From a Painter’s Perspective

30, May 2011 § 1 Comment

Some important things I have learned since being at the Aegean Center, in no particular order.

by Jacklyn Massari

  1.  Jun-Pierre is capable of making up songs about anything.
  2. Don’t ever underestimate the Aegean Center staff even for a SECOND. You will feel stupid for doing so.
  3. Talk to Jeffrey. He’s a bundle of wise information and advice of the best kind.
  4. Jane Pack uses teaching techniques that will BLOW.YOUR.MIND.
  5. Go on the “John Pack Friday Hikes” no matter how tired or sick you may feel. They are rejuvenating.
  6. Don’t ever think you are too advanced to take a basic drawing class. Because you’re not.
  7. If you don’t go to Delos, you are a fool.
  8. If you don’t sit in on one of Liz’s Photo History classes, you are also a fool.
  9. If you don’t go to John Pack’s color lecture, you are definitely a fool.
  10. Don’t ever draw from photographs unless you are using them as a reference.
  11. Walk slow on the marble when it’s wet, especially if you are wearing flip flops.
  12. Be openminded. You will discover so much about yourself.
  13. Ask Jun-Pierre to critique your paintings as much as possible. He has extremely valuable things to say, so be sure to milk him for all he’s worth.
  14. Always do your work study chores. OR ELSE.
  15. The Aegean Center is the only place where you can find one professor successfully illustrating the Illiad, and another figuring out a way to make The Matrix into a musical.
  16. Most importantly, don’t be afraid to ask questions. About anything.

Carrie Cooley Concert 29 May, 20:00, Apothiki Art Gallery

22, May 2011 § Leave a comment

“And yet, Courage is me, courage friend! The world is lovely, and not at all fearful to the bold man. What then is music? Music is a sacred art which brings together all varieties of courage like cherubim around a shining throne, and for that reason it is the most holy among the arts.”

Courage. When one thinks of courage, the picture is usually of a hero going into battle, a knight, a policeman, James Bond, swords, guns, knives. Courage to me is a brush, a pen, a voice that breaks the silence, the click of a shutter, an empty canvas with endless possibilities. When I think of courage I think of people who follow their dreams, even if the path might be a little unorthodox. The Aegean Center is a haven for these people. To be part of the Aegean Center is to be surrounded by people who ride on the shoulders of Hope and reach their goals by these means, a great family of optimists who add color, depth and meaning to this world. People who create, and those who encourage creation. These are the heroes in this world.

It is in homage to the creators, to the dreamers, to every student and faculty member who has ever been a part of the Aegean Center, to every person who strives to add beauty to this world, not because he hopes to be acknowledged and praised, but because he can no more imagine a world without art and music, than a world without light or air, that I offer this concert as a gift of deepest gratitude from the bottom of my heart.

I have selected the music based on texts which I felt best illustrated the connection between the art forms, which at times seems almost cyclical, even eternal. Because my gift is music, I open the concert with the composer’s aria from Ariadne auf Naxos by Richard Strauss from which the above quote is taken. The Poulenc Le travail du peintre (The works of the painter) with texts by Paul Éluard illustrates the connection between painting and poetry, and poetry and music. The Respighi songs with texts by Antonio Rubino illustrate how one can see art and hear music in life and in nature, and how each sound, color and smell contributes to the music of our lives. The Jake Heggie song cycle, Statuesque, talks about life from the points of view of five different sculptures, and what they might feel when they are being gawked at by people who have little time to truly see them, only to admire their beauty with fleeting glances, and “What a Movie!” from Bernstein’s “Trouble in Tahiti,” is, in the context of the opera, a piece about an unhappy woman’s escape into one of America’s most popular art forms, film.

The entire process of planning, organizing, researching and rehearsing this concert has been painstaking and tiresome, but in the end so very enjoyable. This is a chance I have been given to truly express unbridled joy for an art-form I find practical, necessary, and essential for the survival of a truly wonderful world. Thank you to John and Jane Pack, Jeffrey and Liz Carson, Orfeas, Jun-Pierre and the Aegean Center for helping me make this concert a reality. Courage is in me! Courage, friend! And I owe a very large part of that courage to the time I have been fortunate enough to spend at the Aegean Center for the Fine Arts in Paros, Greece.

Thus begins new life, and I for one cannot wait.

Carrie Cooley

Paper Cranes for Japan

19, May 2011 § 2 Comments

by Stephanie Dissette

Paros is a small island, Paroikia a small town, and The Aegean Center a small school. I see the same thirty faces every day, and when I don’t see one of them in the course of the day, it strikes me as both strange and somewhat unsettling. I don’t have internet access at my fingertips every second either, so any time I do spend online communicating with the outside world is a deliberate decision and a scheduled part of my day. These are all things that I actually like about being here – I appreciate the intimacy of a small community. Still, when major things are happening outside of my small world, it’s easy to feel distant and separate in an uncomfortable way –  how can I participate in our whole world from Paros?

When this last tsunami and earthquake hit Japan, the “Great East Japan Earthquake” as it is formally titled, I was hiking through the beautiful landscape of a Greek island. That weekend, I wasn’t on the internet once. It wasn’t until the next Monday, sitting in our regular Monday Meeting, that I heard about this disaster. If I hadn’t realized how small my world was, how small I was before, that earthquake certainly put everything into perspective. How could anyone not be affected by that news, by those images, by the suffering of humanity? And the number one question remains, what can any of us do?

That week Jane Pack told us the story of Sadako Sasaki. In August of 1945, the atomic bomb was dropped in Japan near Sadako’s home. Ten years later, she was diagnosed with leukemia, hospitalized, and told she had a year or less to live. While she was in the hospital, her best friend Chizuko Hanamoto came to visit, and brought with her a piece of paper to fold it into an origami paper crane. According to ancient Japanese tradition, anyone who folds a thousand cranes will be granted a wish, and Chizuko believed this would help heal her friend. Now, this is where the story gets a bit confused as there are many versions of what actually happened, but what I was told is that Sadako spent the remainder of her life folding these cranes, at first with the hope of alleviating her own suffering. When she realized the number of people affected by the radiation, her wish expanded to include them all.

Since her death, Sadoko has become a heroine to the Japanese people. There is even a monument to her, holding a golden crane, at the Hiroshima memorial, and the cranes continue to be a symbol of happiness, good luck, peace and longevity to the whole world.  From this story, Jane hoped that we, as art students, could show our support for Japan by folding cranes.

I will never forget the peace Sadoko gave me the night we all came together to fold cranes. It was difficult at first, remembering each step in the process, folding precisely and accurately. Many of us had never done origami before, and it took time to get into a rhythm, but once we found that rhythm… pure peace. There is great beauty in the ability to bring order, design, and art into a world that is so full of chaos and disorder.

After that first night, it was Jun-Pierre Shiozawa’s idea to string our finished cranes all together and hang them from the school balconies and windows during Easter week, the busiest week of spring in all of Greece, but especially Paros because of its beautiful church, the Εκατονταπυλιανή or Church of a Hundred Doors. We met a second night to string them all together, and finally did hang them out around Easter time.

Paros may be a small island, far away and isolated from the world, but Paros and The Aegean Center care very much about their place in the world; and for the time that I am both an Aegean Center student and a member of the Parian community, I intend to do my part to prove that. The cranes, of course, didn’t change the disastrous effects of that earthquake. They didn’t bring supplies to those in need in Japan. They didn’t solve any of the radiation problems either. But on the one day that the ever-changing Parian weather allowed our cranes to hang from the school building, almost everyone who walked by stopped to look, asked us what we were doing, and discussed their feelings over this world crisis. Perhaps those simple paper birds brought some peace to everyone that day.

Student Post: Jacklyn Massari

9, May 2011 § Leave a comment

The artists and model standing behind the sand portrait of Chris: (from left to right) Jun-Pierre, Jacklyn, Chris, Eleanor, Gabriel and Barbara

Have you ever heard of the snowball effect? Imagine yourself standing at the top of a hill in a blizzard. The snow is perfect, heavy packing snow. You decide to construct a tiny snowball in the palm of your cold hands and roll it down the hill. As it rolls, more and more snow collects onto the snowball. It gets bigger and bigger and bigger right before your very eyes. You are shocked at what it has turned into, remembering the tiny white ball that was in your hand only moments ago. You can’t help but marvel at the outcome.

I have experienced this effect before in my life, but not quite like the one from our most recent Friday hike. The snowball effect, when involving twenty artists, is much more effective and wonderful.

After hours of hiking under our fearless director, John Pack, we finally arrived at a beach. This was our resting point for about an hour. Some students had pow wows in the sand, while others sprinted into the sea. The less daring ones slowly and nervously waded themselves into the water, which was incredibly amusing to watch.

I was giggling at the swimmers from the shore, when suddenly,  a sirocco of inspiration led me to start making sand portraits.

Let the snowballing begin!

Artists tend to do unusual things sometimes. I decided to play into that stereotype and grabbed a long, wooden stick and plunged it into the sand, dragging it in a circular motion. I was making the outline of a face. Chris’s face, to be exact. He seemed a bit melancholy when he realized he forgot his bathing suit to go swimming. In an effort to cheer him up, we started building.

Jun Pierre ran right over and began building up the facial features like an olympic gold medalist, and Gabriel quickly busted out his low relief sculpture expertise. Before I knew it, there were more and more students helping to sculpt the face, contributing their priceless sand portrait ideas, and running to find  beach trinkets in order to portray Chris’s accessories and facial hair.

Note: Chris is a below average model, because right as we were making progress on our masterpiece, he conveniently decided to ignore the fact that he was bathingsuit-less, and jumped into the sea with his boxers on. Impeccable timing, Chris.

The snowballing continues.

“LOOK AT THIS FOLKS!! ITS AN ART INSTALLATION!! YOU GUYS ARE DEFINITELY GETTING CREDIT FOR THIS!!” yelled John Pack, from a short distance away. He asked us how many credits we wanted. I didn’t tell him yet, but I want one million. For each of us.

The artists constructed the face. The writers discussed how a blog post should be written. The photographers (or digi-heads, as John Pack calls them) documented the whole thing on their cameras. And let’s not forget that our school director granted us as much “credit” as we could ever hope for, for our hard work.  This snowballed from one wooden stick, into a memory that brought a tear to my eye as I was remembering it when I arrived back home. This experience made me realize what a team we have here. Although it was just a silly sand portrait of Chris, the amount of help, compromise, strategy, and support that went on throughout this whole process was truly moving. I could not believe the outcome, and it would not have been successful if we hadn’t all done it together. As a team. As a family.

Entasi by John Masters

4, May 2011 § Leave a comment

I find myself at the crossroads.  I have been here before.  These moments of quiet decision, where I weigh my options and take inventory of my emotional and intellectual belongings, never cease to surprise or even baffle me.  At times there is a great deal of traffic: fears, dreams, possible futures disastrous and sublime, assorted vehicles whizzing through my busy cerebral motorway.  In other instances life’s intersections seem all but deserted: two dusty rural roads running perpendicular in the baking noonday sun, cicadas buzzing in the heat.  Still, I sit listening to the winds for small, almost imperceptible, shifts.

My work and role in America has evolved over the past year.  My physical presence at home has become less important and this aspect informs me that it is time to move along.  All the other guideposts confirm it.  Then what of my art?   Have I refined my eye since my last missive in the spring of 2010?  Last year John Pack pushed me into an abstract space of colorful and textural photography, a giant’s leap from the bearing with which I had grown accustomed.  I had become lost in a dense and painful bramble of artistic faith and he had guided me out into something new and exciting, but something that was, for me, uncertain and uncomfortable.  Upon returning to my little village in the Hudson Valley I continued on this orientation, tilling abstract soil, using skills I had learned, reaping a solid harvest of accessible and novel work.  I built a small darkroom in which to pursue my black and white silver work as I crafted my digital images on my iMac in Camera RAW and PhotoShop CS4.  I began using a Mamiya c330 medium format TLR and an old Graphlex Crowne 4×5 press camera. I followed the same procedures I had learned from Liz Carson.  The black and white silver work began to occupy more of my time.  It was more satisfying than the digital images which I came to see as being less evocative of my own journey.  I was grateful for this shift in perspectives.  I am now more aware of the abstract nature of black and white silver emulsion but also how both formats can exist and inform each other.

Another signpost of the inevitability of change has been a sense of artistic self-confidence, a quality I did not possess before the spring of 2010.  I was unsure of my artistic self-worth then, but when I returned to New York I found myself welcomed as a member of a small arts group in my area.  Since August of 2010 my work has been displayed in several group shows and I have sold a few pieces.  I measure this as a success both for myself and for those who have guided me. My mentors handed me a new and different compass with which to plot my artistic course.  That device has brought me full circle and, as I stated earlier, I find myself at a crossroads, albeit with a measure more wisdom than before.

This session, besides the two photography courses and numerous lectures, I am also working with Jane Pack and Jun-Pierre Shiozawa in Figure Drawing and Basic Drawing, respectively.  I now have some more tools in my visual kitbag: perspective, foreshortening, form and mass, and the powerful negative space.  I will not pretend to be a painter or draughtsman but these tools are shifting my eye from the two-dimensional abstracts of 2010 to a richer three-dimensional view of light, shadow and the human form.  In using this pre-visualization I have begun studio sessions with several models in both medium format silver and digital photography.  This is a challenge for me.  The artistic intimacy required is daunting; the level of professionalism towering; the integrity of the imagery both paramount and well-founded.  In these figure studies I envision a potent, almost mythological feminine presence.  I strive for ‘entasi‘, that they might better illustrate a paradigm I feel is lost in today’s modern culture: beauty, grace and the power of a substantive Earth.   These artistic choices are new for me, but I am traveling a well blazed trail, a journey many have taken.  In my heart I feel that they, too, must have arrived at a crossroads.  Perhaps the milieu is not original, but my perspective and philosophy is at least unique.

Working in the studio has also increased my technical skill and craft, which brings to mind the poet and philosopher Peter Abbs’ ‘Axis of Creativity’:  as my technical skills and knowledge increases so do the creative abilities inspired by my dreams and the unconscious.  With this I can create a solid body of work, or perhaps several while I am here.  My thinking is freed by my distance from New York and all that that means.  The light of Paros fills my eyes with shimmering tonal varieties and the Aegean Center grants me a haven where I can explore these creative emotional possibilities.   All of these principles allow a clearer vision at the crossroads, diminishing the haze and dust of indecision.  The answers will come if I sit patiently, listening and dreaming.  While I am sitting, listening and dreaming I will work.

Student Post: Hannah Vernier

4, May 2011 § Leave a comment

A while ago, in Creative Writing, Jeffrey explained to us that in Greek there are three words for love, each of them denoting a distinct emotion, a different phenomenon. The first two made enough sense to me: eros, romantic love, and philos, the love you feel for your family and very close friends.  But then we got to the third, agape, what Jeffrey described as the love you feel for mankind in general. Now, I’m no misanthrope– of course I’ve felt a certain fondness for the human race at times– but at that moment, it struck me as odd that the Greeks would have come up with a completely different word for it. That, however, was before I really got involved in life here on Paros and at the Aegean Center.

This past Friday, the hike cut short by the Independence Day parade in the morning, we went to a place called Kolympithres. The bus dropped us off near a bay with water that I, someone who comes from a city where they dye the river ever St. Patrick’s Day, can hardly believe is naturally that ridiculous, perfect shade of cerulean. We walked along the beach until we got to a small mountain, and began scrambling, some more elegantly than others, up the boulders to the top. I was motivated by something John had mentioned earlier: there were ancient ruins at the top. And ruins there were– A Mycenaen citadel, with 5,000-year-old walls still standing waist-high and an incredible view of the bay. Eventually, we climbed back down the other slope over enormous, wind-carved boulders and began heading back along the beach, this time stopping to wade in. By the time we made it back to the bus stop, I don’t think I was alone in feeling like my heart was swelling; at the end of that hike, I just wanted to hug someone.

By this point, three weeks into the semester, I feel like I’ve begun really getting to know the other students. Before I came here, I have to say that I was anxious about that prospect, especially given some of the stereotypes about art school students. But now that I’m here, I am continually struck by how well our group gets along, and, frankly, by how much I just plain like everyone. Then there are the teachers, who are not only great at what they do, but who honestly care about the students and our work. I get the feeling that I’m surrounded by an incredible group of people, and that I am unbelievably lucky to be. In this place, and more specifically, in this group of people, I have come to understand why the Greeks need that third word for love. I think it’s safe to say that I have fallen head over heels in agape.

Where Am I?

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