Steven J. Athanas’ love for English language shows in artWritten by Matt Liasse | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Steven J. Athanas found a spelling of the word “fish” in an eclectic dictionary, spelling it “Ghoti.” Athanas liked it so much, he named his dog Ghoti.
“G-H as in ‘cough,’ there’s your F-sound,” Athanas said. “O as in ‘women’ and then T-I as in ‘caution.’ I’m kind of pleased with that.”
Athanas’ self-proclaimed love of the English language is evident with his new show “Addendum to Zilch.” The show includes a variety of mediums but Athanas said not to look for a deep meaning in the name.
“I love playing with the English language,” Athanas said. “I liked the sound of [the title] … and I liked [how it] worked as ‘A to Z,’ like sort of all-encompassing. Outside of that, it’s just a name.”
The “all-encompassing” title was perfect for this show, Athanas said, which includes different kinds of work without one specific theme.
“It’s like a big glob of everything,” Athanas said. “I don’t know how good I’d be at a theme … You don’t want to get stuck displaying the same things over and over again.”
“Addendum to Zilch” will be at Flatlanders Art Galleries, 11993 E. U.S. 223, in Blissfield, Mich., until Sept. 7. A reception, which will include live music from Athanas’ band The Homewreckers, is scheduled for 5-8 p.m. July 27.
“The music has taken a backseat, I think, because A, I’ve been doing it a long time and B, I’m getting older. Aside from Mick Jagger … I guess there are a lot of people doing it but maybe shouldn’t be doing it,” Athanas said, with a magazine clipping of Iggy Pop posing with Madonna at an event hanging on his corkboard.
Athanas takes on music and art while being a substitute teacher.
“[Ghoti] eats a lot. I have to keep his bowl filled,” Athanas said.
Working as a substitute teacher is when he finds himself starting the most new work.
“When you’re a substitute, they throw you anywhere; it’s not just your area of specialty,” Athanas said. “So, when you’re there, and you don’t know a lot about Spanish or science, they tend to be study halls. So I always have a sketchbook with me.”
Art is his main passion.
“My degree was in art education,” Athanas said. “It’s become my passion and I’m having a riot with it.”
Athanas’ art revolves around three topics: perspective, learning and change.
“It’s important to me to be around when people are looking at my art,” Athanas said. “I like to hear what they have to say [and] learn from the viewer, and I do. It’s a learning experience from both sides.”
Athanas learns from all the art he creates, he said. Two years ago, he did an erotic art show featuring “Insex,” showcasing bugs copulating. He said he learned facts while researching that show, like how the female praying mantis sometimes bites the head off of the male after she receives his seed.
Athanas does not stick to one medium of art and said he is always looking for new material to play with.
Athanas said a lot of his work is “tongue-in-cheek” and “whimsical.”
He said his favorite part is the process of creation. He said he likes taking “old, rusty wire” and making “Cuppa Light” pieces with it, by spiraling the wire and wrapping it with tissue paper, which he then paints. They are coated in nonflammable polyurethane so that a candle can sit inside.
“A lot of my stuff is stuff that most people would pitch,” he said.
Athanas also writes and illustrates stories for them, which he calls “pomes” because they are not quite poems. He compared it to the work of Shel Silverstein.
“When he died, I said ‘There’s a vacancy that needs to be filled,’” Athanas said. He said he has been talking to people about releasing a book of his stories.
Athanas said he appreciates Silverstein’s talent and legacy.
“I even kind of look like him, bald and bearded,” Athanas said.
One of Athanas’ stories, “Enraged & Sick,” is about someone who wanted to right the world’s wrongs “by eating all the performers of annoying, bad pop songs,” he said. One line reads “Like Journey’s songs — they’re all so bad (he knew this to be true) so he chopped up lots of vegetables, made a hearty Journey stew.”
One thing all his work has in common is that he doesn’t strive to make any of it perfect, saying “perfection is boring.”
“The imperfections of a work give it character and give it strength,” Athanas said. “If I make a mistake, I try and integrate it into the piece to make it work.”