Tag Archives: light

Friday Fun Fact: You Will See Lots of Candles This Weekend

3 May


You might think Easter already happened back in March, but if you’re Greek you know it’s this weekend. And with Greek Orthodox Easter comes the sight of men who don’t grow mustaches ironically and women who still believe in using lots of Aquanet carrying candles with little red wax-catching cups.

If you missed it last year, here’s my story about this tradition and wondering how to get a lit candle home if I can’t take an open flame on the subway.


Clip: A Time to Build

28 Mar

In case you missed it, the art I curated for Burnside’s latest “A Time to…” series posted last week. This one’s on “A Time to Build.”

It shows a photograph of the two beams of light that serve as a reminder of the Twin Towers. I began working in Manhattan a month after 9/11. I used to see these light sculptures all the time while walking in the Village. I don’t remember them being discontinued, but I do remember how they stopped me in my tracks when I saw them turned on again at the ten-year anniversary date of the attacks. The lights may represent the physical buildings that were lost and honor those who lost their lives, but for me they also are a symbol of hope and resilience. The light pierces the darkness, showing that sometimes the intangible is more powerful than the physical.

Jonathan Collins’ Beat Generation Locale Series

8 Oct

9 Lupine Road

When I first saw artist Jonathan Collin’s paintings in person, I thought they were photographs.  They’re stunning.  Incredibly detailed and richly saturated, his Lowell series captures with paint the Massachusetts landscape that Jack Kerouac captured with words.  More than just setting and subject matter, Collins’ use of chiaroscuro resonates with Kerouac’s literature.  There is light piercing the darkness.

When I asked Jonathan if he’d write a little artist statement, he sent me back an email with the below, saying he’d written it spontaneously and with no revision, according to Beat principles.

Visions of Lowell

Jack Kerouac’s Duluoz Legend has always been an important touchstone of literature and revelation of light and beauty to me. In my research of those heady days of the 40s and 50s, I found them not only to be thrilling, but all in the family.

My father, Don Collins, was also in the Navy in WWII , the Merchant Marines, and traveled the world as Kerouac did. My father came back home, worked and painted, Kerouac wrote!

I began this series of paintings of Beat Generation locales in 2010. Traveling to San Francisco first, via the California Zephyr , in 2007, I was astounded by the natural richness and depth of the American landscape. I strolled the streets of North Beach, with its glistening neons and vibrating nightlife. I recorded everything in my journal, sketchbook, and camera. Everything that rose the hairs on my neck in artistic excitement!

I had been to Lowell many times, from the mid 1990s on, but my trip in July 2011 was intended to document the birth and mystery of the seeds planted in Kerouac’s psyche. From the Lupine Road house, to downtown cobbled streets, to the glowing Grotto, I stood transfixed.

Paterson was where my mother was born, and my parents met at the bridge surrounding the Great Falls. Allen Ginsberg was raised in Paterson and grew up  a mere four blocks from these sites. I found Ginsberg’s poem, “The Green Automobile” to be an exquisite inspiration, tying the mythical past to present;”From Lowell’s Merrimack to Paterson’s Passaic.”

My main focus was not only the historical context both personal and literary , but illumination, literally.  Light is the essence of my paintings and a key ingredient in the tempest of Beat literature. From Rimbaud’s “Illuminations,” to Kerouac’s “Visions” series, Gregory Corso’s visionary odes, to Ginsberg’s “Howl,” his plea for understanding.

The need to shed light, to reveal hidden truths beyond words, to make sense of the beauty and sanctity of life, feeling the mystery in the shadows, was and IS, the artists’ true quest.

Just as the Paterson Falls continue to boom and crash, and the neons of Frisco glow endurably, and the spirit of Lowell pulses in the night, so will the work of the Beats continue to inspire, and illuminate generation after generation.

It is my hope that these paintings will enrich the hearts and minds of others, with a glimpse of the light surrounding us, and pray we honor and express the light within us all.

The Moon Her Majesty


The Visitation

[The three paintings above are of the Grotto in Lowell and should be viewed from left to right in the order in which they appear.]

2011 Gabby Awards: Stephen Antonakos, Lifetime Achievement Award Winner

7 Jun

I am extremely thankful to the Gabby Awards for sending me tickets to attend the 2011 Gabby Awards, a celebration of “Greek America’s Best and Brightest Stars.”  The website describes the Gabby Awards as follows:

The Gabby Awards were created to celebrate and reward the excellence Greek Americans have achieved in various fields. Founded in 2009 to also celebrate the 15th anniversary of the launching of Greek America Magazine, the Gabby Awards serve as the “Oscars®” of the Greek American community.

The 2011 Gabby Awards were held on Ellis Island, and there were special, star-studded events all weekend to celebrate.

On Friday, June 3, the American College of Greece hosted a cocktail and art exhibition to honor Gabby Awards Lifetime Achievement Award winner artist Stephen Antonakos at Lori Bookstein Fine Art.  I’m a huge fan of Stephen Antonakos’ art.  I love modern art in general but I’m particularly entranced with the idea of using neon in fine art, as Antonakos does.  Neon — symbol Ne; atomic number 10 — comes from the Greek word “νέον,”  which means “new one.”  Neon was discovered by British chemists in 1898 and made into advertising signs first in France in 1912.  It wasn’t until 1923 that neon signs were bought in the U.S.  Antonakos, who was born three years later in 1926 in Greece, move to America in 1930 and thirty years later, in 1960, began using neon in his art.  According to the Gabby Awards:

Antonakos “discovered” neon in 1960 when he was intrigued by the light emanating from midtown Manhattan neon signs. From there, he made neon his primary medium, developing his individual contribution to modern art.

I was hoping for a whole roomful of neon sculptures, but there was only one, Plea, at the Lori Bookstein Fine Art gallery.  Plea is a red rectangle, hung vertically on the wall.  Neon light emanates from behind it, making one reconsider the shape, color, and even significance of the red rectangle.

The sculptor of light, Antonakos, says:

My use of neon is really my own.  I began with it around 1960 and very soon it became central to my work.  The geometric forms, usually incomplete circles and squares, were a tremendous excitement to me.  It is very difficult to separate light from space — even when the art is directly on the wall.  For years I have been investigating the great subtlety and range of neon using forms that haven’t changed that much since the beginning.  It’s spatial qualities interest me — formal relationships within a work and with the architecture of the room or building and the kinetic relationship that viewer may feel in the space of the light.  I feel that abstraction can have a very deep effect visually, emotionally, and spatially.

Stephanie in front of Gabby Awards Lifetime Achievement Award Winner Stephen Antonakos' "Drawing/Neon For The University of Massachusetts" (1978, Colored pencil on paper, 38" x 50")

As this quote indicates, Antonakos’ artwork is about more than just neon — it’s also about shape.  At first, some of his works seem simplistic, but upon closer inspection they are brilliantly thought-provoking.  Take for instance, Drawing/Neon For The University of Massachusetts, also up at the gallery.  On top of white paper sits the outline of a circle, done in red pencil.  Except, it’s not a circle at all — there circle never closes, never completes.  It’s very nature — unending — is interrupted, challenged.

The Gabby Awards points out:

In his long and storied career, Antonakos has had more than 100 one-person shows, more than 250 group shows, and almost 50 Public Works installed in the United States, Europe, and Japan. He is recognized as the world’s pioneer light artist.

Antonakos’ Lifetime Achievement Award was presented the following night at the Gabby Awards, by Helen Evans, the Mary and Michael Jaharis Curator for Byzantine Art at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.  Friday’s event at the gallery was quite lovely, even though I wish there would have been more of Antonakos’ art on view — in particular, I want to see Mani Sky, Arrival, and Transfiguration.

The passed hors d’oeuvres were probably the best appetizers of the entire event.  I’m talking mac-and-cheese croquettes, vegetarian sushi, and other delectable treats, served by charming caterers, who caught on to my dietary choice and looked out for me, going out of their way to give me vegetarian options.

I want to also take a moment to mention Deree, The American College of Greece.  The college’s president, David G. Horner, Ph.D., was there to speak about the college’s esteemed history as “Europe’s oldest and largest, comprehensive, U.S.-accredited academic institution.”  The college offers undergrad, grad, and continuing ed courses.

Congratulations to Stephen Antonakos!  His work will be on display at the Lori Bookstein Fine Art Gallery (138 10th Ave, New York) through June 25, 2011.