Art abounds in Bethel, Connecticut; you just have to look around.
One late afternoon this past summer, 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 United States in 1986. She is an artist by nature, has traveled throughout the world creating art and has had numerous worldwide exhibits. She is a fine artist and book illustrator, as well as a set, costume and fashion designer. Kamiliotis has been the Senior Vice President of Design for the Women’s Collection at Ralph Lauren for 17 years, and when we met, she was in the process of painting a tribute to her husband Thanos Kamiliotis, in honor of their marriage of 25 years. I met Thanos on my second visit to their home. What a delightful and friendly couple they were, refreshing in their candor.
I was fortunate to catch the beginning stages of the work: Daniela 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 and 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 five Picasso paintings,” Daniela said. “I knew Picasso,” Thanos added.
Numerous cans of paint, brushes, a roller and pan, and buckets of all sizes, were spread out in front of the artwork. Daniela 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 achieve different effects.
The top edge of the mural read: “2012 ~ 8-26 ~ (hearts) ~ 25 Thanos and Daniela ~ Hommage to Picasso ~ The Studio.”
Prior to the Picasso-inspired tribute, Daniela said she had painted an American flag on her home following the 9/11 tragedy, and then ten years later replaced it with a Greek flag in honor of her husband Thanos.
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 and referring to a Picasso book she had placed on a small wooden chair close by. Numerous blue papers marked the pages of her inspiration.
She said they have lived in their Bethel home for 25 years and also enjoy 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, 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. I thought about the 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 work by Henri Matisse, “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. The replica by Daniela was Matisse’s second of two versions painted in 1909-1910. The first version, now in the Museum of Modern Art 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.
Daniela’s painting referred to the later version, with five red dancing figures set against a green and red background. The attention to detail was apparent in her replica. For example, design aspects such as a dancer’s foot making a depression on the ground (in the first Matisse version), as opposed to the ground coming up to meet the foot (in second Matisse version), were not missed by Daniela.
Daniela’s design work has reached far beyond the brand of Ralph Lauren.
“2012 ~ 8-26 ~ (hearts) ~ 25 Thanos and Daniela ~ Hommage to Picasso ~ The Studio.”
“I worked with the late Theoni Aldredge, creator of Oscar winning costumes for The Great Gatsby,” she said. Daniela also said she has designed theater costumes with Theoni Aldredge for the Broadway shows Dream Girls and Secret Garden and has worked as costume designer for the New Jersey Shakespeare Festival and for the 1993 production of Othello at Les Choregies D’Orange in France under the direction of Andrei Serban.
In May of 2012, Daniela teamed with playwright Saviana Stanescu in creating 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”, The Window” 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. Romanian stage designers based in the United States were invited to participate.
And the list goes on.
Keep your eyes open the next time you drive down Route 58 in Bethel; you may just get a glimpse of Daniela’s Piccaso and Thanos-inspired mural.
This article was originally published on Housatonic Vallery Cultrual Alliance (HVCA)’s blog. HVCA is a a regional organization based in Danbury, Connecticut that connects and strengthen the arts to enrich our community.
Photos by Paula Antolini –picturesbypaula.com – © 2012 Paula Antolini – not to be used again without permission.