Tag Archives: Greek Orthodox Church

The Light and Life of Greek American Neon Artist Stephen Antonakos (1926–2013)

19 Aug

I learned via Gregory Pappas, founder of the Greek America Foundation, that artist Stephen Antonakos passed away this weekend. I had the great privilege of attending an exhibition of Antonakos’ neon sculptures at the Lori Bookstein Fine Art gallery here in New York City when the abstract artist was honored for the Gabby Awards Lifetime Achievement Award. You can read about that here. Antonakos attended the event, and I remember him being a quiet, humble artist. Yet his work speaks volumes.

Captivated by the neon lights of New York City, the Greek immigrant—Antonakos moved to the US when he was four years old—the artist began incorporating neon into his art in 1960. In an interview with Zoe Kosmidou, he explained the symbolism—or lack thereof—in his neon work:

My forms do not represent, symbolize, or refer to anything outside of themselves. Such specific correspondences would limit the work’s meaning, whereas pure abstraction, liberated from any external references, is capable of saying so much more. My neons relate formally to architecture and space, but they do not represent anything outside themselves.

Even so, raised in the Greek Orthodox Church, the artist’s work did have spiritual subtext. He created crosses and “chapels.”

Earlier, in the mid 1950s, Antonakos was creating collages. In a 2007 interview with Phong Bui for The Brooklyn Rail, Antonakos said:

And since oil painting was too slow for me to keep up with all of the ideas that were racing through my mind, I felt the physical and spontaneous process of putting various objects together was more suitable to what I needed to get done in those years.

His desire to work fast, engage in a spontaneous process, and collage disparate found objects together resonates with the postmodern aesthetic. We hear the same vision in the works of the abstract expressionist painters and the Beat Generation writers. Antonakos revealed that although he admired the work of the abstract expressionists, he felt he could “get more out of” the Italian artists Alberto Burri and Lucio Fontana.

Antonakos went on to have more than 100 solo shows around the work.

For artists of any discipline, one of the great takeaways from Antonakos’ life is that one can have a day job and still be an artist as long as one perseveres. Antonakos worked as a pharmaceutical illustrator during the day and then would work in his studio until 2 in the morning.

Here are a couple of links to celebrate the life and work of this inspired artist:

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9/11: Church Hopping at St. Nicholas Church at the World Trade Center

11 Sep

Last year Burnside Writers Collective published my Church Hopping article on St. Nicholas, the Greek Orthodox church that was lost in the terrorist on September 11, 2001.  If you missed it, you can read about it here.

Recently, Patrick J. Foye, Executive Director of the Port Authority, said: “The new World Trade Center will not be whole and complete until the St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church is rebuilt.”  You can read about Archbishop Demetrios’ visit to the construction site, where he “stopped in front of the site where St. Nicholas is to be built at the corner of Liberty and Greenwich streets (the south-east corner of WTC),” on the site for the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America.

Happy Tsiknopempti!

16 Feb

Happy Tsiknopempti!  You’ve heard of Fat Tuesday, the French holiday associated with Mardi Gras.  Well, today is Fat Thursday, ten days before the beginning of Great Lent.

Tsiknopempti means Barbecue Thursday, Charred Meat Thursday, or Burnt Thursday.  It’s the evening Greek Orthodox believers consume massive amounts of meat because they start fasting from meat even a week before Great Lent, the forty days leading up to Pascha (Easter), begins.

I’ve been fasting from meat for six years.  I guess that means BBQ tofu and grilled veggies for me.

It’s my sister’s favorite holiday.  She’s such a carnivore!  I’d never even heard of the holiday til my family moved to Greece.  Then my sister told me all about a day where the sweet smell of charred meat wafts through the dusty roads of ancient villages.

What’s your favorite food to barbecue?

Here are a few recipe ideas:::

Skewered Grilled Fruit with Minted Yogurt Honey Sauce

Grilled Fruit Skewers with Spicy Maple Cumin Glaze

Coffee-Rubbed Cheeseburgers with Texas Barbecue Sauce

Lamb Chops with Lemon

 

You might also like these articles:::

Hello, Carnival; Good-bye Meat

Tasty Tuesday: Dinner at Souvlaki GR

Clip: Paintings of the Crucifixion

Clip: Church Hopping: St. Nicholas Church at the World Trade Center

3 Oct

As the debate rages on over whether the Muslim community center Park51, better known by the misnomer the “Ground Zero Mosque,” should be allowed to be constructed near the former cite of the World Trade Center, little media attention has gone to the one house of worship that actually was destroyed in the terrorist attacks of September 11: St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church.  Established by immigrants, the small Greek Orthodox church had served the spiritual needs of Lower Manhattan since 1916, just shy of a hundred years.  St. Nicholas was destroyed indirectly when the South Tower fell on it during the attacks of 9/11.  With religion at the center of debates over whether a Muslim community center should be built so close to where the Islamic militant group Al-Qaeda attacked and whether there should be any sort of clergy prayer at the ten-year anniversary, why has the Greek Orthodox church’s destruction gone under-reported?  Why are people who profess themselves Christian more invested in keeping a Muslim community center at bay than in rebuilding and growing a Christian church?  Is Greek Orthodox not Christian enough?

You can read my full Church Hopping article on St. Nicholas Church at the World Trade Center on Burnside Writers Collective.