For Dubuque artist Andonia Giannakouros, portraiture has been the means to explore not only individual identity but how that identity is shaped, like a canyon or a diamond, by social, historical, and cultural pressures over time.
In ten large-format oil paintings on panel, presented in the artist’s first solo exhibition at the Museum, Giannakouros lays bare this process, wrapping and framing contemporary female subjects in colors, patterns, prints, and motifs that render this invisible development visible.
Chronicle, the title of this exhibition, is rooted in chronos, the Greek word for time, and Giannakouros weaves this concept skillfully and subtly through each painting. In her hands, time is both long and short, classical and contemporary, individual and mythological. Embedded in these paintings are objects with significance that dates back thousands of years—apples, pomegranates, snakes—and patterns that have formed Giannakouros’s personal vocabulary, such as the mass-produced oil cloth found in the homes of her relatives in Greece. The leopard print in Visiting Hours, for example, refers to the shift from the ancient totemic power conferred by killing an animal and wearing its skin to women’s high-end and fast fashion of today.
The repeating patterns and prints in the paintings suggest not only different measures of time in the formation of female identity. Historically and culturally, such textiles have been produced primarily by women using slow, labor-intensive methods; a printed textile itself is a marker of time and a reminder of the underrecognized world of women’s work. The fact that such textiles are widely used in the home underscores the connections among women, prints, and the domestic sphere, a relationship that has taken on renewed poignancy and urgency as a result of the pandemic that has kept many of us closer to home than ever before.
In this suite of paintings, Giannakouros has created worlds in which her figures are wrapped in cultural and personal history, elaborately framed by windows and multiply reproduced, and reaching toward the natural motifs and elements found in the patterns and prints that surround and compose them. Symbolically layered and animated by meticulously rendered textures, the works in Chronicle explore no less than the shaping of the self.
About the Artist
Andonia Giannakouros graduated from Clarke University in Dubuque, Iowa in 2005 with a BFA in Studio Painting and a minor in Graphic Design. In recent years she has traveled to Mexico to further her artistic studies. Her work is influenced by the river area around Dubuque, the mountains and sea in the Peloponnese region of Greece near her family home, and images of her friends, family, and fellow artists.