Aegean Center Thyme Flop

15, February 2012 § Leave a comment

I was asked to put the Thyme Flop link on the Chronicle.

(For the Delight and Amusement of the Alumni. Only they know the secret to the enigma of Thyme Flopping)

Click on image below

The Almond Tree

10, February 2012 § 4 Comments

From my Calendar Daybook

The previous few Chronicle entries from Jun and Jane were hailing the wonderful art seen during our winter break. I am here now to extol the art of the almond tree in my front garden.

We have been blessed with more rain and the landscape continues to green on Paros. The barley fields are full of tender green shoots that will grow hip deep to further saturate the landscape with a mix of terra verte and cadmium green. Pink Campion and deep golden-orange Calendula are beginning to carpet the terraced fields and soon the wild Gladiolas will appear along the stone terrace walls. The wildflowers cometh.

The almond trees are also blooming! Like a great ball of exploding white confetti; constellations of bright stars descending upon their branches; they dazzle.

This vision calls to mind the wild Dogwoods I remember from the Ozark Mountain forests in the early spring. One stands at the edge of the thick deciduous woodland and there floating in the complex thicket and tangle of the understorey are bright points of white light, hovering and ever so slightly quaking with any breeze that can penetrate the wood as deeply as your vision. Etherial and fine, almost fairy like, butterflies fluttering, Dogwood blossoms in the leafless forest, the myth of the Dark Wood and the promise of Light..the first affirmation of spring.

Under the hardwood canopy of the Ozarks the floating blossoms were subtle; mysterious. On Paros, the almond trees explode…they erupt. They are not merely a promise of Spring but an insistence; a command…

John Pack

The Blooming Almond Tree in Front of My House in the Valley of the Butterflies (click to enlarge)

High and Low: What is Excellence in the Arts?

21, November 2011 § Leave a comment

An excerpt from the keynote speech delivered at Augusta State University by the artist and art critic Franklin Einspruch, a former teacher and student at the Aegean Center for the Fine Arts:

“Excellence, literally, is the state in which something or someone can be said to excel. To excel is to surpass, to be superior, to outdo. In the arts, we have loads of poor and mediocre examples, and the excellent ones are superior to them. Okay, we’re done. I’ll take your questions.

Actually, hold on. I’d like to examine what happens when you look at an art object and perceive it to have excellence. Let’s say that an artist has made some beautiful thing. You look at it and say, Wow. You experience a pleasant feeling of joy or excitement. Your attention goes to it and lingers there. Also, “excellence,” as I said, implies superiority to other art objects. In the past you have looked at other objects and not perceived excellence in them. Now that you’re looking at this one, the pleasure you get out of it has an additional quality of surprise, perhaps even relief, that reminds you that you are looking at something unusual. You don’t recall the inferior objects, but the excellent one stands out in relation to them.

There’s a simple question you can ask about this experience. You see excellence in this art object that I’ve been talking about. Is it actually there in the art object, or have you just seen it there? In other words, is excellence some objective quality about the art object, or is it your subjective experience of the art object?

There are a lot of good reasons to say that it’s subjective. “There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so,” said Hamlet to Rosencranz and Gildenstern. Subjectivity explains why taste varies. You like this work of art quite a lot, but your friend doesn’t. He prefers this other work of art over there. You think he’s crazy for preferring that one. You see excellence where he doesn’t, and vice-versa. This indicates that seeing excellence is a matter of opinion and individual experience. Those opinions and experiences aren’t facts about material objects. They’re opinions about what art is for and what makes it good.

But the idea of subjective excellence has some serious drawbacks. Although it can explain why your taste differs from your friend’s, it doesn’t explain why it might agree with the tastes of millions of other people. Millions of people love the art of Rembrandt. If there’s not something objectively excellent about Rembrandt, then you have to explain how millions of people concluded subjectively and individually that Rembrandt’s work was excellent.

One explanation you hear from the proponents of subjective excellence is that the consensus forms because people passively absorb the cultural values around them, and fall sway to marketing and propaganda. You think you have independent taste, but you’re really just acting out the presuppositions of your culture. Even the notion that you have independent taste is a presupposition of your culture. I have never been impressed with this idea because it’s basically a conspiracy theory. It’s not a conspiracy theory because it’s wrong—it may not be—but because it’s unfalsifiable, and because it favors a dramatic, convoluted explanation for the consensus over a simple one. The simple explanation is that quality exists in the object, objectively, and a lot of people—not everyone, but a lot of them—can see it.

Objective excellence also explains a phenomenon that I have never seen adequately discussed by art’s philosophers. During the modern Edo period, Japanese prints were so denigrated by the Japanese that they used them to wrap ceramics in preparation for sending them overseas. It’s only a little overstated to say that they looked at Utamaro about the same way we look at Styrofoam peanuts. This is how they were introduced to Europe, and how the French interest in them was sparked. Finally, Degas got a hold of them, and they thrilled him so much that he made works based on them that changed the course of Western painting.

This is easy to explain if there’s something objectively good about Utamaro, and impossible to explain if there isn’t. If the appreciation of Japanese prints depends on absorbing Japanese cultural values, Degas would not have been able to see any excellence in them, not only because he was French, but because even the Japanese at the time didn’t value them.

Proponents of subjective excellence would say that Degas appropriated the Japanese material in the same manner that European colonialists appropriated the resources of the colonies. But we’re not talking about sugar cane, which all humans can taste as sweet, but art, which—according to the people making that same argument about subjective excellence—is learned to be excellent from the surrounding culture. What’s more, it went in the other direction. The Japanese turned around and appropriated Art Nouveau. There are thousands of beautiful examples of Japanese Art Nouveau.

But again, there are problems with the idea of objective quality. The first one I already mentioned—just as subjective quality doesn’t explain the consensus, objective quality doesn’t explain differences of taste. At least, it doesn’t explain them very nicely. If something is objectively excellent, and you don’t see it, you’re failing to see a fact about the world. It is a kind of blindness, or maybe a kind of ignorance. At best it’s naivete.

That’s not such a drawback for the argument—the world often isn’t a nice place. The drawback is the notion that something could be a property of an object, but not a measurable one. We could say that a sculpture has mass, and weigh it. We could say that it has a color—blue, let’s say—and even if we disagreed about the nature of the color blue when it comes to vision or consciousness, we could take a spectrometer and measure the wavelength of the light reflecting off of it. What qualities can be said to properly belong to an object that we can’t measure? If the subjective explanation of consensus is a conspiracy theory, then the objective explanation of immeasurable properties is a kind of spiritualism. Excellence thus joins the company of things we believe to exist, and sometimes think we see, but can’t prove are there: deities, souls, aether. The former, we can’t prove to be false. The latter, we can’t prove to be true.”

Read the whole address here:

Aegean Center’s Art History “Class” at NYC’s MET, December 22!

7, December 2009 § Leave a comment

Jeffrey and Jun at the Louvre in 2005

Art History means knowing the history of art – societal expectations, stylistic norms, symbols, social and religious context, commercial background, and more.  You need it to recognize skill, freshness, and intention, and to develop taste, which is to say personal preference based on knowledge and discrimination. And as history illuminates art, so art illuminates history. Art appreciation means having enough aesthetic sensitivity based on knowledge to form your own opinions – which is more than “I like/dislike it.”  So art’s history and appreciation are intimately connected.   And if you love art, it is a joyful lifetime study.

In the autumn of 2008 and spring of 2009, a lot of students who had studied Art History with Jeff, Liz, John, Jane, and Jun in Italy and in Greece, upon learning that Elizabeth and I were to be in New York City this Christmas, requested that we take them around the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  This would be a reunion based on study and recognition of what we all care deeply about.  Since this is the museum where Elizabeth and I, New Yorkers both, first learned about the art of the world, we have a special affection for it, and we agreed.

Our time in the City will be only a few days, and we perforce have many obligations, but we have now made a date.  We will meet students (siblings and partners welcome) who are able to join us on Tuesday, December 22, at 10:30 a.m., at the big central desk in the museum’s lobby. Our e-mail is

What should we look at first, the Girl with a Dove from Paros or Giovanni Pisano’s Pulpit Eagle from Pistoia?  Or maybe the giant crèche with its 18th-century Neapolitan carved wood figures under the tree?

See you there!

–Jeffrey Carson

Alumni Update: Adrian Eisenhower

1, April 2009 § 1 Comment


Adrian Eisenhower recently sent us the following update about his new exhibition of photographs from the inauguration, now showing at the bau gallery in Beacon, NY:

On January 18th, two days before the inauguration, I went down to DC with a friend and videographer, Vincent Galgano. I went to make a photographic essay of the event. I brought with me three cameras: a Rollieflex, a Leica, and a digital Nikon. After walking around the mall on the 19th, I chose to use only the Rollie. The day of the inauguration, the 20th, was hectic. Even with an early start we had to throw ourselves onto the metro train. When I was at the mall I photographed alone.

After processing the Plus X with Edwal’s FG-7 and 9% sodium sulfide solution, I scanned the negatives on an Epson Perfection 4490 with Silverfast software. I was able to print at the Masters School in NY, late night hours when the students were not around. The prints were made on Hahnemuhle paper with an Epson Stylus 4000 and K3 inks. The facilities were not quite as WYSISYG or controlled as those at the Center and required some getting used to. After some fumbling they proved to be adequate.


The images are currently a part of the show at a gallery in Beacon, NY called bau. The show, called XLIV, opened on the second Saturday of March. It was a festive evening, spared not of police, milkshakes and a Ukulele.  Shirin Borthwick, an alumna of the Center and graduate student of writing at Columbia (pictured above with me and Vincent), was able to attend.

The Aegean Center Class of Fall 2008

23, February 2009 § Leave a comment

In just one week the spring session 2009 begins and a new group of students will arrive.  Until then, here is a poster of the wonderful students of the Aegean Center fall 2008 session, a diverse group of talented, dynamic individuals.

11_17webLarger JPEGs for print (international and American versions) are here:

Aegean Center Benefit Concert: An Update from Maria-Elena

23, January 2009 § Leave a comment


I am thrilled to finally report on the Aegean Center Benefit Concert held in Los Angeles in June 2008. To share my experience of the Center with nearly 200 attendees through song was an incredible gift. The event raised just short of $10,000 for the Center and helped launch the Aegean Endowment Fund. One of the many surprises that afternoon was the presence of Marc Novak, a former student from the early 80s!

Here is a review of the June Benefit Concert published in the Hellenic Journal:

…the Greek community was recently treated to an afternoon of beautiful music, a generous reception in a warm and friendly atmosphere. The venue was the venerable Wilshire Ebell Theater and the occasion was a musical benefit for the Aegean Center for the Fine Arts on the island of Paros. Maria-Elena Kolovos, who had studied for two [terms] at the Center, presented a program of songs from Monteverdi to Villa-Lobos which show her range, pure clear soprano voice and understanding and love of the music. Four Greek songs completed the program but not before her father, George Kolovos, came up on stage to join in the final song and show his joy in dance. The audience was delighted!


If you would be interested in holding an event to benefit the Center, please email me at  mekolovos at gmail dot com. I am happy to share ideas or assist in any way.

Alumni News

19, August 2008 § Leave a comment

Aparna Jayakumar ( ’07 ) worked as film stills photographer for Sooni Taraporevala’s directorial debut Little Zizou. Co-produced by Mira Nair, Little Zizou tells the story of two conflicting families in modern day Bombay. Pictured above is Iyanah Battivala who plays Liana in the film.

Adrian Eisenhower ( ’07,’08 ) is currently preparing an individual photography exhibition to be held at The Aegean Center this September. Entitled In Gandhi’s Wake, the exhibition documents the 2005 re-enactment of the Salt March.

Dharini Bhaskar ( ’08 ) and Writers’ Game recently organized an exhibition celebrating words and poetry at the Prithvi Cafe in Bombay. Pictures from their Garage Sale can be found here.

Group Exhibition at the Aegean Center: 11 Friends in Paros (11 Φίλοι στην Πάρο)

15, July 2008 § 2 Comments

The Aegean Center is currently hosting a group exhibition put together by Aegean Center alumna Dimitra Skandali (’98). 11 Friends in Paros (11 Φίλοι στην Πάρο) features the work of various Athens and Thessaloniki based artists, most of whom are currently studying at The Athens School of Fine Arts (Ανωτάτη Σχολή Καλών Τεχνών).

Pictured above are charcoal drawings by Aliki Pappa and necklaces by Marilena Korovesi.

Painting, etching, sculpture and installations by Nefeli Soulakelli, Nikos Fotiadis, Eleni Giorgi, Despina Nissiriou, Christos Agelopoulos, Dimitris Katsoudas, Dimitra Skandali, Chrysanthe Libereou and Spiridoula Tsironi.

Through August 3. Open everyday from 11 to 2 and evenings from 7 to 12.

From the Archives: 1968 Aegean Center Brochure

24, June 2008 § Leave a comment

Thank you to Cynthia Bourgeault (’74) who, on her recent visit to Paros, brought along her copy of an early brochure for what was then called the Aegean School. Nearly four decades later, we continue to develop our

unusual educational approach which is designed to amplify the major aspects of this [unique experience in Greece]: the dramatic change of environment (which often leads to a great deal of self discovery on the part of the individual), the reflection of the student or staff member by the group, and the expression and clarification of new personal insights through art; all of this becoming meaningful through plain hard work.

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