21, October 2014 § 1 Comment
by Jane Morris Pack
The 25th anniversary of the Italian Session now underway at The Aegean Center has been a delightful and rich experience for all of the faculty and students. In September, we arrived in Italy to find that our villa above the town of Pistoia had recently been restored to its original appearance and the 16th century painted trompe l’oeil facade on the garden side has been redone. The painted elements enhanced the plain walls with illusionistic stone work and invented windows. The paint echoes the front of the building but does not coincide with all the actual windows on the back. This use of illusion to provoke symmetry even when it does not exist was questioned by some of the students who could not understand why the paint and the architecture do not coincide. But the tradition of illusionistic painting to achieve perfection is a long standing practice in Italy. There are many false windows and arches painted on buildings to balance design.
We had the additional treat of watching the restoration painters demonstrate for us the painting technique. The Bellini family of artists, father and sons, follow a long tradition of painters using techniques which date back hundreds of years. The straight lines were drawn using a simple stick held against the wall and a sure hand in the artisan. The paint was mixed in clear divisions for the highlight, basic tone and three shadow values. As we watched, a three dimensional frame appeared before us, simply and carefully constructed by the master painter. It was fascinating to observe and humbling to understand his command of his craft. As he put on the final paint to represent the cast shadow, the frame seemingly lifted off the wall into the third dimension. We were delighted to have this firsthand insight into the time honored craft of illusionistic perspective painting.
17, October 2014 § 1 Comment
by Steven Kosovac
Three years have passed since I found myself in a taxi driving through olive groves just outside of the Italian city of Pistoia. Three years since I first attended the Aegean Center Fall Semester – the start of a profoundly formative journey that has drawn me to the tiny marble island of Paros time and again.
This past summer I returned once more to Paros, not as a student but as assistant to John Pack in the printing of The Greater Journey. A two-tome collection of photographs by John and poetry by Peter Abbs, the book was printed in a limited run of 121 handcrafted books. I arrived to find Peter’s poetry, already printed by letterpress on Hahnemühle fine art paper, resting on the shelf. My job then was to transform the reams of virgin paper and litres of Piezography printer ink resting nearby into the 21-image portfolios that accompany each book of poetry.
After a leisurely few weeks spent on the island (my arrival was premature, as the spring semester was still in session), I abruptly transformed into a machine, printing more than 2,500 images over a period of six weeks. In the air-conditioned oasis of the Center’s digital lab I methodically loaded Hahnemühle’s soft and warm bamboo digital photography paper into an Epson 4800 printer modified to take Piezography monochromatic inks.
The unique ink blends required continual minor adjustments to the contrast and midtones, but apart from a few minor setbacks and one near-catastrophe – solved after many hours of determined problem solving with John – the images printed without trouble.
Though much of the work was mechanical and repetitious, the time spent looking at the photographs and understanding John’s sensitive photographic eye has contributed to my own visual sensibilities. And that is to say nothing of the invaluable hours passed beside a great and determined mind.
Now with the job done and a new school year starting again, I’ve left Paros one more time, and my own journey continues.
The Greater Journey is to be presented to donors who make a substantial contribution to the Aegean Center Endowment Fund or otherwise significantly support the Center’s mission and various development projects. For more information please contact John Pack directly via email or phone at the Aegean Center.
12, August 2014 § 2 Comments
by Jane Morris Pack
Jun-Pierre Shiozawa is currently exhibiting work at the Argonauta Hotel in Parikia, Paros. The show is comprised of landscapes, cityscapes, seascapes, as well as nudes and surrealistic dreamlike images. They are all works on paper either with watercolor or ink and demonstrate a range of handling at varied levels of abstraction.
In his artist statement Jun expresses that his watercolor technique was born out of his love of sketching in the natural environment of Paros. Indeed, watercolor is particularly suited to capturing the light drenched vistas of Greece. It is evident that the watery delicate images record his love for the island and they show various locales which are familiar to most of us living here. “Rain on the Castro” or “Small Marina” record our daily backdrop. They bring with this sense of recognition an enjoyment of seeing things afresh, the chance to notice new feelings and sentiments attached to the familiar. Though they are not sentimental they note the human element: two fishermen talking, a woman hanging laundry. He does not descend, however, into the picturesque. It brings to mind the work of the American painter Winslow Homer, whose images simply record the facts, with no straining for effect, yet manage to convey a particular emotion attached to a view. It is not postcard material, nor merely decorative. We feel in each image that we sit beside the artist for a moment, observant and at ease, sensing the place and the people who inhabit it.
Jun’s ink work is something different and here he enters the world of dreams: a huge reptile occupies the mosaic floor of a church, an antlered deer wanders among columns of a basilica. In “Setting Ship” a ship plunges vertically into the sea as the sun would into the western horizon. Its rippled reflection shifts our balance and we feel vertigo and tension. The ink work is dark, subterranean in feel, below the level of consciousness, as though our mind recombined images during the night and left us curious on awaking what meaning was intended.
Jun is working now on a series of portraits which will be shown in October. We look forward to seeing them on the wall, all together, for a glimpse once again into our island’s matrix.
Jun-Pierre Shiozawa teaches painting and drawing at The Aegean Center. You can visit his web-site at junpierre.net.
15, July 2014 § 2 Comments
by Jacklyn Massari
Once upon a time there was a girl named Mackie Vassari. She was living the perfect life, according to society. She had the perfect apartment in a cute little suburban town right next to a park. The apartment was white, with lots of natural light, and the most precious blue tea pot.
She had a comfortable full time job that she knew so well, she could even do her job with her eyes closed. Mackie’s job was not far from her super cute apartment, where she liked to light candles and incense after she got home from work, while she was making chicken sausage for dinner. Yum!
She was living with a guy named Bon. He was the All-American Man. He had a great, stable job, common sense (for the most part), and a decent sense of humour. He wanted to provide everything to Mackie for the rest of her life. She would never have to lift a finger, except to paint, which is her favourite thing to do!
She was basically on the verge of living the dream. Or was she? She found herself thinking constantly about life. What’s the point? There must be more to life than this. Right? This can’t be it. She was confused and sad. Except for when she taught Zumba classes to ladies who loved shaking their booties. But other than that, she was sad.
One day, someone she knew from high school died of cancer. He was so young. She imagined that that could happen to anyone, and she immediately booked a trip to Greece because it had always been her DREAM to go there. She wanted to make sure she got the chance, and realised that it will never be “the right time” for anything. So just do it now.
That trip made her realise that there is a big world out there, and she wanted more of it. Soon after, Mackie applied to the Aegean Center for the Fine Arts. Much to her surprise, she was on a plane on her way to the Center for her first (of three) semesters only a month later. It seemed like a whirlwind, but pretty much the coolest whirlwind in the whole wide world. She left Bon, her job, her apartment, and the rest of her life behind her to travel off to Paros.
Slowly slowly, she stopped thinking so much about what the point of life is. She was just happy. She was learning a million things about art, languages, Greek mountain tea, Greek superstitions, relationships, Italian Renaissance artists, egg tempera painting and sunsets. She was also learning how to live simply and how important art is to her happiness and well being…and not only hers, but everyones. She learned so many things about herself that she never would have learned otherwise. Art opens up all those doors.
Mackie is even more obsessed with art than ever before. Since leaving the Aegean Center, she has been working many fulfilling, artistic jobs, and slowly building her life back up again in the way that is right for her. She lives in a small studio that shakes sometimes because it is located right next to the train tracks, and above a fish shop that smells of rotten fish sometimes (especially in the summer) and with a shower that does not work. BUT she is SO much happier.
And so the moral of the story is:
1. Live life to the fullest.
2. Don’t wait.
4. Be happy.
5. Live simply.
6. BADDABING BADDA BOOM!
Jacklyn Massari attended the Aegean Center in Spring 2011, Fall 2011 and Spring 2012. She returned to the Aegean Center this summer to attend Jane’s Figure Drawing Intensive.
1, July 2014 § Leave a comment
by Jane Morris Pack
The 2014 figure drawing intensive is underway at the Aegean Center. After five days we are at the same point which we normally reach after the fourth or fifth week in a regular session. The students know most of the names of the bones, we have built a clay hand and foot, clay head and features, and a paper construction of the rib cage and pelvis. Our model comes in the mornings and we work on anatomy and drawing solutions in the afternoons.
We concentrate furiously but the atmosphere is joyful. Unfortunately the weather has been very hot here so we have the fans going continuously. We have a boat trip coming up if the winds stay down and a few more chances to eat together. As the students are all at a high level I feel sure we will get through an entire semesters worth of work in our 12 day seminar.
13, May 2014 § 5 Comments
by Stephanie Dissette
The decision I made to study with the Aegean Center five years ago, as a gap-year student (only planning on one semester, then staying two years), has completely defined and outlined my adult life. Now, I have a bachelor’s degree in art history and a fine arts minor from the American University of Paris. I will begin a postgraduate degree this fall with Warwick University’s History of Art (Venice stream) postgraduate program. Eventually, I hope this will lead to a career as an art history professor.
When I started with the Aegean Center, I had no intention of becoming an artist or art historian – I just wanted to see the world. At the time, I thought even simply visiting Italy and Greece would satisfy: the art was a perk.
Please understand, contrary to popular belief, not all gap-year students travel in order to party and relax before getting serious about school. I can still hear my high-school guidance counselor warning, “the longer you wait to go, the less likely you’ll actually make it through college.” What an idiot. To be fair, I grew up in the southwest suburbs of Chicago, where at least three-quarters of students who continue on to higher education chose a state school, or at least stay within about 3-4 hours of home at another Midwest college or university. Students who don’t feel certain about their goals for college (what 18-year old is ever certain anyway…?) usually go to the nearby junior college, saving money the first couple years, and then finish their degree elsewhere. I bet most students my old counselor deals with (who don’t choose one of those obvious, typical paths) have no intention of continuing their education at all. I bet, just like the parents of some of my friends, that counselor was thinking, “what parent in her right mind would spend that kind of money and let her kid go that far away, just to see it all wasted on partying abroad?”
Well, my mom couldn’t spend that kind of money, for one. I had some help from my grandparents, but otherwise managed a lot of help through scholarships and work-study. And as far as sending me so far away… well, she knows there is a lot more to learn in life than what any school can offer, and looked forward to my travels. The best part of my counselor’s lack of faith in my future education: I was an honor’s student, who participated in many extra-curricular activities, and, of the 997 students that graduated from my high school that spring, I ranked in the top 10% academically. Even if none of that were true, even if I was the kind of student that chose school abroad to party as an under-21 (where it is legal), there was no way to avoid the kind of education I received with the Aegean Center.
In one word, the Aegean Center is an education in perception. Whether through the literal or philosophical reading of the word, there is perhaps no better place in the world to challenge one’s perception than with the Aegean Center. If you read this blog often, you know about the Friday hikes – the communion with nature that refreshes the spirit, but perhaps more importantly teaches purity in light, color, planes, even materials – and how they open up the world in a way many of us have forgotten or possibly never experienced. The courses follow a classical approach to fine art, based on masterworks, providing a basis many well-respected art schools have stopped offering their students. The blog also features articles the teachers have written about exhibits they’ve visited or projects they are working on. Perhaps its time to re-read those articles and recognize the freshness of their perspectives and techniques compared to the typical, contemporary take on art: a true Renaissance, if you’ll excuse the pun, in classical approach. My personal favorite: stories about the month touring Italy.
Chicago doesn’t have a very impressive collection of Renaissance art – the city is better known for its world-class impressionist collection and modern-contemporary art. The only connection I had to Italian Renaissance art in my first experiences abroad was an appreciation for public outdoor art – Chicago is packed full of that! And while I’m a big fan of the Chagall wall, Calder’s Flamingo, and the Picasso in Daley Plaza; for me, they hardly compare to Ghiberti’s Baptistery doors, Giambologna’s Rape of the Sabine Women, or the Michelangelo David. That perception, of course, is all about personal preference. I just never had the context before to understand where that preference came from. Now, I do.
And it is easier for me to make these comparisons now, after finishing my degree in art history, but getting there is its own story too. For the record, I am the wrong kind of art history student – at least traditionally speaking. Most art history students are excellent at remembering detailed information, especially names and dates; my memory does not hold those kinds of details very well. I’m lucky to get the century right with most works, and even if I can talk you through exactly where a painting hangs in the remarkable chasm of the Louvre, or break down the full story of nearly any biblical subject in an artwork and tell you why you should care about it, I will always double check my notes for names and dates. Definitely did that writing the previous paragraph here (at least now we have the internet!). And all the ways I am different or wrong compared to the typical, traditional art history student, I credit to the Aegean Center. First off, in my experience, very few art history students have a background in fine art. Many come from families that exposed them to every museum imaginable, or took a liking to art early on and chased it themselves; however, very few have picked up a pencil, crayon, paintbrush, or camera for anything artistic since they were in grade school. In fact, most would probably tell you that they are terrible at anything creative. Can anyone please explain to me how someone who does not consider him or herself creative ends up studying art history?
The truth is, as far as I’m concerned, uncreative people (or those without interest in being creative) do not study art history. The people who choose to study art history definitely have a creative side, whether they’ve acknowledged it or not. The Aegean Center embraces students with all levels of experience because they know the secret: art isn’t just talent, it’s work! Yes, anyone CAN draw. Anyone CAN paint. Anyone CAN take a beautiful photograph, then edit and print it like a real artist does. The trick is hard work, studying the great masters, and committing to practice. I may never display any artworks of my own in galleries or magazines, but I can paint properly with oil paints if I so desire, and my drawing does still improve, even when I stop practicing for a couple months now and again. The American University of Paris (AUP) does offer fine arts courses, and in fact, just recently launched a fine arts major (in addition to the minor). While most of my fine arts experience comes from the Aegean Center, AUP caught my attention by valuing the education the Aegean Center offered, and gave me full university credits for all the work I accomplished through the Aegean Center’s rigorous courses. There is currently one fine arts course AUP students must complete in order to graduate with an art history degree called “Materials and Techniques of the Masters.” I remember explaining the course to teachers at the Aegean Center, hardly containing my excitement, and then expressing honest disbelief when I realized how few students in the course had any background in the fine arts, as well as how many of them were seniors, graduating that same semester. Those students hadn’t ever specifically studied the materials and techniques used in all the works they had spent up to four years analyzing until their final semesters. Enter me: a number’s dummy, yes, but also the only one in the room who cared whether a work was made in tempera or oils… better yet, I’m the only one who could usually guess the material before asking.
Consider this: does a painting receive the same reaction, and hold the same majesty, projected in a classroom as it does when viewed in the flesh? While I’d like to think I understood the difference as a kid wandering through the Art Institute of Chicago, it probably wasn’t until my time with the Aegean Center that I really became aware of the difference. I have shown so many of my favorite artworks to friends and family through photos I’ve taken, or pictures I find online, and they never really compare to the awe acquired in being inches away from that full-scale work. Before I even committed to studying art history, the Aegean Center was preparing me to better understand and appreciate art, architecture, and history.
That also explains why, researching masters programs in art history, I had to somehow still experience the art in person; and I couldn’t do that with Renaissance works in Chicago. Starting this September, I’ll have come full circle – back to Italy, the same way the Aegean Center begins its fall semesters. Attending a British school as an American, I’m already preparing to stand out in more ways than one. I’ll probably be the wrong kind of student, again – I wish it all started tomorrow.
Thank you, Parian family, for helping me see fully and understand deeply. I couldn’t be more pleased for what I see coming next.
5, May 2014 § Leave a comment
by Jane Morris Pack
John Pack knows the topography of Paros and his Friday hikes are an important part of the program at The Aegean Center. They have been a tradition for countless years and introduce the students to the beauty and variety of landscape of the island. After several hours of walking in the hills amongst the olive trees or clambering the stone pathways the participants always return refreshed in body and spirit.
As important as it is to experience Paros in this way there is something deeper happening for the visual artist. The immersion in landscape is a fundamental human experience. All color begins in nature, all sense of volume, depth, texture and light. Whereas the city environment surrounds us with angular monochromatic walls and hard vertical facets the natural environment is varied and nuanced. Bright flat surfaces are uncommon in nature, nearly every color is graded and shifts in one direction or another. The color changes that sweep over hills and sea elevate our awareness and can take our breath away. Natural landscape echoes our emotions with drama or calm serenity. We feel a surge of something like love in a beautiful scene. The painter needs to steep in this colored world, to imbue the mind with harmonies and relationships, to cleanse the eye of the artificial colors of advertisements which manipulate our lowest instincts.
The first step in the painting program at the Center is to break the hold that the primary colors have on the students by experiencing the subtlety of the earth palette: yellow ochre, burnt sienna, ivory black and titanium white. In Greece this is the original tetrachromy of ancient painters and comes from pigments extracted from the land. The warm red and yellow balanced by the cooling white and black create every possible permutation which color can undergo: value, temperature and intensity. With clean handling the blues and greens are easily obtained by mixing. This palette often feels too limited to the beginner but opens a new world once experienced. No other colors are necessary for landscape and portraiture.
Closeness to the land revives knowledge which may lie dormant in the artist. The combination of walking in nature and painting with earth tones gives the beginning painter a chance to expand vision and skill, and rediscover beauty.
Landscape above by former Aegean Center student Cari Adams. For more visit her website at http://www.carolineadamsart.com/.