In A Review of “Distant Relatives: Ancient Imagery of the Classical Pagan Past and Modern Byzantine Icons” published by Public Orthodoxy on the Fordham University website, the author explains how the holistic message of international artist Joni Zavitsanos’ exhibit is that “God is perfect love, we are imperfect, but He can make us perfect.” 

Reviewer Kassandra Ibrahim focuses on several of Ms. Zavitsanos’ large mixed media collages displayed at Fordham’s Museum of Greek, Etruscan, and Roman Art in an exhibition entitled “Distant Relatives: Ancient Imagery of the Classical Pagan Past and Modern Byzantine Icons.”  

Ms. Ibrahim notes that “some viewers may be offended by the artist’s choice to use elements of traditional Byzantine iconography in modern creations. Yet, Zavitsanos explains that her work can be seen as a break from tradition because of her drastic modifications to longstanding pictorial motifs. While Zavitsanos makes her own artistic interventions, it is not her intention to undermine the authority of Orthodox Christian imagery.” 

One work Ms. Ibrahim chose to explore is “Make Love not War” (2017). She wrote: “Perhaps the most familiar Byzantine icon reinterpreted by Zavitsanos is the Christ PantocratorZavitsanos’s take is strikingly different. Usually, Byzantine iconography must have consistently proportional facial features. In her depiction of Christ, a mixed media composition entitled “Make Love not War” (2017), Zavitsanos rejects traditions for representing Christ in his Divine form with a smooth and youthful face, instead, underscoring his humanity by exaggerating His wrinkles and giving Him a weary expression. Zavitsanos’s new mode perhaps indicates a Christ that has overseen exceptional human struggle and sin.” 

And Ms. Ibrahim states that “one of the most striking works in the exhibition is “Weeping Icon Series II: Malala (2018)” (Fig. 3). Using a composition that is standard for Orthodox images of saints, the artist shows Malala Yousafzai with a halo and the rest of her body seems to melt away, covered by collaged photographs and text. When looking at a portrait, viewers are often drawn to the face first. Therefore, to include a contemporary face, rather than a saint, is a radical departure from tradition.” 

The author concludes that Ms. Zavitsanos’ artwork “serves as an educational vehicle to bring others to the love of Christ and to share that message through a new medium.” 

The review was also published in Fordham’s art history blog Art Ramblings.