My Painted Lyre: Seeing music in Chicago’s Greektown now on view along Halsted Street
Greektown Chicago has opened its new outdoor art exhibit My Painted Lyre: Seeing music in Chicago’s Greektown, with 26 vibrant three-dimensional artworks lining Halsted Street from Monroe to Van Buren Streets now through spring 2023.A map showing the locations of the artworks in Greektown is available HERE. Visit greektownchicago.org for more information.
A diverse group of Chicago artists is celebrating music with personal interpretations of the “lyre,” an ancient Greek instrument reimaginedin a modern-style sculpture. The lyre speaks of music, song, poetry and dance. It also brings to mind the heavens where the constellation Lyra appears in the northern sky. Inspirations for the 26 magnificent artworks come from multiple sources including Greek mythology, history, science and memories of special places. My Painted Lyre is sponsored by Greektown SSA #16, the neighborhood’s business improvement district, in partnership with the Chicago Greektown Educational Foundation.
Title of Lyre Artworks & Artist Statements
Lyrical Spirit by Arturo Barrera: Inspired by Albin Polasek’s Spirit of Music in Grant Park, Lyrical Spirit is a celebration of music and Greek history. Spirit of Music depicts a tall, bronze, muse holding a lyre. Lyrical Spirit is an abstract approach with simplified geometric figures, representing two different people holding a lyre. The colors used are traditional Greek colors. Many people associate Greek culture with only blue and white because of their country’s flag, and Greek statues with a lack of color. However, many of the ancient Greek sculptures were originally painted colorfully. After years of harsh weather and other effects on Grecian sculptures, the polychromatic finishes fade significantly, if not fully, which gives them a white, or bland, appearance. Lyrical Spirit connects the history of the Greek palette with a celebration of Greek culture in Chicago.
Chicago’s Lyre by Juan A. Cano: Inspiration: Love for our city and diversity in music.
Day and Night by Elena Diadenko : Two women, Day and Night, are each dressed in traditional Ukrainian outfits and surrounded by the fields of wheat and poppies. They represent the beauty and rich folklore of Ukrainian culture. One of the women (Day) holds a bundle of wheat that represents prosperity and life in Ukraine. Another woman (Night) holds a dove of peace and poppies that speak to the beauty of the land.
Symbolic Gestures of the Goddess by Malika Jackson: This work is to honor several of the Greek Goddesses with their symbols: Aphrodite, Hera, Artemis.
My Polish Summer by Bonnie Loboda: There is music and movement in the natural world. And it stays long in our memories. I recall the buzzing of insects, the flutter of birds, the dancing of butterflies and the soft sway of flowers (poppies, daisies, cornflowers, dandelions, etc.) in a gentle wind.
Three Celestial Hierarchies by Victoria Martin: The Celestial Hierarchies were famously put in order during the fifth century by the theologian Pseudo-Dionysus the Areopagite. The highest level, i.e., the first, contains the beings around the throne of God. My thesis is that these were premonitions for actual objects & shapes discovered in Deep Space 1920 - now. In the second level down are the creator deities. They are explained symbolically but seem to depict what we now know to be true via creation science and evolution. In the third level are the angels that watch over the earth and its inhabitants well known to us via biblical stories.
Sun Dance by James McNeill Mesplé: Apollo teaches Orpheus to play the Lyre as Terpsichore (the Muse of Dance) plays her own lyre while dancing! Marsyas challenges Apollo to a music contest, playing sensual Earth Music on his flute for Eurydice’s Sunflower Dance. Apollo plays the classical Music of the Spheres, the heavenly planets themselves, thereby winning the contest.
The Grapes of Generosity by Molly McGrath: The grapes of generosity relate to the Greek people. They like the fruit that grows on the vine, help them stay alive and be healthy.
Daughter of Athena Κόρη της Αθηνάς by Mark Nelson: Angela Paterakis nurtured many student artists at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Many of her students become teachers and educational leaders embedded throughout the Chicago Public Schools, higher institutions and beyond. Angela’s students greatly appreciated her wisdom, compassion and commitment that often continued into their professional life long after they graduated. Her impact on the world of arts education exponentially grew as she witnessed her network of leaders energize arts in early education and expand equitable opportunities for Chicago’s inner-city kids and beyond.
They All Played by Patricia Owsiany: Apollo, as the myth goes, received his lyre from Hermes, the messenger God. It was one of his power symbols. As Apollo played, the Greeks also played. The lyre was one of the most common instruments of Ancient Greece. Now, Henry the 8th was also an accomplished musician who played many instruments, and the lyre was just one of them. In the heavens, the constellation Lyre is composed of Vega, Gamma Lyre, R Lyre, Mu Lyrae Eta and Delta….so even the stars played!!
Apolo Ohno by Percent: 500 m: 41.327 (2009) 1000 m: 1:24.500 (2009) 1500 m: 2:11.280 (2003) 3000 m: 4:32.975 (2003)
String Theōros by Terry Poulos: The artist draws first upon the Pythagoreans' love of beauty and symmetry in relation to resonance, proportion and certain pleasing melodic tones concerning specific spacing of string instrument ratios (a fifth, a third, etc.). Modern physics redirected that knowledge in the form of String Theory, asserting particles themselves are the emergent product of vibrations of 'quantum threads of interaction' which create what humans perceive as condensed matter (fermionic particle-waves) and light (bosonic particle-waves). The conjecture being that this illusory physical world we inhabit is dependent on the frequency and angular momentum at which said strings resonate and interact.
Lyrical by Diane Thodos: This work is inspired by the many lyrical and moving images of lyra players from classical ancient Greek pottery. The emotion and movement of the musicians shows an immediacy created centuries ago that is just as lyrical and expressive in our times.
The Castaway by Miss Alex White: Inspired by the 1965 Castaways song, "Liar Liar," this lyre piece is an amalgamation of psychedelia. Oozing with Peter Max pop sensibility, this colorful work echoes mid-century imagery and messages that still resonate today.
The Color of Music by Kiki Whitehead: There are few art forms more enchanting than the collision of music and art. Both can be felt deep within your soul. This piece is an abstract form of that beautiful combination beginning with the origins of the lyre.
A Woman's Touch by Rebecca Zaragoza: I've depicted a series of women joyfully playing the lyre. Of course, anyone willing can play the instrument. And doing so, they can bring music to our ears and color to our world through harmonious notes and other relationships.
Arturo Barrera is an educator in the Chicago Public School system. He has been a school Assistant Principal for four years and has enjoyed a career in art education for over 30 years (always encouraging his students to new ways of seeing and thinking). Barrera has a B.F.A. from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago in Art Education; a M.F.A. from Northern Illinois University in printmaking and painting; and a M.A. in Education Administration from Governor State University.
Juan A. Cano is a contemporary graffiti artist from Logan Square. He is well-known for his “shattered glass” style. Cano participates in several art exhibitions each year and is an art philanthropist to charitable causes. He especially enjoys working on public art projects. Instagram: @Juan_A_Cano
Elena Diadenko was born and raised in Ukraine and immigrated to the United States in 1992. She received her first art degrees from Myrgorod Ceramics College and Lviv National Academy of Arts in Ukraine. Later, Diadenko received two masters’ degrees in interdisciplinary art and art education from Columbia College in Chicago. She has lived and worked in Chicago for 30 years and is currently an art teacher Schurz High School. Diadenko has participated in more than 60 art exhibitions, including solo and group shows, both internationally and in the Chicagoland area.
Malika Jackson has exhibited her works widely in both group and solo shows. She currently has a solo show at the Hyde Park Art Center. Jackson received the SPARK Award-2020, completed a six-month residency at the Hyde Park Art Center ‘THE CENTER PROGRAM’ and received commissions for the Ronald McDonald Houses’ tribute to the Ryder Cup Tournament. She has shown at the Howard Brown Center, Black Clay at Chicago State, Fast Forward, Rewind: Play, HPAC, Woman Made Gallery, Gallery D’Estees, Noyes Gallery, Museum of Science and Industry, Artropolis at the Merchandise Mart, The Cliff Dwellers and many other venues. She was featured in the film Curators of Dixon; Producing Local Color: Art Networks in Ethnic Chicago, a book by Diane Grams; and South Shore Current magazine with her art on the cover. Jackson has a MFA & BFA from the School of the Art Institute, and further studied at Illinois State University, Normal, IL. She did an Artist tour of France and Italy and completed a ceramic workshop in Tuscany, Italy.
Bonnie Loboda began painting as a young child in Poland. Soon after, she learned to embroider and was creating intricate pieces for export. Art remained her passion even after she moved to Chicago in 1994. Over the years, Loboda has stretched her imagination and taught herself new techniques. Today, she paints on glass, canvas, wood, walls and more. Many times, Loboda works well into the night shaping and re-shaping each new artwork.
Victoria Martin is a large-scale mystical painter. She combines symbols from new science with illustrations of ancient magical texts. (FYI some of those prayers really work!). She also teaches art as a spiritual praxis at workshops and events. Martin holds a BA in Art Education and an MFA in Performance from the School of the Art Institute, Chicago.
James McNeill Mesplé’s art focuses on classically inspired images viewed through the lens of contemporary life. As a child, Mesplé was told stories by his maternal grandfather, drawn from his Osage (Native American) heritage. These other-worldly narratives sparked an interest in Classical Greek myths because both cultures are animistic, seeing Spirit not only in animals and flowers, but in all aspects of life on Earth (Gaia). For 10 years, Mesplé taught art at Francis W. Parker school and spent 10 years teaching at the School of the Art Institute studio program. And he plays the flute. Mesplé was represented for over thirty years by Printworks Gallery in Chicago and is currently with Jackson/Junge Gallery.
Molly McGrath has an extensive body of work: collages, children’s (and other) album covers, drawings of Chicago transit system signs, fiber art, painted bottles, portraits of dolls–and Sesame Street memorabilia. Her work directly responds to her environment, with her everyday experiences becoming a starting point. McGrath is an artist at “Project Onward,” a nonprofit studio and gallery in Chicago dedicated to the career development of visual artists with mental and developmental disabilities. Learn more at projectonward.org.
Mark Nelson was raised in a Navy family overseas and began his formal arts education in the Republic of Panama where he was mentored in painting and live theater. On return to the continental USA, Nelson studied at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago for a BFA and received an MFA at the University of Illinois in Chicago. His artwork can be found in private and public collections, including a mural at the US Embassy, Republic of Panama. Nelson was awarded many grants and fellowships as an artist and educator from the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs-Office of Fine Arts, Illinois Arts Council, the Golden Apple Foundation, and the Oppenheimer Family Foundation. A resident of Chicago's historic Pilsen neighborhood and arts community, his Gringolandia Studio and home is open annually to the public in participation with the 18th Street Pilsen Open Studios.
Patricia Owsiany earned a BA in Fine Arts at Southern Illinois University. She has participated in many shows in Chicago and New York City. Her last solo exhibit was a mini retrospective at Space 900 in Evanston. She was born in Chicago and continues to live and create here.
Terry Poulos is a writer, artist, archaeological historian, fractal geometer, and more generally autodidact scientific investigator. Two of his sculptures have been exhibited at the National Hellenic Museum (NHM), and his Net Zero Coin numismatic is in the permanent collection of the British Museum and NHM. His works can be seen at Scientiquity.com
PERCENT is a group of artists who are somewhat Asian. Their work is strictly collaborative—no piece created by an individual can bear the collective’s name. Their approach is an attempt to acknowledge the falsehood of purity.
Diane Thodos is a Chicago-based artist with a forty-year career in painting and printmaking that emphasizes both abstract expressionism and German expressionism. This comes from her study with Jackson Pollock’s teacher Stanley William Hayter in 1984, and study of the Speck’s German Expressionist print collection at the Milwaukee Art Museum over a 20-year period. Diane's work combines figure and abstraction to create a fertile ground for ever-new compositional and emotionally expressive possibilities. She is a 2002 Pollack-Krasner Grant recipient, has exhibited internationally, and has work in the collections of the Milwaukee Museum of Art, The David and Alfred Smart Museum, the State of Illinois Museum in Chicago, The Illinois Holocaust Museum and The Block Museum of Northwestern University, among many others.
Miss Alex White is a Greek American, native Chicagoan, DePaul University MBA, and front woman of the rock'n'roll duo White Mystery. In addition to her career as a full-time musician, Miss Alex White is a multidisciplinary artist whose work spans painting, film, video game design, and drawing.
Kiki Whitehead is a first-generation Greek American. Her parents immigrated to Canada before coming to the United States in the 1960’s. She is most recently recognized as the National Chairman of the United Hellenic Voters of America (UHVA), a non-partisan political organization representing the Greek American community where she resides over an Executive Board. Kiki recently illustrated two children’s book “How Does My Mama Know?” and “Ollie Under It.” With a book of her own on the way, Kiki hopes to continue this work into her twilight years. She is currently the Marketing Director for Olympik Signs, Inc., one of the largest sign companies in the Chicago area. But her greatest achievement will always be her beautiful, blended family.
Rebecca Zaragoza is an artist engaged in poetry, painting and sculpture. Art in all its varieties, she says, is an expression of feelings. Since we all have them, we can all be artists.
Along with an exciting group of professional and emerging Chicago artists, the following ten Chicagoland Greek schools are participating in the Lyre exhibit: Guardian Angel Orthodox Day School, Holy Apostles Greek School, Holy Cross Sophocles Greek School, Koraes Elementary School, Plato Academy, St. Demetrios Pythagoras Children’s Academy, St. Demetrios SOLON Greek School, St. George Greek School, St. John the Baptist Pythagoras Greek School, and St. Spyridon Plutarchos Academy.
About Greektown Chicago
Greektown is a dining, nightlife and cultural district located on the Near West Side of Chicago. A popular destination for tourists and Chicago residents alike, Greektown offers the best sampling of Greek heritage outside of Athens—from authentic restaurants, cafes and shops to the National Hellenic Museum and annual Taste of Greektown festival. Greektown Special Service Area #16 is the business improvement district for the neighborhood, administered by sole service provider the West Central Association and guided by a volunteer commission of local business owners, property owners and residents. For more information, visit greektownchicago.org.
Top image: Detail views of works by Rebecca Zaragoza, Diane Thodos, James McNeill Mesplé, and Elena Diadenko for Greektown’s Lyre public art exhibit.