Decatur Artist: Joe Tsambiras, Inspired by You

With his first major show underway at the historic Swan Coach House Gallery, we asked what inspires the artist’s mythology-meets-mod-culture etchings.

Photo by: Shane McDonald This print was made by etching and aquatint. 

A lot of artists will tell you that to find inspiration they go off on a vision quest, turn off their phones and deactivate their Facebook accounts. Joe Tsambiras, an accomplished artist living in Decatur, however, recently said that he finds inspiration while being in a room full of people. No, not a noisy Starbucks or a punk-rock show, but rather the classroom. When he isn’t working on a series of etchings, Tsambiras teaches at Kennesaw State University just north of Atlanta. 

“When you’re in a room filled with people who just want to learn, well, that is about as inspiring as it gets,” Tsambiras said. 

His colorful works are steeped with medieval and science fiction references that sometimes collide with classic fairy tales and pop culture. We can definitely see some nods to Alice in Wonderland and perhaps Rapunzel meets global warming. There’s a definite “Grimmness” to his body of work, pardon the pun. And it seems Atlantans can’t get enough of it. Tsambiras is constantly asked to participate in group shows, so often that he started turning them down. 

“It’s not that I didn’t want to do them, I just found that I needed to time to concentrate instead of just cranking it out for the next show,” he said.

His first major solo show opened last night at Atlanta’s Swan Coach House Gallery and runs through Sept. 21, 2013. He described this collection as "a portal through which the terrestrial meets the transcendent and the past communicates with the present."

Tsambiras will host a talk at the historic venue on Saturday, Sept. 14, 2013, at 11 a.m. Go and inspire him with your presence. 

We caught up with him to find out a little about his Atlanta and the meaningfulness of this solo show, and were inspired to learn more about the galleries he mentioned. 

Q: Where do you go in Atlanta to find beauty? 

A: I would have to say especially in vintage bookstores like Atlanta Vintage Books and Books Again. Having access to seeing so many rare illustrated children’s and fairy-tale books have had a big impact on my current artwork. I am quite fond of the beauty seeping from Dr. Bombay’s Underwater Tea Party, an awesome café in Candler Park. Beauty can also be found at Beep Beep Gallery, MINT Gallery, Get This! Gallery, Kai Lin Art Gallery, etc. I am always blown away by the Michael C. Carlos Museum at Emory University. I haven’t even started on Atlanta’s natural environment. The list goes on and on. Atlanta’s got beauty in spades.

Q: What is your favorite architectural structure in the city? 

A: The adobe house built in Oakhurst Community Garden. The windows in this small hut are made from the colored glass from recycled bottles. It’s quite magical and lovely. I also have to include the Greek Orthodox Cathedral. I was married there last year. My parents took me there when I was a child. I remember being mesmerized by the beautiful mosaics and stained-glass windows. Those windows have partly inspired the stained-glass structures included in my current solo show.

Q: What is it about the city that inspires you most? 

A: The community spirit, especially in the art community. The people within it are excited to see people grow and succeed as individuals. I am very inspired by that.

Q: The Swan House is such a historical structure in this city. What does having your show there mean to you? 

I am thankful to be asked to have a solo show in the Swan Coach House Gallery. The Forward Arts Foundation, which founded the structure and the gallery, continues to do great work with the Atlanta arts community. I find the space inside the gallery to be interesting and I am excited about how my artwork interacts with it. I have to add that working with Swan Coach curator Marianne Lambert and manager Karen Tauches has been a total joy.

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