The Language of Art
By Yelizaveta Rogulina
Christos Hamawi has something to say. He uses his art to express it to the world, whether through his private art pieces or public art installations. “It's important to understand that art can be a powerful form of communication,” according to Hamawi. From 2014-2016, Hamawi showed students at The Josiah Quincy elementary school, in Chinatown, how to use art to empower themselves. Hamawi made four pieces for the Josiah Quincy school, three of which were done during his time working at the school. When Boston Public Schools started an initiative to connect working artists with school children, Hamawi decided to participate. Each year, along with his students, Hamawi created a unique piece of public art to be displayed at the school. Each of these pieces reflects a different aspect of Hamawi's beliefs as an artist. “The Living Seasons” was the first mosaic he created for Josiah Quincy school, before he began working for the school, and within it you can see a very large part of Hamawi as an artist, namely his connection with nature. Most of his art revolves around or connect to nature in some way. It is easy to see Hamawi’s great love of the environment just by looking at his portfolio. Much of his private pieces follow the theme of bit of nature, be it weeds or wildflowers, finding their way out in the urban environment of Boston.
“Nature is the most inspiring”
This theme does not stop in his private pieces however. It can be found also in his public art pieces. Along with several other Boston artists, Hamawi took on the challenge of painting several electric boxes. What were once looming grey eyesores now appear as beautiful art pieces that help bring some nature back to the urban landscape. In 2009, Hamawi created “Urban Renewal” and “Urban Wilds 2”. They are representative of his mission not only to preserve the environment but bring nature back into the city.
“Nature, in the end, will always come through”
“Patterns of Diversity” was installed in 2015. This piece as well as “Community Fabric” celebrates the diversity of the country and community. Josiah Quincy Elementary School hosts students originating from countries all over the world. Hamawi taught student from Asia, the Middle East, Africa , and Europe. Hamawi wants to engage and unify such an expansive and diverse community. In this divisive time, a piece like this is a great reminder of the beauty achieved when combining so many different pieces together.
“It’s a great way to start a conversation”
With the aid of 164 fourth and fifth grade students, these beautiful mosaics were achieved. These art pieces are a way to show children that together we are stronger together than we ever could be alone. To teach them that we are more alike than different. All us humans want the same things for ourselves and our family.
“Peace, happiness for our family, money for bills, our children to thrive”
Yet still, the mosaics hold another message. Hamawi was born and raised outside of Boston only leaving for a short time to study at Hofstra University in New York. Since the turn of the century Hamawi has been working in Boston as an artist. Yet his heritage is more complicated than one might think at first glance. His mother hails from the capital city of Croatia, Zagreb while his Greek father grew up in Sudan. They met while each was studying within Addis Ababa , Ethiopia. Later his father would attend graduate school at MIT, eventually settling down and starting their family here in Boston. This multicultural background is integral to his work on many levels. His deep connection to his roots inspired an interest in the techniques of the ancient Greeks. He uses that knowledge to help him inspire his art like the mosaics he created. In addition to that, he uses his knowledge and background to help him to connect to his audience.
As a Teacher, Hamawi stressed professionalism. His pieces are made to last. When you think fourth and fifth graders, professionalism is not the first word that usually comes to mind. Yet as Hamawi told me, “don’t underestimate anyone.” Each of the three installations Hamawi did in his time at The Josiah Quincy Elementary School had the assistance of his students. With a few modifications for their safety, the students learned to do all the necessary jobs to create these works of art.
“I felt like a conductor of an orchestra”
He taught the children the “importance of quality” in professional art and how to empower themselves through their art. Hamawi says this experience changed him. That he learned more than he taught. He taught children from many different backgrounds and family conditions. However, he made it clear that it wasn’t all roses. “They don’t always behave well.” Yet those children, the ones they didn't want to partake, produced some of his favorite memories. When asked about the highlights of his time teaching, he answered, “working with the kids that didn’t want to participate.” The kids who had never tried to make art before or never had an art class, the kids nervous to make an attempt. For him this was the most rewarding part of his time at the school. These were the kids with “genuine appreciation”, the ones who “treasured what they learned and gained confidence in their abilities”.
Hamawi “loves a challenge”. That’s why he took on the opportunity to teach at a public elementary school with no prior experience. That is also why he took on the gloomy hallway of the Westin Copley Hotel. He painted an approximately 75 foot long hallway. The Hotel wanted something uplifting for their employees to see each day. Hamawi gave them just that. He chose a close up of the tops of eucalyptus trees to inspire a calming ambience and a bright blue sky to be the backdrop. Hamawi even changed the lighting of the hallway to match its new look and attitude.
Christos Hamawi has something to say. All his art, everything he does, is a way to communicate with people. And he is glad when people communicate back to him.
“I love people who stop by when i’m working”
He spoke about the time he worked on “Rising Above” for the Westin Copley. He delighted in breaking up the monotony that can occur in life. Something out of the ordinary grind happening to make this day unlike yesterday. Hamawi loves when they ask questions about what he is doing. Inspiring curiosity. That's what art is to Christos Hamawi, the interaction, the conversation. He has something to say, and people to say it to.
Visit http://christoshamawi.com for more from Christos Hamawi!