Art abounds in Connecticut, you just have to look around.
What do you do on a hot summer day in Bethel?
If you are Daniela Kamiliotis, you paint a mural.
Recently one late afternoon I came upon an artist who was at the beginning stages of painting a large mural on the front of her home/studio. She was concentrating so intensely she did not immediately know of my presence. Eventually she looked up, smiled, and we chatted. I was intrigued.
I met Daniela Kamiliotis, artist extraordinaire.
Kamiliotis was born in Romania and came to the US in 1986. She is an artist by nature, has traveled throughout the world creating art and has had numerous world-wide exhibits. She is a fine artist and book illustrator, as well as set, costume and fashion designer. Kamiliotis is the Senior Vice President of Design for the Women's Collection at Ralph Lauren, for 17 years.
Daniela Kamiliotis was in the process of painting a tribute to her husband Thanos Kamiliotis, in honor of their marriage of 25 years this August 26. I met Thanos on my second visit there. What a delightful and friendly couple, refreshing in their candor.
I was fortunate to catch the beginning stages of the work. Daniela Kamiliotis had just outlined the main design idea in black, and she was starting to add the colors.
"The mural is an hommage to Picasso," she said.
She stood there in her paint-spattered shirt with a bathing suit underneath, combined with delicate sling back flat shoes. She moved back and forth between painting the mural, referring to a Picasso book she had placed on a small wooden chair close by. Numerous blue papers marked the pages of her inspiration. "The mural is based on 5 Picasso paintings," Kamiliotis said. "I knew Picasso," said Thanos Kamiliotis.
Many cans of paint, brushes, a roller, pan, and buckets of all sizes, were spread out in front of the artwork. She was very particular in the colors she chose, mixing each by hand from various paint cans.
Her hands were covered in paint because she also rubbed certain parts of the mural with her fingers to get different effects.
The top edge of the mural read: "2012 ~ 8-26 ~ (hearts) ~ 25 Thanos and Daniela ~ Hommage to Picasso ~ The Studio."
Previous to the Picasso inspired tribute Daniela Kamiliotis said she had painted an American flag on her home after the 9/11 tragedy and then ten years later replaced it with a Greek flag in honor of her husband Thanos.
She said they have lived in their Bethel home/studio for 25 years, along with enjoying a second home in New York city. Thanos lead me to the back of their home to show me another painting Daniela had done on the back wall.
I passed her large studio windows which were filled with shelves of all sorts of interesting objects, fabrics and clothing, and I knew these were surely pieces of inspiration that would then inspire the next design too. I thought about her never-ending creative process in her work.
When I finally reached the painting behind the house I saw that it was a replica of an oil on canvas work by Henri Matisse entitled "Dance," a composition of five dancers arranged in a circle, done in a primitive style, now in the State Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg, Russia. This was his second of two versions that Matisse painted in 1909-1910. The first version, now in the MOMA in New York, used paler colors and was a study for the second painting.
There are obvious variations between the two Matisse paintings, shown in both color and design variations, which made one work more delicate and light and the other more intense in color and design. The Kamiliotis painting referred to the later version of five red dancing figures set against a green and red background. The attention to detail was apparent in the Kamiliotis work. For example, design aspects such as a dancer's foot making a depression on the ground (in second Matisse version), as opposed to the ground coming up to meet the foot (in first Matisse version), were not missed by Kamiliotis.
The Kamiliotis aesthetic is obvious in every respect. Every aspect of her work has meaning to her. She surrounds herself with beautiful objects and creates more art. She is obviously inspired by master artists but she takes it to another level.
Kamiliotis said "I worked with the late Theoni Aldredge, creator of Oscar winning costumes for The Great Gatsby." She said she has designed theater costumes with Aldredge for the Broadway shows Dream Girls and Secret Garden." Kamiliotis has also designed for Nick and Nora, Oh Kay, and Romeo and Juliet.
Kamiliotis was the costume designer for the New Jersey Shakespeare Festival, As You Like It, in 1986 and for Othello by Verdi at Les Choregies D’Orange in France under the direction of Andrei Serban, in 1993.
In May 2012 Kamiliotis teamed with playwright Saviana Stanescu and created stage and costume designs for a second installation of "The Window," created by Romanian-born, New York-based director, Ana Mărgineanu. Described as "site-specific theater," this was a live performance in the storefront gallery of the Romanian Cultural Institute in New York, located on the corner of Third Avenue and 38th Street. U.S.-based Romanian stage designers were invited to participate.
The list goes on.
The passion and devotion Kamiliotis has for her lifelong work seems to come from within. She follows a path of her own creativity.
Note: Since Kamiliotis completed the Picasso-inspired tribute painting, her latest work continues on the back of her home, this time inspired by the French artist, poet, novelist, dramatist, designer, playwright and filmaker Jean Cocteau. It follows a Greek mythology theme.