‘My Father’s Daughter: Byzantine Art in the Modern World’ is a special exhibition for local artist Joni Zavitsanos, as it chronicles the work of her late father, renowned Byzantine iconographer Diamantis Cassis, side by side with her own. Her father was on a quest to create meaningful, edifying art. Using the principles of Byzantine iconography, a structured art form used to depict biblical themes in Orthodox churches, he created both ancient and modern imagery that is heralded for speaking to audiences in a unique way. Zavitsanos has followed in her father’s footsteps, recreating the ancient imagery of the Byzantine era into a modern statement for today’s society. As a contemporary artist, she aims to depart from the constraints of iconography to create works that are more relevant to the present era, while remaining spiritually meaningful.
Joni Zavitsanos employs ancient and Byzantine motifs juxtaposed with modern imagery to create uniquely contemporary art. Her work- a modern approach to Byzantine iconography, the earliest form of Christian art- demonstrates how visual motifs with roots in the distant past retain their relevance through time. Zavitsanos’ mixed media creations challenge the rules of traditional iconography by incorporating recognizable modern day faces and facial expressions displaying relatable human emotions and imperfections. She strives to make art a vehicle for teaching people about faith and meaning in life. Zavitsanos was recently bestowed the prestigious Archon award- the highest honor given to a member within the worldwide Greek Orthodox Church- for her work in educating people about the Orthodox faith and history through her art. Her late father was also made an Archon during his career. Zavitsanos’ works have been shown internationally, and most recently, at Fordham University’s Museum of Greek, Etruscan and Roman Art in Bronx, New York.
“Drawing from these two streams of artistic and spiritual exposure, I strive to convey to the viewer a sense of the ancient past made present in today’s world. In this way, the iconographic images crafted centuries ago mesh with contemporary events and people, giving Byzantine art a feeling of relevance and continuity in our current lives. On a personal level, the work allows me a connection with my father and my Faith, bridging my life on earth with what mysteriously lies on the other side.” – Joni Zavitsanos