New York.- By Vicki James Yiannias
Turning the media and the public upside-down—or right-side-up—just days before the Senate Judiciary Committee was set to vote on Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court confirmation Christine Blasey Ford, professor of psychology at Palo Alto University and research psychologist at the Stanford University School of Medicine, made a huge impact in September 2018, when she publicly alleged that Brett Kavanaugh had sexually assaulted her when they were teenagers.
“Her Lasting Impact,” an illustration, a portrait of Dr. Ford that is filled in with quotes from her testimony by award-winning Greek American illustrator, John Mavroudis, on the cover of the October 15 issue of Time magazine, evoked strong public emotions appropriate to her allegations, documenting the event for posterity.
“Her Lasting Impact,” (which Mavroudis in an interview compared to “putting a jigsaw puzzle together, but with an infinite number of possibilities,”) went on to win “Cover of the Year” award from The American Society of Magazine Editors (ASME), an award he also won for his September 11, 2006 double cover (the first) for The New Yorker magazine, among other awards.
GN: I read that you were born in Athens, Greece. Has Greek identity played a part in your art?
JM: Actually, I was born in America. My father was a Greek citizen who came to the United States in 1958. He was born and raised near Alexandria, Egypt. He passed away last November. I still have his Greek passport. He was a proud Greek who taught me many things, including a love for Greek mythology, history, food, family… very fondly, I remember going to dinners every week at my Yiayia’s house. The rest of his family followed him over to the United States in the early 1960s. My father’s relatives were originally from Lemnos. I’ve been to Greece only once, but it was a remarkable trip for me. We visited relatives in Athens, and Volos, and also went to Delphi, and Kefalonia. I remember sitting at restaurants drinking retsina and thinking, “this is the life.” I hope to go back again very soon.
I think my Greek background has played a part in my artwork… I vividly remember reading a book about Greek mythology as a child and being fascinated with the illustrations in the book. It was D’Aulaires’ Book of Greek Myths. It, along with some Marvel comic books I collected, made me want to be an artist. I’ve always had the artistic inspiration. I think If I was born and raised in Greece, its beauty and importance in the world would have inspired me.
JM: We were always encouraged to read. I remember reading The Iliad, which is still one of my favorite books ever, and The Odyssey. I remember reading Kazantzakis novels and being fascinated by them. I think being proud of my heritage played a role there. We also took trips to museums.
I don’t think my family pushed me in the art direction…my father was a business person, accountant, CEO, but they never discouraged me in any way. My father taught us that living day-to-day and finding happiness in the moment was important. My mother, born in America and of Irish heritage. always displayed pride for both the Irish and the Greek. She actually taught us some of the few Greek words we spoke as children, like “Fáe to deípno sou!” “Kátse káto!” and “kakó!” mostly when I got into trouble.
GN: You’ve won a lot of awards! Are you driven by concept or the material process?
JM: Not a lot of awards, but some nice ones, for sure. I’m very concept-driven. I love playing around with ideas…. but I also love the act of actually creating the concept. So it’s a bit of a balance.
GN: I read that you completed the TIME cover in over the course of two days—in the Bay Area
JM: I use an iPad with an Apple pencil now, so I’m able to work when I’m on the train… or at a coffee shop… anywhere, really. Although I still love painting on canvas and drawing on paper, working digitally has allowed me to work very quickly and efficiently… and I’ve found a way to maintain a certain style that I’m comfortable with—an organic feel to the work is important to me.
GN: You’ve done some collaboration.
JM: I’ve collaborated with my design work. Most of my artwork I create with minimal input. For the recent TIME magazine cover, I spoke with the art director for about 10 minutes on the phone and we got the general idea down… then it was just going to it and finishing it off in time. Having said that, the idea of collaboration seems like something I’d love to do again. Sharing an experience with like-minded people can be very rewarding.
GN: What are you working on; what would you most like to do?
I’m currently working on preparing artwork for a Kickstarter campaign that was funded. It’s about the Gay Rights Leader Harvey Milk. I’ve created an artwork that incorporates the names of LGBT figures from throughout history to make up his portrait. I’m going to be sending it out to be screen printed for a limited-edition series of 200 signed and numbered pieces.
My other projects include a couple of art pieces that will be featured on t-shirts for our local professional baseball team, the San Francisco Giants. And finally… I’m very excited to be working on a project for a client in Greece… I’m not sure how much I can say for now… but it combines three of my favorite things.
GN: That will call for in-depth interview.
JM: I’ll let you know more as soon as I can.