A nature-loving, bicycle fan who does art with a message is what Mary Cox is all about. And though cyclists and nature lovers are only now beginning to show their might in Greece, Mary decided to leave San Francisco behind her and call Athens her home.
Most artists love Greece for its light, and in the past, more so for its raw, untouched landscape. But for Mary, Athens – and more particularly Vouliagmeni along the coast won her over for the laid-back life and work style. And all else is history… she married here, had children here, and evolved as an artist and curator here.
“I have lived half my life here, and my development as an artist took place here. My grown children are Greek, and have chosen to make Greece their home too. They, and I, enjoy the Greek way of life: the more laid back attitude to work and the lighter social environment, at least as compared to the US,” says Mary.
It’s true that California and San Francisco are relatively similar to Greece, at least weather-wise. And Greece is never boring for a restless artist like Mary.
FokiaNou Athens: A Space by Artists for Artists
Besides her art, Mary is also very proud of her work as co-director of the FokiaNou Art Space. She took over with artist Panagiotis Voulgaris, in 2016 and has since curated dozens of shows and organized as many exhibitions.
A warm apartment in the hip Pangrati neighborhood behind the Panathenaic Stadium houses the gallery which operates as a shared space where artists of all genres and ages can present their projects.
For Mary, art is all about sharing, that’s why she believes artist-run spaces are here to stay. But she also envisioned FokiaNou as a place where creators who don’t have access elsewhere will be given the space and freedom to experiment and express themselves: a home of alternative artists and projects.
At the same time, as an artist, Mary has her finger on the pulse. That’s why most of the shows at FokiaNou address current issues. She places a call to artists on various themes such as LGBT life and activism, travel and the pandemic, creativity and inspiration, Athens and its contradictions, and then singles out the works that convey best the theme.
It is after all experimentation that breeds change and paves the way for innovation in art and culture, she says.
The art space also hosts workshops and talks, and has participated in international shows as well as featured artists from abroad. The idea, Mary says is to encourage through FokiaNou collaborations between Greek and foreign artists and to give the local art community a voice and much-needed support.
As for her passions: “I have done various painting series inspired by the topography and plant life of Greece; and the social and cultural developments of Athens and the suburbs have also influenced my work,” she says.
A glance at her work – paintings and mixed media – and solo shows reveals a true social observer who has over the decades living in Athens captured in art the radical social changes and the melancholy of passing time.
Touched by Greece!
Guests and friends tell us how they’ve been ‘Touched by Greece’
1) How were you ‘touched by Greece’?
As an artist, many aspects of Greece have touched me. The combination of rocky mountains and sea, the springtime mountain weeds and wildflowers, the burgeoning bicycle movement downtown, the architectural relics of recent decades, and the assimilation of immigrants have all been fodder for my paintings and mixed media work.
2) What does Greece mean to you?
Greece has come to mean home to me.
3) Your favorite place in Greece?
I would have to say Vouliagmeni is my favorite place. It is where I live and where I have come to know the nooks and crannies best. I ride my bicycle around Vouliagmeni, go swimming in all its various beaches, and walk the hillsides (on what we call our “mountains”).