The subject of Mary's request for me is our mutual friend, the wonderful artist, Diane Katsiaficas. (Diane is the other curator of Neolaia). Mary asked for a of portrait of Diane and Greece. But not a literal "portrait".
I met Diane Katsiaficas a few years ago when I was in school at the University of Minnesota where she has been a professor for years. Both being Greek, we had an obvious connection. (If you haven't figured it out yet, everyone in this story is Greek). Diane Katsiaficas is a ridiculously talented artist and she smiles a lot. That's hard to beat. But when preparing for this painting I realized that I don't know Diane very well.
Since they are close friends, I asked Mary to send me some stories about Diane. Mary talked about visiting Diane's house on the sea near Athens and how Diane cares for the land and the house with her own hands. Mary made the suggestion of a painting that is light and airy using olive trees and birds.
I looked at Diane's website again for inspiration. The image on the home page is an olive tree. I knew I had to use a tree. I liked the idea of flying birds. We are talking about Greece here, so blue has to be the dominate color, right? There you have it.
My painting isn't completely light and airy. I remembered a work of Diane's that I saw a couple of years ago about the terrible forest fires that have recently plagued Greece. I wanted to reference this. (Every Greek I know has some kind of forest fire burning in them, for good or otherwise).
I originally had a full fledged inferno burning in the background but I decided to go back and tame it to a yellow glow. I didn't want this to be a literal burning landscape. I wanted it to feel more dream-like and subtle. I watered down some of the colors on the surface and sanded areas to keep everything from being too well defined.
The way things came out with the yellow halo, it almost looks as if the tree is thinking about the birds. They might only be the tree's dream. Roots and wings.
In retrospect, I maybe should have approached this painting differently. Diane and I both very much love Byzantine painting. I could have made visual references to that... but I can explore that later...
Thank You Mary Antonakos, this has truly been a joy. .
..and hello, Diane!
Here are some links to check out:
Diane's website: http://www.dianekatsiaficas.com/
I Space : http://www.ispace.uiuc.edu/ (Mary Antonakos is the gallery director here).