; 2012). He has also edited Beur Moshe al ha-Torah, a Bible commentary by his great-great Grandfather, the Vilna grammarian Moses Reicherson. Dr. Giller is chairman of the Jewish Studies department of the American Jewish University, Los Angeles.
Dr. Christopher McIntosh is that rara avis, a scholar who is also a fiction writer, an artist, a romantic dreamer and a connoisseur of the bizarre and the other-worldly. He was born in England in 1943 and grew up in Edinburgh, Scotland. He studied philosophy, politics and economics at Oxford and German at London University, later returning to Oxford to take a doctorate in history with a dissertation on the Rosicrucian revival in the context of the German Enlightenment and Counter-Enlightenment. After working in London in journalism and publishing he spent four years in New York as an information officer with the United Nations Development Programme, then moved to Germany to work for UNESCO. In parallel he has pursued a career as a writer and researcher specialising in the esoteric traditions. His books include The Astrologers and their Creed (1969); Eliphas Lévi and the French Occult Revival (1972); The Rosicrucians (latest edition 1997); The Rose Cross and the Age of Reason (1992), based on his D.Phil. dissertation; The Swan King: Ludwig II of Bavaria (latest edition 2003); and Gardens of the Gods (2005). His fictional work includes the occult novel Return of the Tetrad (2013), the spy thriller The Lebensborn Spy (2017) and the short story collections Master of the Starlit Grove (2014), The Wyrde Garden (2015) and The Sorceress of Agartha (2017). With his wife, Dr. Donate McIntosh, he produced a new translation of the Rosicrucian Fama Fraternitatis (2014). He has lectured widely and was on the faculty of the distance M.A. programme in Western Esotericism at the University of Exeter, England. His home is in Bremen, North Germany.
Dr. Elke Morlok holds a position at the Institute of Judaic Studies at Goethe University Frankfurt and is a LOEWE postdoctoral fellow specializing in "Religious Positioning in the Context of Salvific Expectations among Jews and Christians towards the End of Time". After studying Protestant theology and Jewish studies in Tübingen and Heidelberg, she obtained an MA in Jewish Civilization and Jewish Thought at the Hebrew University Jerusalem. She received her doctorate on "Rabbi Joseph Gikatilla's Hermeneutics" under the guidance of Professor Moshe Idel. Dr. Morlok participated in the DFG project "Cultural Transfer in New Style: The Renaissance Preacher Yehuda Moscato" at the Martin-Luther University Halle-Wittenberg. She was a research associate at the College of Jewish Studies in Heidelberg and at the Department of Jewish Studies at Johannes Gutenberg University. She has also held various teaching assignments in Basel, Salzburg, and Tübingen. Dr. Morlok is currently editing her book on Isaac Satanow (1732-1804), a Jewish thinker of the early modern period of the Jewish Enlightenment focusing on Kabbalah.
Dr. Andreas Önnerfors is an Associate Professor and Reader in intellectual history at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden. Additionally, Dr. Önnerfors is a Research Associate at the Centre for Fascist, Anti-fascist and Post-fascist Studies at the Teesside University, UK. On behalf of the German state government and a Nordic inter-governmental research organization Dr. Önnerfors carried out surveys on PhD education. Lund university library employed Andreas Önnerfors for a project of provenance in their rare book collections. He is a member of the European Academy of Sciences and Arts in Salzburg, Austria. Dr. Önnerfors research interests focus mainly on expressions of early modern fraternalism, in particular initiatory societies, the intellectual history of the enlightenment between public and secret spaces and of trans-national cultural encounters.
Photo credit: Elin Widfeldt
Alexander Maykapar is a renowned Russian harpsichordist, organist and pianist, grandson of the famous composer and pianist Samuel Maykapar, who combines a dense concert schedule with extensive writing, translation and teaching work. Having graduated from the Gnessin Russian Academy of Music as a pianist and from the Moscow Conservatory as an organist, he has been performing since 1970, with an emphasis on early music. In his concerts, research, teaching and editing activities, J.S. Bach stands out as one of the central figures; he has performed Bach’s complete harpsichord music (15 concerts), as well as that of François Couperin (8 concerts), and all keyboard works by Joseph Haydn. The English record label Olympia published five CDs by Maykapar in The Origins of Russian Piano Music series. Alexander is the author of over two hundred works on music history, the art of performance, painting, and musical iconography, in which he reveals the deeper hidden meanings of famous masterpieces. His translations into Russian include such important works as Wanda Landowska’s book On Music (1991, 2nd ed. 2005), Bach’s Ornaments by Walter Emery (1996), and the Dictionary of Subjects and Symbols in Art by James Hall (1996), followed by Alexander’s own work in the field of symbology and iconography – a popular compendium New Testament in Art (1997). Alexander currently lectures at music schools and colleges, and performs in concert cycles under the umbrella name The Anthology of Harpsichord Music: the year 2014 was dedicated to Couperin, and in the 2015-16 season, Alexander is going to play 200 sonatas by Scarlatti. His most recent published work is the two-volume essay collection The Facets of Classical Music (2013-14) in which he explores a vast range of subjects and periods, from the musical culture of Ancient Egypt through Renaissance and Baroque periods and up to Thomas Mann’s novel Doctor Faustus, offering an unusual comparative approach and illuminating the reader with unexpected revelations along the way.
Jean-Michel Mathonière was initially trained as a designer in building and civil engineering. His early passion for cathedral builder’s traditions resulted today in him being recognized as a specialist in the history of craft guilds and journeymen stonemasons in France. Jean-Michel has published numerous articles and books on these subjects, including the prehistory of Freemasonry, stonecutter’s marks, and printer’s emblems of the 15th and 17th centuries. Jean-Michel is a founder of the Study Center in Avignon, France. He has organized various exhibitions on stereotomy and journeymen stonecutters and on other various related topics to the themes of compagnonnage and architecture. In 2017, Jean-Michel was awarded Ordre des Palmes académiques (Order of Academic Palms) a national order of France for distinguished academics and figures in the world of culture and education.
AWE CONTRIBUTING MEMBERS
Gypsy van Melle Seaton discovered her passion for Western Esotericism through her lifelong fascination with art and design. Her particular interest in the junction between art, mathematics and esotericism developed while she was studying Product Design at the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences. The creative and technical aspects of her background as a designer have provided her with an original perspective within the academic framework of Western Esotericism. She has completed her Bachelor of Arts in Religious Studies with a minor in Western Esotericism at the University of Amsterdam (UVA) and is continuing her studies at the UVA’s graduate program for a Master of Arts in Theology and Religious Studies: Western Esotericism.
In 2017 Gypsy joined Project AWE’s team as a research assistant for the internship program. She has subsequently taken on an important position as Project Specialist.
Mauricio Oviedo is an art historian whose work has been oriented to the function of images in cultural transformations throughout history. He received his masters in Religious Studies, with a specialization in Western Esotericism from the University of Amsterdam. He earned a BA in Art History, from the University of Costa Rica. Currently he is a PhD candidate in the Department of Christianity and the History of Ideas of the University of Groningen. Oviedo has done research in Theory of Art; 15th and 16th century European Art (Italian, Dutch and German art); astrological images, and 19th century cultural markets in Central America. His current research is focused on Colonial Art, Dutch and German emblem books’ production, and German visual culture connected to mysticism, from the 17th and 18th century.
Sasha Chaitow, PhD, is a British-Greek independent scholar, cultural historian, and artist. Her doctoral research (University of Essex) comprises a full scale review of the life and work of visionary author and occultist Joséphin Péladan. Her interest in the interdisciplinarity and the intersection between esotericism and culture led to an MA in English Literature (University of Indianapolis, 2004) and a second MA in Western Esotericism (EXESESO, Exeter, 2008). Sasha was assistant visiting professor in Religious Studies and History at the University of Indianapolis Athens 2008-2012, and founding director of Phoenix Rising Academy, an independent educational enterprise dedicated to introducing the academic study of Western Esotericism to a general audience. She has directed and lectured at international conferences and colloquia in the UK, Greece, and the US. Sasha has contributed articles and chapters to books on Freemasonry, Initiation, Synaesthesia, Methodology in the Study of Esotericism, Art and Esotericism, and Esotericism and Politics, and has published a monograph on Péladan (Daidaleos Books, Salonica, 2013).
Dario Mellado is an artist, filmmaker, and producer. Mellado’s work includes a twenty-year ongoing study of “America’s Decaying Suburban Experience”. He focuses on the post second world war suburban explosion and it’s environmental, social, and spiritual implications. Mellado’s background in social activism including work coordinating the Independent Living Program in the San Fernando Valley (a vocational and counseling program for “at risk youth” and foster children) and time spent as a Vocational Counselor and Advocate for teens with Autism and Asperger’s solidified Mellado’s idea and use of an art’s function as an influential “tool for social change”. His recent documentary “Nuclear Cowboys” addresses environmental concerns and raises awareness of local health crises.
Dr. Komarov serves as a mathematics consultant to project AWE. He is known for his software expertise and enjoys extreme challenges.
Lindsay LaChapelle Mellado is a talented Filmmaker and a Producer. She is working on a TV pilot for Project AWE series.
Yanina Gotsulsky is a writer and translator, whose work has appeared in national and international publications. Yanina has a degree in Russian Literature from York University in Toronto.
Caroline Stover is a resident of Atlanta, GA. who works in publishing and artist representation.
Pompeyo Cepeda has generously dedicated his time to volunteering for AWE special events and projects.
Image, top of the page: Rembrandt van Rijn, Syndics of the Cloth Merchant's Guild (deatil), Rijks Museum, Amsterdam
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