On a cool fall evening, artist and gallery owner Minas Konsolas, 59, and his wife and business partner Peggy Hoffman show us their family portraits, including formal black-and-white photographs of Konsolas’ dignified Greek parents and grandparents and paintings of Hoffman’s regal Maryland ancestors.
Artwork by celebrated Baltimore artists line the walls and sumptuous carpets cover the polished floors of their elegant Charles Village home. As Konsolas leads us up to his studio on the top floor, he briefly pauses to show us a skylight that soars from the first floor to the third. “It’s the main reason I wanted to buy this house,” he says.
Settling into his commodious studio, Konsolas discusses the advantages of being a local artist. “I love the Baltimore art scene because it’s organic and constantly growing,” he says. “As an artist, if you decide to get involved in something, you grow with it, almost effortlessly. There are very few art scenes like Baltimore in this country. It’s one of the crucial characteristics of this city.”
Hoffman concurs that Konsolas, who has been owner and director of Minas Gallery since 1992, speaks from experience. He had exhibited the work of countless artists and provided readings for several poets and writers but had no time for his own work. “When Minas ran the gallery without me,” explains Hoffman, “he would make one painting a year. His paintings were all pent up inside him.” But since he and Hoffman became partners eight years ago, he has been remarkably productive, completing at least one painting per week.
And because his work is affordable, he has sold nearly 500 paintings. “I also work to support the art community here in Baltimore,” says Konsolas, referring to the well-known local artists he has exhibited in his gallery. “If you are going to succeed, you’ve got to do it for the whole community.”
Raised on the Greek island of Olymbos, Konsolas knows what it means to be part of a close-knit supportive community. In 1976, he immigrated to Maryland after he received a grant to assist Kostas Manos and Liliane de Toledo on a photography project and exhibition that documented the folk culture of his birthplace and the Baltimore diaspora.
After graduating in 1985 with a degree in design from Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA), Konsolas decided that he preferred painting to design because he could work with his hands. “In those days, design students could avoid computers, so that’s why I went to art school,” he says, smiling, “until the computers caught up with me.”
Konsolas feels a strong connection between Baltimore’s industrial past and his own artistic process. “People with skills came to Baltimore to make things: clothes, furniture, and cars,” he says. “Now art is becoming an industry here because the artists are the people who make things.”
His current series of paintings titled “ArchiteXture” reflects that sensibility. Each canvas is painted with thick layers of paint that he scraped off with a variety of tools. The textured grooves in the paint sometime swirl or intersect and reveal a distinctly Mediterranean palette of tangerine, azure, rose, gold, and lime green. He consciously avoids using black paint, stating that when he begins working on a new series he likes to give himself a technical challenge that will keep things interesting in the studio.
“Life is too short to waste on one genre or style, “ he explains. And while the ArchiteXture series was inspired by his love for architectural forms, Konsolas warns that the structures in these paintings are from his imagination. Some of the paintings, such as “ArchiteXture 8” and “ArchiteXture 11” are abstract, more loosely rendered and free. While Konsolas refers to himself as “the wanderer” and likes to experiment with new ideas or genres, his style is uniquely his own.
After discussing his creative process, Konsolas sits down to play his lyre, an instrument he brought with him from Olymbos. Mesmerized by the melancholic tunes, his listeners applaud. “I’m not an expert,” he protests. “I grew up in a small village. Everyone does this. Poetry, dance, and music are part of my past and tradition.” And his viewers might say his present and future here in Baltimore.
Minas Konsolas’ latest work will be on display this month, December 1, 2012 – February 24, 2013, at Minas Gallery, 815 W. 36 St.; Baltimore, MD 21211 410-732-4258