As a descendant of Cycladic ancestors, the fragrances of the wild plants growing on the windswept slopes of the Greek islands stir my soul. The aromas of thyme, sage, and fennel intrigue me. That’s why, when artist Dimitra Skandali opened the door of her workshop in Aliki, Paros, and I was enveloped by all these distinctive smells, I felt that contemporary art produced in Greece could finally have its own identity. It’s more than just another incomprehensible body of work that somebody could have created anywhere.
I first saw her visual pieces – which use flowers, crops, seaweed, and fragments of boats as raw materials – in the two fantastic group exhibitions by Kostas Prapoglou. One was held in an abandoned building in the psychiatric complex in Dafni, while the other recently took place at the Athens Art Gallery.
Scandali was born in 1969 on Paros and is a self-made artist. Her family owned large ships that transported goods to and from the island until a few decades ago. Later, they moved into land development, where she also worked for many years. But something inside her kept pushing her to become an artist, she just didn’t know how.
She signed up for some painting lessons at the Aegean Center for the Arts, took exams at the Academy of Fine Arts, and moved to Athens. After graduation, she applied to various schools abroad and ended up living in California for a decade.
Although it was an escape from the only world she had identified with (that of Paros), she inevitably ended up missing it and doing work with seaweed (Pacific and Aegean), flowers, and herbs that grow in the Cyclades, as well as embroideries she learned from her mother and grandmother. Having already written her chapter in America, she returned to her beloved Paros with the pandemic outbreak.
She renovated the old residence of her grandparents in Aliki and converted it into three spaces for artistic residencies, where creators from abroad are already hosted for 25 days a month, a small gallery, and her own studio, which I had the pleasure of visiting. The project is named Cycladic Arts – Paros Artist Hospitality Center.
Once again, it shows that our islands can become a launching pad for digital nomads and amazing visual artists who can come even in winter to experience these magical aromas that can bind us.