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Culture

Greek Naïve Painting by Effie Michelis Exhibition on View in New York City thru April 19

March 22, 2024

NEW YORK – The art exhibition Greek Naïve Painting by Effie Michelis opened on March 20 at the Consulate General of Greece in New York and runs through April 19. The charming exhibition features 27 works by the talented self-taught artist Effie Michelis (1906-1984) whose works capture the light and spirit of Greek nature with a bright palette. Though many present at the opening were unfamiliar with the artist and her work, all were impressed by the exhibition and the efforts of the Panayotis and Effie Michelis Foundation whose mandate is to study, promote and disseminate aesthetics and the philosophy of art through a variety of activities, including scholarly publications, conferences, seminars, lectures, and art exhibitions as well as endowing the Michelis Chair of Aesthetics at the University of Crete.

Consul General of Greece in New York Dinos Konstantinou gave the welcoming remarks, noting that “cultural diplomacy really lies at the heart of my mission.” He thanked everyone for attending, including Michelis Foundation Board of Directors President Lambros Anagnostopoulos, Michelis Foundation Director Dr. Marina Tsoulou, American Folk Art Museum Director and Chief Executive Officer Jason T. Busch, art historian Dr. Sozita Goudouna, and Annie Ragia of the Melissa Publishing House.

Left to right: Panayotis and Effie Michelis Foundation Director Dr. Marina Tsoulou, Consul General of Greece in New York Dinos Konstantinou, American Folk Art Museum Director and Chief Executive Officer Jason T. Busch, Michelis Foundation Board of Directors President Lambros Anagnostopoulos, and Dr. Sozita Goudouna. Photo by Eleni Sakellis

Konstantinou then introduced Michelis Foundation Board of Directors President Anagnostopoulos who also thanked everyone for their presence, including Peter Chesanthakes, Vice President of Institutional Advancement at Anatolia College, as well as the Consulate and the Consul General “for giving us the opportunity to expose the New York society, Greek and American, both, to some modern Greek art.”

“The Foundation was founded in 1979 by Effie Michelis who was a naïve painter,” Anagnostopoulos said. “She started painting in the early-1950s in New England where she was living with her husband who was a professor of architecture in Greece but he was visiting and teaching in Boston at the time. She was self-taught and she soon became a leading figure of naïve art in Greece and exhibiting in many places.”

Anagnostopoulos continued: “The Foundation itself… focuses on promoting naïve painting and aesthetics and architecture, in many ways through exhibitions, we’re publishing books, organizing seminars, and we have conferences, we have a unique library in Athens focusing on aesthetics, and we work very much with educational institutions, we believe that education is a forum for promoting art.”

Restaurant ‘Hellas’ (Athens) by Effie Michelis is one of the works on view in the exhibition at the Consulate General of Greece in New York. Photo by Eleni Sakellis

He then introduced Dr. Sozita Goudouna who offered her fascinating insights into Effie Michelis’ artwork in comparison to the works of Grandma Moses, the famous American folk artist, and to American Abstract Expressionist painter Lee Krasner who was born two years after Michelis.

“One of the most important aspects of Greek intellectual history that remains understudied has to do with intellectual conceptions, perceptions and critiques of Western modernity and this is the reason I am attempting this comparison or parallel between these two female contemporaries and modernist painters Michelis and Krasner,” Dr. Goudouna said. “The comparison with Lee Krasner seems relevant first because Michelis was born in Athens and had an urban exposure and education rather than a regional or provincial upbringing like Grandma Moses and while Michelis was also an active participant in the cultural milieu of the Generation of the 1930s that has defined Greek modernism. Michelis’ trip to the USA was instrumental in her decision to become a painter and Krasner’s trip to Europe and Paris, resulted in her breaking free from the male-dominated canonical discourse of abstract expressionism in New York.”

American Folk Art Museum Director and CEO Jason T. Busch, in his remarks, noted that “since 1961, when our Museum was established, we’ve been now 30 years at Lincoln Center and a free museum to all during that time, we’ve really been at the forefront of celebrating the accomplishments of self-taught artists from America to Greece, we do have American Folk Art in our name, but we are a global institution and we’ve taken the concept of being able to celebrate that genius of self-taught artists really from every continent from the 18th century to the present day and we’ve joined sister institutions like the Michelis Foundation in Greece and very much decade after decade being committed to advancing the work of artists who have come to their skill and their trade by their own resourcefulness, their own conviction, their own creativity rather than through privilege or pedigree or formal artistic training.”

Attendees at the March 20 opening of the exhibition Greek Naïve Painting by Effie Michelis, on view at the Consulate General of Greece in New York though April 19. Photo by Eleni Sakellis

Busch said: “Many of the artists we study and promote have otherwise been overlooked and left beyond the margins of the art world because of who they were or how they learned and I note the parallel ambition of Effie Michelis because of the fact that the establishment f her foundation and her life really supporting Greek self-taught artists and women artists which are very important to us at the American Folk Art Museum in terms of what we have been advancing since the 1960s.”

The exhibition is organized by the Panayotis & Effie Michelis Foundation with the support of Anatolia College and Melissa Publishing House.

More information about the Panayotis & Effie Michelis Foundation is available online: www.michelisfoundation.gr.

Anatolia College: www.anatolia.edu.gr.

Melissa Publishing House: www.melissabooks.com.

American Folk Art Museum: https://folkartmuseum.org/.

The exhibition is on view through April 19, Monday-Friday, 9 AM-2:30 PM, at the Consulate General of Greece in New York, 69 East 79th Street in New York City.

The exhibition Greek Naïve Painting by Effie Michelis is on view at the Consulate General of Greece in New York though April 19. Photo by Eleni Sakellis

 

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