Several years ago I interviewed a Greek artist who had been born in Athens, educated in Italy, had exhibited in London and Hong Kong and Paris and Los Angeles among several far-flung places, and was now exhibiting his modern installations (a blaze of white and multi-colored lights in various geometric shapes) in a gallery in New York.
“I consider myself a citizen of the world,” he said, his simple manner belying his worldly aims. “I am a Greek artist, I was born in the light of Greece, but I want to bring that light to the rest of the world. People don’t think that Greece has art anymore. But the light of Greece is what has given the whole world art.”
I interviewed a Greek artist from here (Peter Anton) who had been featured in People magazine for his art, which had even been bought for the Clinton White House, and was fetching amazing sums. His art was food sculpture (fruit, ice cream bars, candies, boxed chocolates—round chocolates the size of bar stools—a chocoholic’s fantasy) created in the basement of his home and with simple materials like paper, and glue, and paint.
"I have an innate reverence for the things we eat,” he says.“Food brings people together and there is no better way to celebrate life.”
Spoken like a true Greek.
And most recently I interviewed a visiting artist from Greece, a single mother and trained artist, who exhibited her first display of “Angels” art in New York and couldn’t wait to get back to Greece and resume more work in the series. Her name is Natasha Metaxa and her canvases range from huge charcoal drawings in a white vacant space to prints on transparent polycarbonate with integrated lighting that gives them a 3-D effect. And they all show nude figures with wings—to illustrate the “angel” in all of us.
Her intention, said the gallery notes, “is to make evident that the superior characteristics which are attributed to Angels could be elements of our own human behaviour.”
An Athenian who also trained in Florence and New York, Metaxa also hoped to make a point and remind people with her exhibit “that Greece exports culture and art…Greece is not (just) the equivalent of the debt crisis. I feel that this is my responsibility as a Greek artist of today.”
It’s a heady responsibility nowadays, when Greece is in the news mostly for its economic woes. But I was in Greece recently and the country is just as beautiful as ever, and the people as voluble as ever, and the combination can’t help but make an artist out of every Greek, both in his life and in his art.
Dimitri C. Michalakis