By Efua Amissah-Aggrey, fashion designer and 934 Gallery board member
Panagiota Kourniotis is a Columbus artist, born and raised in New England, who is a first-generation Greek American whose family hails from Crete and the Peloponnese. In her work, she intricately weaves together plant symbolism, mythology, women’s history and the vibrant hues of Mediterranean culture. Check out her latest exhibition Don’t You Feel at Home at 934 Gallery, Jan. 20 to Feb. 10.
Efua: How did you get started in your art form? What do you remember about first being intrigued by it?
Panagiota: Thank you, Efua, for discussing my art with me. My initial exposure into creating occurred during my childhood. My maternal grandmother, a retired Byzantine iconographer, provided the setting in her home studio where I would frequently spend time. Seated beside her, I would engage in my own projects, observe or assist in mixing her egg tempera paints using a home recipe. It was approximately three years ago that I started experimenting with my current style and subject matter, driven by a desire to explore deeper into linework and clothing within my portraits.
Efua: What is your process for creating?
Panagiota: I start every project with research, whether it involves reading about historical and mythical figures or exploring a museum’s online archive for historical clothing. Following this, I sketch and draw my subject in pencil, later refining it with ink. When it comes to painting, I initiate the process with a solid blue background, tracing my image and gradually filling in solid colors, with linework as the final touch.
Efua: Can you describe a memorable interaction or feedback from someone who experienced your art for the first time?
Panagiota: A few years ago, someone recommended that I further delve into exploring my culture within my work – something I had only lightly ventured into at that time. This suggestion initiated a domino effect, prompting me to highlight and delve deeper into researching folk clothing, given its limited reach.
Efua: Can you share a story about a piece of art you created that holds special significance or personal meaning to you?
Panagiota: Kyriaki and Paraskevi, featured in Mythos and Mementos, carry special significance for me. Each character adorns the traditional Greek clothing from my parents’ respective regions. While both were worn during special occasions, I predominantly wore the Cretan dress showcased in Kyriaki. The diptych serves as a tribute to both sides, offering homage after being primarily culturally immersed in just one.
Efua: What do you do to relax or unwind?
Panagiota: I don’t have as much time to relax or unwind as I would like. But when I do, it typically involves visiting exhibitions with friends, embarking on an adventure, exploring new coffee shops, spending time with my senior cat Mara or catching up on some much-needed sleep.
Efua: What’s on your current playlist?
Panagiota: It’s always an odd assortment, ranging from Greek music to Eastern European techno, but Nikos Kourkoulis’s 1984 album “Tosa Dilina” is currently on rotation.
Keep up with Panagiota on Instagram at @Panagiota.illustrations. Discover a diverse exploration of physical and psychological spaces in 934 Gallery’s Don’t You Feel At Home group show, featuring artists Panagiota Kourniotis, Claire Flath, and Really Large Numbers. This exhibition delves into first-generation identity, climate anxiety and forced solitude, creating a unique blend of loneliness and connectivity. It runs Jan. 20 to Feb. 10.
This article is part of a bi-weekly column brought to you by the Greater Columbus Arts Council as part of the Art Makes Columbus campaign. Explore a calendar of events, public art database and artist stories at columbusmakesart.com. To learn more about GCAC grants visit gcac.org.