Not much homage is given to Greek American women in general. This is why this site exists. We want to spotlight a few crowning Greek American women who perhaps are not in the public consciousness as #WomensHistoryMonth wraps up. One of these is the late artist Lillian Delevoryas. It is one year since her passing, but her career which spanned six decades must needs be remembered for eternity.
In fact, her wedding dress to poet Robert Amis in 1972 was featured not only in Vogue but in the Victoria and Albert exhibit, Wedding Dresses 1775-2014. It is part of their permanent collections there if you want to take a look. It looks as if it has been made from a Medieval tapestry, the colors rich and worn-looking at the same time.
Her marriage to poet Amis proved happy and productive as they meshed their creativities to collaborate in the Weatherall Workshops in Forest of Dean in Gloucestershire, creating tapestry and needlepoint pieces. These tapestries inspired by Medieval artistry gained them many awards.
Delevoryas was born in Chicopee Falls, Massachusetts on January 3, 1932 to Greek immigrant parents. She studied at the Pratt Institute and the Cooper Union in New York, where she gained her B.A. (Hons) in Fine Art. After graduation she spent some time in Japan, where she studied calligraphy and wood block printing with Toshi Yoshida and Tomi Tokuriki (Tomikichirō Tokuriki). She also studied in France before settling in New York. Here, she created her earliest major works – the New York Studio Series – an exploration of structure and of light, both real and reflected. These early works explored naturistic and intimist art combining various influences including Matisse and Picasso, revealing a love of color and the strong graphic sense which informed her work ever since. (wikipedia)
Delavoryas is best known for her innovations in applique in textile design. It was at the suggestion of Kaffe Fassett and Judy Brittain of Vogues that she came to London, where she was commissioned to design tapestries for private homes and costumes for celebrities and pop stars such as David Bowie. Her work was found constantly through the pages of Vogue.
It was in the countryside of Gloucestershire she became impassioned with the English garden motif “whose profusion of colour reinforced her already strong love of pattern. The floral watercolours produced during this period quickly translated into designs. This design work which covered a variety of applications were featured by Divertimenti, Burleigh Pottery and Habitat; she also created fabric designs for Designers Guild and stationery products for Elgin Court.” (wikipedia)
In the 90s, she returned to her native Massachusetts, and during that period produced a series of landscapes inspired by the marshlands and tidal estuaries of the coastline.
In the last part of her life, Delevoryas became very spiritual. Her focus returned to the original image, the ICON of her spirtual upbringing. Her husband became Orthodox and visited Mount Athos quite frequently. Her inspiration came from the realization that we as artist are granted that power from the ultimate Maker. By connecting to that iconic power, she produced work that spoke to the beauty of the divine infused in the everyday. She returned spiritually to her home, Greece, through the landscapes and the religious Byzantine tradition. She took up iconography and this discipline eventually led to many paintings inspired by iconography and the publication of her first book, Visual Contemplations, the artist’s visual meditation on the text The Life Of Moses by St Gregory of Nyssa.
Delevoryas continued working into her eighties, and received attention in 2011 for her iPad paintings. Her exhibition,[ ‘Three Decades of Art’, was held at the Walton & Bovill Gallery, Suffolk, England, in the summer of 2016. It was to be her last one. Delevoryas died at her home in Bristol, U.K. on March 6, 2018.[
What characterizes Lillian Delevoryas is her artistic synesthesia: she cross pollinated art form drawing inspiration from one to another. Tapestries became jacket lapels; ceramic cups popped up in paintings; floral prints became trays; embroidered fabrics were immortalized in paintings. Watercolors became ceramics and vice versa. She kept up with the times even creating on iPad in her 80s. Her imagination was limitless; she kept delving into it even up to her last days. In the end, her life was perhaps her greatest work of art.
Quotes by Lillian Delevoryas
“My only real qualification is that from an early age I have loved painting with a single-minded passion that has never abated.”
“We live in a world of ‘Transient passions’, and looking back to my beginnings as an artist, I would say that this is an all-too-prevalent characteristic of most modern artists. At the root of our lives we have suffered from the curse that has afflicted most creative people over the past few centuries – that in assuming the role of creator with a small c, we have forgotten to acknowledge our debt to the Creator, with a capital C – our Maker in Whom we live and move and have our being – without Whom there would be no artistic gifts, no wonderful insights – in fact, there would be nothing at all – not even us! If we acknowledged this fact from the time we began to paint – how different our art – and indeed we ourselves –would be! If we became fully aware of the enormity of this revelation, all we could do is fall on our knees and say ‘Thank you!’”
“Like many young artists when beginning their careers, I was totally unaware of the fact that art had in some way needed to have some relation to the spiritual. In my beginnings as an art student, being an artist seemed more related to the world of free spirits, of hedonism, of total freedom. This only shows my ignorance at the time, and it was only years later that I began to link the world of art with the life of the spirit.”
“I would know if my work had reached its desired end – which was to bring one to a state of stillness. The paradox is that in reaching this point, one has to travel through many countries in oneself – in my case, this seems to involved a continual search for that moment of surprise which gives me new energy each day to carry on my explorations – of unexpectedly chancing on a new way of seeing the world around me, and finding the best means of expression – in the hope that the viewer will be surprised and delighted at the result. So the paradox appears to be the juxtaposition of surprise with stillness. I once read that some saint said the action of the Spirit was 3-fold: It was instantaneous, unpredictable and unexpected. When that happens in my work, I know I’m on the right track.”
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