New York.- By Vicki James Yiannias
Photos: Dimitrios Panagos
“This evening we are all Nisyrians”, Consul General Dr. Konstantinos Koutras greeted the guests, “all fellow Nisyrians tonight” at the well-attended opening of Dr. Katherine Schwab’s exhibition of color photographs, The Island of Nisyros: A Photographic Essay at the Consulate General of Greece in New York, February 28. “Nisyros is a tiny island untouched by tourism, and it is the birthplace of some of the most eminent members of our Greek American community, such as Mr. John Catsimatides, the Andriotis family, and others who are present.”
A joint venture between the Consulate, the Nysirian Society and Fairfield University’s Program in Art History & Visual Culture in Dr. Schwab’s Department of Visual and Performing Arts, The Island of Nisyros: A Photographic Essay, shows, in her words, the “beauty and the destructive power,” of the island’s volcanic landscape, “an island that reflects geological time, mythological time, the sheer power of earth’s geological forces, ruins and renewal. Grand sweeping vistas contrast with intimate narrow views within villages and towns.”
Thanking the president, professors and staff of Fairfield University for coming, Dr. Koutras said, “The opening of this exhibition gives me pleasure because it combines two of my ‘leisure activities, landscape photography and reading history. And as shown in the volcanic island of Nisyros Kathy shows us, the combination is lethal,” he added humourously.
The new President of the Nisyrian Society Nicholas Papamichael thanked Consul General
Koutras, Fairfield University, and Dr. Schwab, as did Dr. Mark R. Nemec, President of Fairfield University, who said, “Our relationship with the Consulate General of Greece in New York is about fifteen years old and the Consul General himself has visited our University as have all the Greek Consuls General in New York. Our relationship with the Greek-American community has a long history.”
This is the third presentation at the Consulate General of Greece in New York of the evidence of Dr. Schwab’s unique passion for the ancients and for producing art. The first, in 2014, An Archaeologist’s Eye: The Parthenon Drawings of Katherine A. Schwab, mentioned in the next paragraph, launched a traveling exhibition. The second, in 2015, The Caryatid Hairstyling Project, created a furor, even travelling to Japan. (One of the models for the hairstyle project, Joanna Mastroianni, happened to be from Nisyros)
Why Nisyros? In her remarks, Schwab said that her “journey to Nisyros began with curiosity.” She had made a series of graphite drawings to describe what remained in the Parthenon east metopes, square marble panels above the columns, all of which never left Athens and can be seen today in the Acropolis Museum.* Opportunities to visit Nisyros in 2001 and 2010 led her on a quest to better comprehend the landscape of the island and how it might have been understood in the Parthenon metope composition. “East Metope 6 presses on a massive rock that seems to slowly smother a fallen giant as if he was enveloped in lava. This massive rock is surely the volcanic island of Nisyros, the only island featured anywhere in the preserved Parthenon sculptural program,” she thought, and wondered, “How did the ancient designer know what it looked like?”
She has concluded that “while we cannot know what the ancient designer imagined or knew, I found the geological terrain of the island lent itself to a vivid means for telling Poseidon’s episode in the ancient mythological battle.”
Noting that Dean Scaros, her host and the organizer of her visit to Nisyros in 2010 (her first visit was in 2001) was present, she said, “Thanks to Dean Scaros, I was able to stay in his restored family home in Nikia, a village on the southern rim of a massive volcanic crater. Exploring Nisyros not only taught me to see the geological forces at play, but also to see villages and towns in close proximity to such primal power. It was fascinating to see both ruins—I’m an archaeologist! —and the energy of human forces at work rebuilding, restoring and renewing the landscape. A selection of photographs from that visit surround us this evening, organized into four sections: the volcano, Mandraki, Emborios, and Nikia…”
She gave “a very special thanks to Dean Scaros, not only for the invitation to visit Nisyros, but also through him to the Greater Nisyrian Society of NYC who invited me to give a lecture on my research several years ago. We can happily note that Nisyros is the only island represented in the Parthenon sculptural program!”
Dr. Schwab thanked the following individuals for bringing the exhibit to reality: Dr. Konstantinos Koutras, Evelyn Kanellea, Mark Nemec, Geri Derbyshire, Karen Kaiser, Richard Greenwald, Marice Rose, Carey Weber, and Ronald Davidson.
On a related topic, Dr. Richard Greenwald, Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Fairfield University, spoke about the importance of Classical Studies. Fairfield University will be hiring a new faculty member in Classical Studies program, in contrast to the reduction and/or elimination of Classical Studies departments in so many schools throughout the country. This was noted by the guests as being to the great credit of Fairfield University.
Guests: His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios, Archdeacon Panteleimon Papadopoulos (an alumni of Fairfield University), Consul of Greece Lana Zochiou, Consul General of Cyprus Alexis Phedonos-Vadet, John and Margo Catsimatidis, Nikos Andriotis, George Andriotis, Maria Andriotis, Nicholas Kourides, Professor Dean Scaros, George Venizelos, Eftychia Pilarinos-Piper, Konstantinos Rallis, among others.
* In 2005-9, Dr. Schwab developed graphite drawings of the Parthenon East and North metopes as part of her larger research program on the Parthenon. Gray-scale scans of her drawings are on permanent display beneath the original metopes in the Acropolis Museum. Schwab’s new approach to depicting what was once there, is acclaimed.
Visiting Athens this summer during the Greek News’ “Let’s Go to Greece” campaign? At the Acropolis Museum between May 22 and June 18, Dr. Schwab will be drawing in the Acropolis Museum, up in the Parthenon Gallery (top floor) along the north side where she is developing her north metope reconstruction drawings. The light is strong early in the morning on that side, thanks to reflection from the south flank of the Acropolis. She’ll be drawing north metopes until late morning and then move to another side of the gallery and continue drawing.