COLD SPRING HARBOR, NY – Artist, photographer, and designer, primarily known for his architectural design work, Stephen Bezas recently spoke with The National Herald about his life and work at his office and gallery in the picturesque town of Cold Spring Harbor on Long Island. Though he has spent most of his adult life as a designer, his work has always been informed by the fine arts through his dynamic photography and unique paintings.
With roots in Ithaca on his mother’s side and his father from Kontopouli, Lemnos, Bezas was born in Manhattan, raised in Astoria, and grew up with the Greek traditions, values, and language, especially since Yiayia and Pappou lived with the family. He recalled drawing as a very young child and that at around age 10, he received advice about shading from his yiayia, who undoubtedly also had the artistic gene.
At school, Bezas often drew during class when he probably should have been paying attention to his teachers, he told TNH. The practice certainly paid off as he continued his studies at the High School of Art and Design and then the School of Visual Arts (SVA).
He took up photography and captured some extraordinary images as a young man just 19 or 20 years old, notably, of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, and Frank Sinatra, who was in New York City filming The Detective. Bezas told TNH that one of his friends had an uncle who worked on the Ed Sullivan Show, so he would let them know when famous performers were in town.
The images demonstrate, Bezas’ natural artistic talent even as a young man. At SVA in the late 1960’s, his painting teacher was the renowned artist Chuck Close who also became a friend to Bezas. One of his early paintings was of Liza Minnelli, a work commissioned by Peter Allen, her husband at the time.
Design work also came naturally to Bezas who was working in a jewelry store when the owner asked him to design a new store. His success led to years of design work. His early designs were modern but always featured a grid plan, which hearkens back to classical architecture. After he was commissioned to design a church, which unfortunately was never built, Bezas embraced classical design. He told TNH that the grid was always central to his work and churches are built on a grid. His designs can be seen in New York, Palm Beach, and even Istanbul. Bezas noted that he had wonderful experiences working with Greek-American clients, incorporating Greek elements tastefully into the designs so they blend in organically with the space and are not merely added as an afterthought. Many of the residences he has designed have included his custom furnishings as well. Flatware and fine china designs all exhibit the classic, yet modern sensibility that makes Bezas’ work so unique and also timeless. He said of classical design, “A hundred years from now, it will still look good,” while modern designs can often look dated after a few years.
He continues to design and showed TNH photographs of his most recently completed work, a limestone cabana guesthouse that would look at home in Renaissance Florence, the Greek islands or Long Island where it is, in fact, located.
Bezas is excited about his latest artworks which are a culmination of his disciplined design aesthetic. In his current collection of photography, he applies his knowledge of organized grids and dots to create texture in his photographs, translating his work into art. The resulting works are a feast for the eye, drawing the viewer into the textured images that display an enchanting depth though the interplay of light and shadow. Among the artworks Bezas recently sold is a large image of a fire escape in Brooklyn measuring 4 feet by 8 feet, the image evokes a classic New York cityscape with a difference, the colors adding vitality and another layer of texture and meaning.
Fire Escape by Stephen Bezas. Photo: Courtesy of Stephen Bezas
Bezas’ father, Peter, came to America at age 16 from Lemnos and worked for a time on his uncle’s chicken farm on Staten Island. From then on, Bezas told TNH, his father never ate chicken. After that, his father worked in a grocery store, sold ice cream, then began driving a truck for a bread company. He worked his way up in the company and eventually became the regional Vice President. His father passed away years ago, he told TNH, while his mother is now 92 years old. They raised two sons and two daughters.
The strong work ethic and commitment to excellence were ingrained in the family and continue in the next generation- Bezas and his wife Stella have two daughters- Christina is an Assistant District Attorney in Queens and Melissa, who graduated from Syracuse University with a degree in interior design, worked with her father’s design company, and then took charge of a greeting card company they began. Bezas noted that he used to order Christmas cards to send out from his company and they were always terrible so they decided to make their own cards and the BStreet greeting card company was born.
Bezas noted that his Greek heritage informs his work, and to demonstrate the connection between architecture, math, and music, he quickly sketched a Greek temple in a matter of seconds and explained how the various elements could be set to music. He added that these connections could be taught in school and inspire students in the arts and in math.
Quince 2 by Stephen Bezas. Photo: Courtesy of Stephen Bezas