Color and linguistics

10, April 2014 § Leave a comment

russell barlow

Six years ago Russell Barlow came to Paros to tutor Gabriel Pack.  They read all the Greek plays and all of Homer, Herodotus, and Thucydides as well as most of the extant Greek literature.  Russell taught Gabriel drums,  they memorized the countries and their capitals.  It was a successful year for both of them.

Russell returned for a few days last week coming from Germany where he is studying on a Fulbright. He spoke to students and faculty last Monday night at the Center about linguistics, its various areas of study and a bit of its history.  In a humorous and charming talk he presented the quirkiness of language, its impact on our thought processes and the debates that surround that idea. We were all asked to participate and interact with the information so the room was lively and noisy as we tried out sounds and sentences. He talked about pragmatics, morphology,  semantics, phonology, and syntax among others.

The study of names of colors has played a large part in the investigation into the nuances of language formulation in the brain. Russell sparked a spirited debate when he spoke about the three primary colors as the photographers and the painters in the room each tried to dominate the argument (we have a running debate between the two groups). Russell offered us a middle path, suggesting the pairs red and green, blue and yellow. He suggests that true color perception lies between the overlaps of our capacity to read chroma.

We all enjoyed this glimpse into the linguistic mind and Russell’s evident enthusiasm for his subject. He will go on to do a doctorate in linguistics next fall in Hawaii.

Painting with Encaustic at the Aegean Center

15, May 2013 § Leave a comment


Euphrosyne Doxiades revealed secrets about the encaustic method of painting in a recent workshop at the Aegean Center.  Encaustic is an ancient technique in which pigments and wax are blended together and applied hot to a surface. An electric hot plate kept the wax at the perfect temperature to dip into and spread with a brush. Small alcohol burners were also used to heat metal spatulas which spread the wax.  Working on a dark imprimatura the wax strokes leave a highly textured surface which can be further manipulated with heat.  Electric tools can be used as well.  The four color palette was employed; white and black, yellow and red.  Euprhosyne’s book, The Mysterious Fayum Portraits, shows how this ancient technique was used for mummy portraits in first century Egypt. Her book is published by Thames and Hudson.


Mayme Donsker at the Aegean Center

10, March 2013 § Leave a comment


Mayme Donsker

Painter and printmaker Mayme Donsker recently came to the Aegean Center to give a presentation of her work and process.  Mayme’s art bridges drawing, printmaking and photography to express a deeply personal unified vision.  Born in Minnesota, Mayme’s presentation began with a description of how her father’s creative approach as a photographer influenced her art over the years.  As an oil painting student in Rome, Mayme came to embrace her love of draughtsmanship setting a new direction in her pieces.  Many of the drawings displayed during the talk were from her series “Love songs,” poetic, semi-biographical images with references to her Minnesota past, life experiences, inspirations, and “dream studios.”  We sense that the “Love songs” say something specific for Mayme but we are free to draw from their meaning what we will, allowing the pieces to speak for themselves.


The “Draftsman and the Ballad Writer”

Mayme then described how collaging images together from old photographs became a new guide and inspiration to find the feeling and ideas she was searching for.  Her collages are simple and seamless–it is striking how one image can convey a coherent sensibility assembled from many different sources. In Mayme’s work lies the notion of timelessness as opposed to nostalgia. In “Avalanche”, a clipping of an old photograph from a Beatles concert translates into something else, a statement of wild passion and ecstasy.



Looking at Mayme’s drawings as projected on the wall left one desiring to see the originals, pieces which are built up in such a way where the collage and drawing are intertwined and layered with various shades of matte gray and sparkling black. Mayme described how the collages informed her drawings and through searching for the essence of an image, she aims to find the ‘composition within the composition.’   Magically, when cropped and isolated, a photo clipping can be more open and universal in its meaning. The image “Elbow to Elbow” is not about a specific love story, but about love in general open to each and every interpretation.


“Elbow to Elbow”

The strength of Mayme’s work resides in how genuinely her art reflects her sensibility as a human being.  When listening to Mayme one gets the sense of an artist sensitively tuned to her own distinct vision of humanity.  Her artworks are windows into that vision regardless of the medium or subject.  In describing her pieces, Mayme said,  “We may want our children to grow up and become doctors or artists, but ultimately they become whoever they are meant to be and you love them all the same.”  An unconditional love for her work shines through in Mayme’s art.  It moves and inspires art students and artists alike to aspire to love what they create and in so doing to be true to themselves.

-Jun-Pierre Shiozawa


“A Hard Year”

Some Advice and a Song from Michael Butler

23, April 2012 § Leave a comment

Michael Butler, curator of the Sidney Cooper Gallery at  Canterbury Christ Church College in Canterbury, England recently visited  Greece and dropped by the Aegean Center.  Traveling with his wife, Claire, they felt the need for some sunshine and came to renew their acquaintance with the landscape which Michael had backpacked through many years ago. Michael was introduced to John Pack when the exhibit, The Greater Journey, with John’s photographs and poetry by Peter Abbs, was hosted by the Sidney Cooper Gallery in 2008.

We urged Michael to give us a short talk on whatever topic he wished.  We were treated to an abbreviated summary of his career choices (as a youth he sang with Benjamin Britten),  an inventory of suggestions for artists when approaching a gallery, and a lovely song which he adapted from Purcell’s Fairest Isle and to which he wrote new words reflecting his Paros stay. He sang this a cappella in a lovely high baritone.  We include his lyrics here:

To Paros

Fairest Isle
All dreams excelling
Source of beauties
And of love.

The Gods’ own blessings
Fell upon it
Crowned with glories
Wreathed in light.

Artemis and Apollo’s
Marbled Halls
With statues bold.

Speak of times where
Man’s invention
Chimed in union
With this world.

His best advice:  your CV is not a list of what you have done but an invitation to live fully and fill in the blank spaces as you go.

Thank you, Mike.

– Jane Pack

Rafael Mahdavi at the Center

20, April 2012 § Leave a comment

Rafael Mahdavi is a painter  and sculptor.  Son of an American mother and a Persian father he was born in Mexico, has lived and worked in America, France, Greece, Austria, Spain and England.  He has quadruple nationality, France, American, Mexican and Iranian.    He may be truly the man of the age:  cosmopolitan, multicultural,  an educated artist , scholar and self made man.

He gave a talk and slide lecture at the Center this month which he entitled Forty Years in Four Minutes.  This was accompanied by a musical piece written by his son.  He then talked in depth about a dozen of his seminal pieces and spoke about his process.  His painting incorporates photographic images, patterning and slashing brush marks.  His work is autobiographical, textured and sometimes includes language.  We saw several pieces based on the braille alphabet, paintings based on personal symbolism, and some large, folding metal fabricated sculptures.

“If painting is to communicate anything and be in the world of people looking at painting, it must be about something other than itself. These ideas made me take a hard look at my work since New York. In the late nineties I started to cull the beginnings of a visual and recognizable alphabet from that era: shoes as home, posts as demarcation in a landscape, the body as landscape. The broken sun- glasses represent the idea that some images are shattering, and the camera symbolizes painting’s nemesis. I continued to elaborate and implement this visual alphabet in my painting: Braille representing touch and the opposites, sight and blindness. Shells as a personal music; water as the absence of taste; the dog as fidelity and poverty. The diver/leaper represents the plunge into the unknown, the leap of faith.”  (from his website

– Jane Pack

Euphrosyne Doxiadis at the Center

16, April 2012 § 1 Comment

Euphrosyne Doxiadis, working her persuasive powers and demonstrating her intense passion, gave the students two wonderful lectures this last month.  Her first, The Mysterious Fayum Portraits, opened their eyes to the high level of artistic wizardry which created the portraits of people living in Hellenistic Egypt in the first century after Christ.  These portraits look wonderfully fresh and alive after being pulled from the sand of the desert where they had been affixed to mummies.  We wonder at their clarity, color and modern feel.  The painting students who are currently learning the four color palette, the same ancient system as was used by the Greek masters, saw the depth and variety this limited palette allows.  Euphrosyne went into some detail as to the technical procedure so that the students could realize they are participants in a long line of painting tradition spanning the ages.

Detail from Roman Charity by Peter Paul Rubens

Detail from Samson and Delilah by ?

The second lecture was equally fascinating.  Euphrosyne believes, and has convinced us all, that the Rubens painting in the National Gallery in London,  the Samson and Delilah, is a forgery.  With precision and evident distaste she pointed out the particular flaws which demonstrate that this could not be an original:  the lack of convincing brushwork, the flattened spacial elements, the poor understanding of form, the inky black background that comes against but not behind the figures.  All of these things and many more are tell-tale signs that Rubens had no hand in the piece.  Her website tells the whole story.  No one left the lecture with any doubts.

– Jane Pack

Antonio Corso

20, November 2010 § Leave a comment

Six years ago the Aegean Center hosted a small symposium on the ancient Parian poet Archilochos.  The dozen speakers who attended from around the world were all renowned classical scholars, and several of them, remembering the hospitality they found here, have kept a warm spot for us, and we for them. Among them is Antonio Corso.

Antonio visited Paros again in June as a key speaker in the large conference on Skopas, and naturally came by to renew acquaintance with us. When he offered to give us a lecture, we naturally we grabbed at the opportunity, for he is a world expert on ancient Greek sculpture and architecture, and probably the world’s foremost expert on Praxiteles (he just published volume three of his The Art of Praxiteles – one more to go).

Since our students have been studying ancient Greek art in Italy, Athens, and Paros, his subject was especially appropriate.  The lecture, open to the general public, was called “The Artists of the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus”, and was given on November 15, in summery weather, in the early evening. As always, Dr. Corso ( his doctorate is from the University of Padua) was clear, brilliant, and straightforward, and afterwards there were many questions; we were reluctant to let him go.

The Mausoleum, one of the greatest monuments of the 4th century bce, was decorated by four or five pre-eminent sculptors from one of the greatest eras of sculptural art, and attempts at reconstruction, assigning fragments, and analyzing style and purpose never cease.  Antonio always cites chapter and verse, and then gives his opinion. Since the most renowned of the sculptors was Skopas of Paros and one of the two architects was Satyros of Paros, we have a local interest; doubtless our marble was an unrivaled stimulant.

Antonio has promised to visit us again.  We are going to hold him to it.

“The Artists of the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus”

15, November 2010 § Leave a comment

The Aegean Center for the Fine Arts, Paros

presents a




“The Artists of the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus”

6:00 pm, Monday, November 15


Dr. Corso is one of the world’s great experts on ancient Greek sculpture, especially that of the 4th century bc. He has lectured around the world, and published many essays and books (most recently The Art of Praxiteles II: The Mature Years).

The lecture is open to the public.

Student Post: Stephanie Dissette on Adrianne Kalfopoulou

24, May 2010 § Leave a comment

On Friday, May 14th, the Aegean Center hosted another poetry reading by Adrianne Kalfopoulou. She read poems from her newest book, Passion Maps, which explores a variety of themes, including nostalgia and biculturalism.

After the reading, Adrianne met with the poets in the creative writing class for a special workshop. She had suggested we each bring two poems, which she then took us through, line by line, analyzing as she went.

She made a point of urging all of us to work within as many forms as possible, stating that “learning form is like learning a language; it gives you more options.” Adrianne is mostly a free-verse poet herself, but still practices within form as much as possible. More often than not, she would cut out pieces of our poems, in hopes to add to the “immediacy” of our work. She suggests that all poets try removing all the prepositional phrases in their poems as a way to improve that sense of immediacy, even if you end up putting them back in. It’s a good exercise, and all of us felt its impact on our poems.

Adrianne also helped explain the role of the title in poetry, something we were all struggling with. She said that the title is “the extra line that you get in your poem.” If you choose to leave a poem untitled it means “either it’s beyond you, or a title would limit the poem because it has so many options.” Titling prose and poetry is still one of the hardest things for all of the members of our workshop to do.

We all found Ms. Kalfopoulou to be very relatable, a helpful editor and a wonderful writer. It was special to all of us to meet with her for some workshop time, and I think it’s safe to say the Center will be happy to have her back again to read in future semesters.

Toi Derricotte @ The Center – 6 Oct. 2009

8, October 2009 § Leave a comment

Toi Derricotte was born in Hamtramck, Michigan, in 1941. Her books of poetry are Tender (1997), winner of the 1998 Paterson Poetry Prize; Captivity (1989); Natural Birth (1983); and The Empress of the Death House (1978).  Her The Black Notebooks, a literary memoir  (W.W. Norton, 1997), won the 1998 Anisfield-Wolf Book Award for Non-Fiction and was a New York Times Notable Book of the Year. Her essay, “Beginning Dialogues,” is included in The Best American Essays 2006, edited by Lauren Slater. Of her poems, Audre Lourde wrote, “Because the power of her images breeds visions which are neither easy nor inescapable, Toi Dericotte moves us…The pain does not exceed the power.”
Her honors include the Lucille Medwick Memorial Award from the Poetry Society of America; two Pushcart Prizes; the Distinguished Pioneering of the Arts Award from the United Black Artists; the Alumni/Alumnae Award from New York University; the Barnes & Noble Writers for Writers Award from Poets & Writers, Inc.; the Elizabeth Kray Award for service to the field of poetry from Poets House; and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the New Jersey State Council on the Arts, the Rockefeller Foundation, the Guggenheim Foundation and the Maryland State Arts Council.

With Cornelius Eady, in 1996, she co-founded Cave Canem Foundation, North America’s premier “home for black poetry” –  She is a Professor of English at the University of Pittsburgh.

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