Judy Voboril

27, May 2016 § Leave a comment

Judy addresses the Mayor of Pistoia 1990

Judy Voboril passed away on May 20th in Paros, Greece. She was born in Prague, Czechoslovakia in 1943 and fled her country during the Russian invasion in 1968. Italy accepted her as a refugee and she stayed in Rome for one and a half years before being given asylum in America. She lived in Los Angeles for ten years working as a graphic designer then returned to Europe in 1979 living in Paros for many years, painting full time. After the collapse of the Soviet Union she returned to Prague in 1991 for the first time since it had fallen under Communist rule. She lived in a home beneath the Castle which was close to her former home. Judy was an painter who worked in oils, acrylics and watercolour as well as being a superb draughtsman. She worked with the Aegean Center every year as a translator during the September stay in Italy. She came to love Italy when, as a young art student, she went to Florence to be a part of an international team to help recover art works damaged in the terrible flood of 1966.

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Judy, Giuditta, or Jitka as we variously called her, was an important part of the Aegean Center as well as our personal lives. Her presence with the school every September in Italy was vital to its operation as she smoothed every aspect of running the program there from talking with the cooks to translating the official speeches of the Mayor’s receptions. Her sense of humour and her honesty were admired and valued by all of us. It was these qualities of her character we counted on to see us through the demanding weeks we spent in Italy every year. Her sophisticated understanding of Italian culture and art taught us how to negotiate the terrain and to know what was important, what was vital and what was hidden beyond the text book versions of the art and culture we saw. She often surprised us with her profound insights into things as her quiet demeanour hid the depth of her feelings and breadth of her knowledge. Italy aside, Judy was family to us here on Paros as well. We had a closeness that was rare to discover among those not related by birth, she was a sister in our hearts.

Gabriel Pack knew and loved Judy. In a recent conversation he described quite eloquently how Judy influenced his life in many positive ways. He spoke of how he enjoyed her forthright and curious nature, “She spoke her mind, didn’t suffer fools gladly, but was never mean spirited. She understood who she was and didn’t let negative experiences cloud her enjoyment of life… I learned a lot from Judy, a lot about life.” Well said, Gabriel. And, O, how clearly in our minds’ eye we can see her wry smile when she quietly endured an “idiot”; her proud eloquent posture and that long blond twist of hair always adorning her straight back.

Judy was an avid and discerning reader, a wonderful artist, a true friend and a generous spirit. Judy was so many things with so much wisdom about life and how one might live it well, no matter the adversity or hardship one must pass through along the way.

We will miss her terribly.

-John and Jane Pack

Judy & Jane 1992

JITKA VOBORIL By Jeffrey Carson

My wife and I first met Judy several decades ago, a day or two after she arrived on Paros. She lived near us and so we often met. This was often on the beach of Parasporos, where she used to sunbathe and read contemporary fiction in three languages. In those days the beach undulated with sand dunes, and hosted few people; there was no road, and the long path there wended its way through a wet meadow fluttering with little blue butterflies. Judy was easy to talk to, knew a lot about culture, especially art of all periods, but also literature and film. She was a dedicated and successful artist herself.

One quality in her that I came more and more to appreciate was her nearly infallible ability to spot what was genuine in both art and persons, and what inauthentic. Where I might dismiss an artist for good reasons, she would see quickly why he painted, and praise it. If people were highfalutin and lacked this genuineness, she dismissed them easily, even acerbically. Did this lose her friends? Not at all; she had many dozens of friends, and those who met her more briefly remembered her – she had personality.

When a friend dies, there are certain conversations you can no longer have, and a mode of communication has gone. Now we have lost her I am especially having these conversations in my mind, for she was an original. Our common friend Lisa Dart, a poet, wrote me, “She was a lovely person. Vital, passionate and intense. I liked her fierceness, her big smile, mischievousness, her upright walk and the way that lovely plait lengthened her back. I can imagine how you and Liz must be feeling at such a loss. I hadn’t realised you had known her so long. And, I think there’s no way to figure out getting used to loss and remaining alive, human.”

I think none of us wants to get used to her loss, for so many of us were strengthened in our thoughts and sentiments through knowing her.

Judy in Pistoia at our favorite osteria, la Botte Gaia

 

 

An Interview with Jeffrey Carson

5, May 2016 § Leave a comment

Jeffrey Carson, professor of creative writing, art history and literature at the Aegean Center, has recently been interviewed for Parola magazine.

In an in-depth article, Jeffrey reflects on living in Paros since the 1970s along with his wife, photography professor Elizabeth Carson.

“When we first came here in the sixties, we stayed for six months, and then we went back so that both of us could finish our university education. We decided to come back to Paros in the early seventies because I wanted to try writing and my wife wanted to bring her cameras and become a real photographer.  We both did that an until now we are still doing it. When we remembered Paros and our six months here, the photos were beautiful, it was quiet.  It was nothing like the modern world, nothing like New York… We are both New Yorkers.  There were almost no cars.  They had just started the ferry boat.

We lived in an old house, a ‘katoikia,’ we had a donkey and we had a well.  There were no people in the countryside, our light was from oil lamps and we thought this was very poetic.  And although it was difficult, it was poetic.”

Jeffrey also describe his role as a teacher at the Aegean Center since its early years, writing the first guidebook of Paros, and translating all of Elytis’ poems.

“When I was 22 years old, I bought a book called “Four Modern Poets of Greece” — Seferis, Kavafis, Sikelianos and Elytis.  And when I got to Elytis’ poems about the Aegean, I said ‘This is what I am trying to do.  He does it better!’  So I started, as I learned Greek, teaching myself from school books, doing little translations to understand the poems better, and after I’d been doing this for four years — but not seriously — I met Nikos Sarris and he was in love with Elytis.  So we talked and talked and talked and then we made a few translations together.  We sent them to Elytis and he wrote back saying,  “These are the best translations of my work I have ever read.” And that’s how we started.  And then he said “Do you want more?”  So we did.  We translated everything.”

Jeffrey also discusses the changes he has seen in Paros and Greece in the more than forty years that he has lived on Paros and among many other anecdotes, about the time he brought the first piano to Paros:

The piano was made in 1888 I bought in Athens at Nakas’s and six of us guys had to carry it across the field up to my house.  Within two years children started knocking at my door.  “Give me lessons!  Give me lessons”  for all kinds of instruments because they knew I had been a high school music teacher in New York.  So I taught violin, clarinet, flute and accordion.  So all the kids who knew how to read music in Paros learned from me.”

You can read the full interview here.

THRESHING: PHOTOGRAPHY IN PRAISE OF SLOW ART

11, April 2016 § 1 Comment

In the past I have written brief blog posts when Slow Art Day came around.  April  9th is here again, and by chance I have been discussing slow art in my Saturday morning classes.

Usually I illustrate my points with a famous photograph, but this time I have chosen one of my own photographs, which was on display at the Parian Farmers’ Union Visitor Center for several years.

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It is part of an extended sequence called Heroes of the Soil, in which I attempted several things. One was to record the old techniques and traditions of farming which, though not obvious to the casual glance, were still being practiced by some farmers old and young. Another was to honor them and their appreciation of their own skills and their respect for them.

In this photograph a farmer and his four mules are threshing wheat on a hilltop several kilometers from Paroikia. The farmers knew I was doing this work and approved of it, and frequently called me to alert me to be ready, as here.

In making slow art, first decide on your subject matter, then carefully observe the scene and decide what time of day the light would be most suitable to capture the essence. This picture was taken in late morning when the sun was nearly overhead. The composition I envisaged contained both very dark and very light material. So I had to decide which to emphasize. Next, if the scene contains elements in motion, carefully study them, since repetitive patterns will prove useful to you. And of course shutter speed depends on how fast or slow they move. All this requires time and patience and respect for your subjects.

Now you must decide on the correct angle of view. In this photograph, in order to emphasize the heroic quality which is basic to the whole sequence, I chose a sufficiently low angle of view so that the figures would break the horizon line.

The threshers are, I trust, honored by the finished image. When I was photographing, they were working with me, but in the darkroom, needless to say, I was alone.

By Liz Carson

How We Squared the Circle

6, April 2016 § Leave a comment

By: Jane Pack

“The geometer’s aim therefore, is to imitate the universe symbolically, depicting its central paradox by bringing together shapes of different geometric orders, uniting them as simply and accurately as possible and thus creating a cosmic image.”
-John Michell

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The Ancient Greeks have long been admired for their geometry. The tools of the trade of the Greek geometers were the compass and straightedge. Yet the simplest puzzle, drawing a square of equal area to a given circle forever eluded the greatest of Greek minds. Only in 1882 after 2,400 years of attempts the task of squaring the circle with compass and straightedge was proven impossible.

Before the Greeks, Egyptians had been building pyramids and measuring the land with pegs and knotted ropes. So, given that the word geo-metry literally means ‘earth measurement, what if we reverted to the tools of the Egyptians to draw our circles and squares upon the earth?

Sq-the-O-3In 2013 my students  and I decided to draw out this problem on the beach following a diagram illustrated in Jon Allen’s book, “Drawing Geometry”. Then this year I was contacted by a mathematician from Australia named Jonathan Crabtree who read my previous post with great interest.  Jonathan’s vision was to have his simple solution for squaring the circle drawn on Greek sand in honour of Archimedes. Legend has it that Archimedes, author of “The Sand Reckoner”, may have been drawing circles in the sand at the time of his death at the hand of a Roman soldier. Jonathan wondered, “Could Archimedes have been squaring the circle?”

By combining the tools of the Egyptians with the ideas of Archimedes, Jonathan has proven it possible to square the circle to perfection. This last Saturday we gathered in the Eco Park of Paros where we had a flat stretch of damp sand and plenty of hands to help.  My students produced a beautiful  (and accurate) drawing and we were pleased to honor Archimedes and help bring Jonathan’s vision to life.
We are star-stuff contemplating the stars.
                                         -Carl Sagan
Sq-the-O-1
Participating students and friends:
Annelise Grindheim (from Norway)
Spiros Mavromatis (from Greece)
Maria Xu (from China)
Max Wolnak (from USA)
Shreya Shetty (from India)
Aleksey Uhlick-Schmidt (from Canada)
Alexia Vlahos ( from USA)
Iriglen Leka (from Albania)
John Masters (from USA)
Cari Adams, Chris Saenger and their children, Bea and Charlie( from USA)
Jun-Pierre Shiozawa (from USA)
Gail Saunders (from USA )
And instructors John and Jane Pack (from USA)

Clean Monday / Καθαρά Δευτέρα

14, March 2016 § 1 Comment

Clean Monday,  Καθαρά Δευτέρα, is celebrated today here in Greece. It is the first day of Lent when the faithful begin 40 days of fasting in preparation for Easter.

Traditional foods are served which emphasis austerity and deprivation to echo the fasting of Christ in the desert. In Paros the devout eat pickles, food without oil, and animal flesh only without blood such as kalimari and octopus. Eggs, dairy and meat are absent from the table. These rules make sense for an agricultural society which must protect the brooding chickens and the young goats and cows so as to assure the next generation. There will be kite flying and family picnics if the weather is good, being out of doors allows us to witness a burgeoning spring with the world returning to abundance and production after the winter’s hush.  Here on the island we have a winter that is most gentle and verdant, the deprivations others face with cold and snow are less known to us. We watch the re-emergence of new leaves on the deciduous trees resembling butterflies emerging from their chrysalis. We observe the prancing young goats and lambs. We contemplate the new growth which is all around making us aware of the cycles of nature, potent harbingers of life and rebirth.

Lagana

“Lagana / Λαγάνα” the special azyme bread baked only on Clean Monday.

Greeks are asked to give up luxuries during this time.  Many people no longer conform to the strict diets but I feel there is something important about denying ourselves our indulgences. We grow accustomed to having far more than is necessary for our existence. Every year I try to find something which I think I need but which is not essential to my survival and give it up for 40 days.  I have denied myself at various times chocolate, coffee, wine and sweets.  None of these posed a particular problem for me. Far more difficult was the challenge to give up complaining which I did not manage. This year I have decided to quit looking at the daily news feed in the mornings.  I find it wastes at least one to two hours of time that I would otherwise fill with more imaginative pursuits. Beginning every morning with the anxious headlines is addictive but not ultimately uplifting or productive. Perhaps I will simply sit with my coffee and dream, with luck I will begin a creative project.  And so my yearly fast begins.

The Spring Semester 2016

8, March 2016 § Leave a comment

Spring blog post 2016

The first week of the spring semester is underway and students are attending their initial  classes in order to make a decision about which areas to concentrate in. It’s exciting and everyone is hoping to do more than they can practically handle. All will settle in, as usual, by the end of next week.

We have students from China, India, Norway, Canada and the US as well as Greek students so we are truly an international community. The faculty are currently evaluating the level of each student and adapting their teaching to accommodate and facilitate the abilities of each.  With a small group this is not only easy but also vital to our philosophy of individualized instruction. The Socratic method, first used and explored by the Greek philosopher of that name, is our modus operandi.  We pose open ended questions, allow for personal interpretations and expect impassioned and imaginative answers. The digital photography class has several returning students who will bring their experience and expertise to elevate the level of the instruction.  The same holds true for painting where three of the students are second or third term students who can share opinions and aesthetic ideas.  This Friday our first hike will take place above the town of Lefkes in the valley behind the windmills.  Afterward we will all share a taverna meal at Flora’s. After all, eating well is part of a life well lived.

Catching Up: First, Italy

30, January 2016 § 1 Comment

After too long a silence we are posting some past events bringing us up to the present, 2016. Like always we will try our best to stay more current…

Last September our students had the privilege to meet with Maurizio Seracini in Firenze while we were in residence at the Villa Rospigliosi in Pistoia, Italy.  A passionate man whose interests range over physics, engineering and art history, he has been investigating the possibility that Leonardo da Vinci’s fresco of The Battle of Anghiari may still exist behind another later fresco on a wall in the Palazzo Vecchio in Firenze. We met him near the equestrian statue in the Piazza della Signoria and had the great honour of accompanying him to view the hall named the Salone dei Cinquecento and hear him talk on the subject.  His warm and personal approach brought us all closer to the mystery of the disappearance of this masterpiece which was hailed as the greatest depiction of a battle scene at the time it was created and was copied many times before its eventual disappearance behind another fresco by Vasari. Mr. Seracini has made this search his personal quest.

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Peter Paul Ruben’s copy of the lost Da Vinci masterpiece

For a more complete article on his process and work you can read this:  http://www.nytimes.com/2009/10/06/science/06tier.html?pagewanted=1&_r=1&no_interstitial

Maurizio Seracini is a 1973 graduate in bioengineering from the University of California, San Diego, he founded the first company in Italy for diagnostic and non-destructive analyses on art and architecture, the Diagnostic Center for Cultural Heritage in Firenze. Adapting technologies from the medical and military fields and other technical measuring instruments he has made possible diagnostics of art and search for art without destroying the artwork itself.

In 2013, Seracini established Great Masters Art Authentication in San Diego California, the first US company dedicated to true scientific authentication of Old Masters art from the 14th to 19th Century.

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