International artist Joni Zavitsanos was interviewed October 12 by Craig Cohen on his radio show Houston Matters on Houston Public Media, the Houston-based NPR station. They discussed her “LIVING ICONS: A Commemoration of the Victims of Houston’s Covid-19 Pandemic” which will be on display this October 16 through next year at the John P. McGovern Museum of Health & Medical Science in Houston.
You can hear the interview here at about 40 minutes into this link.
Ms. Zavitsanos discussed how in March of 2020 she was concerned as she heard growing stories of local people dying but it all seemed so anonymous. “These are real people with names and faces,” she told Mr. Cohen. She got the idea for Living Icons as a memorial to those area victims of the pandemic.
She said the exhibit is a collaged grid with each person commemorated on an 8-inch by 8-inch canvas with their picture and a gold leaf halo, a nod to the artists’ Byzantine art background.
Ms. Zavitsanos said she has about 700 people in the memorial. In her studio she has put up about 144 of the canvasses and even that has caused visitors to gasp when they see it for the first time.
She shared with Mr. Cohen the names and brief stories of some of the folks memorialized, including a jail guard, a church deacon, an asthmatic CoVid-19 doctor, a famous restauranteur and a Holocaust victim.
The artist said she thinks it is important to tell these stories, to know these people and know these are worthy human beings. Her display will include Houston area people from every race, social strata, and ages from 4 years to 100.
The family members can attend a special viewing Friday October 15 at the health museum.
She was also interviewed on Eye on Houston by Grego from 95.7 and you can listen here.