25, August 2016 § Leave a comment
By: Jane Pack
Dimitra Skandali is showing recent work at The Aegean Center this summer in her first show since she was a student here many years ago. She is from Paros but now lives and works in San Francisco. She has participated in many international exhibitions. Her website can be viewed here: http://www.dimitraskandali.com/
I imagine this story. Dimitra is walking the shore near San Francisco when a bit of drifted seaweed caught in the sea foam pulls her mind toward Paros. In this expansive space she feels herself to be part of a larger whole. She has come to America to attend graduate school but certainly whatever California offers it isn’t the peaceful calm of Paros in winter. She may have felt alone and displaced for some time after arriving, before the schedule of classes and studios acquired a rhythm to dull the ache for home. I imagine this story because my experience was similar when I left America for a life in Paros over 25 years ago. I too looked for small reminders of the familiar while delighting in the extravagance of the new. Our journeys echo one another’s although we switched places, our paths overlapping for just enough time to recognise each other as fellow travellers.
When one is in a new environment, in a different country from one’s birth, the everyday small occurrences are the ones which pull you up sharply and make you feel an alien, the choice of breakfast foods or the way people queue or don’t. It often comes to perceived differences in manners, knowing when to shake hands or when to exchange kisses. But feeling outside a community can be an advantage as well. We feel immune to social forces, stand outside of society’s demands. In Paros I feel freedom from the small defeats that my parents and teachers may have inadvertently put on me. Whether they implied that a goal was beyond my social standing or that a neighbour might look askance. But in Paros I am excluded from this social weight. I am not Greek so the rules don’t apply. I believe that Dimitra’s success may hinge on a similar impulse. Standing outside the game one sees the rules more clearly. She has taken the best that American education has to offer and she has run with it. Her successes and her show record attest to the conviction that hard work and dedication give results. She has often spoken to me about how much more difficult that same progress would be for her here in her own country.
Dimitra’s work speaks of transitions and patterns, juxtapositions which trigger new thoughts. Her use of natural materials echo the smells and sounds of the sea, of the Aegean, of the Pacific. The rooms full of seaweed invite us to feel the ocean swells but also admire the handiwork of traditional crafts in the in the crocheted strands. Delicacy and energy, it is this combination which strikes us.
Dimitra was my student over 20 years ago. She has since long surpassed my mentoring and has made a name for herself in the international art world. Her return to the Aegean Center for this exhibition coincides with the 50th anniversary of the school. I can’t think of a more fitting tribute to our mission than to have this exhibition by a Parian, a former student and who has gone on to succeed in America and beyond. What I experienced coming to Greece and the similar feelings that Dimitra has translated into her art epitomize the education we provide at the Aegean Center. The strength of the experience at the Center comes from a combination of dedicated teachers and the disorienting effects of living in an unfamiliar environment. The mind opens up, the habitual patterns are broken and the teacher has only to ask the questions which lead the student on to new ground. The subsequent shift in consciousness helps us to see within ourselves and tap into the creative spirit.