New art exhibit Hello Helios welcomes the sun to Greektown
Greektown’s vibrant new outdoor art exhibit, Hello Helios: The warming suns of Chicago’s Greektown, brings together a diverse group of Chicago artists to create 24 three-dimensional sun artworks. Named for Helios, the god of the sun in Greek mythology, the sculpture editions celebrate the sun and many of the works draw inspiration from related mythologies, including those in the Greek, Aztec, Yoruba, Japanese and Native American cultures.
The Hello Helios artworks line Halsted Street in Greektown from Madison to Van Buren Streets, now through spring 2022. Hello Helios is sponsored by Greektown SSA #16, the neighborhood’s business improvement district, and produced by the Greektown Arts Committee in partnership with the Chicago Greektown Educational Foundation.
“Greece is a land of sun and water, with an average of 250 sunny days per year, and we are bringing some of that Mediterranean sunshine to Chicago,” says Greektown Arts Chair and SSA Commissioner Eve Moran. “After a difficult pandemic year that many of us spent primarily indoors, this exhibit encourages everyone to come out and enjoy the outdoor art in Greektown, grab an alfresco dinner or drinks on a patio in our neighborhood, and be newly energized. Here comes the sun!”
Along with a diverse group of professional and emerging Chicago artists, the following seven Chicagoland Greek schools are participating in the Hello Helios exhibit: Holy Wisdom Academy Greek School (Willow Springs), Koraes Elementary School (Palos Hills), Plato Academy (Des Plaines), Pythagoras Greek School at the Greek Orthodox Church of St. Demetrios (Elmhurst), Pythagoras Greek School of St. John the Baptist (Des Plaines), SOLON St. Demetrios Greek School (Chicago) and St. George Greek School (Chicago).
The Hello Helios artworks include:
Three Sisters by Le’Ana Asher
Asher, a Native American Anishinaabe/Ojibwe artist from the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community, creates a visual narrative of the Three Sisters story found, in some form, among most every American Indian Nation. The plant sisters (corn, beans, squash or melon and sometimes a fourth sister, the sunflower) work together and in a natural way to provide healthy growth, long-term soil fertility and the essential nutrients for a well-balanced diet. While each sister is different and unique, it’s when they work together that they are at their strongest.
There are Many God in The Skies by Juan A. Cano
Cano, a contemporary graffiti artist from Logan Square known for his “shattered glass” style, creates an artwork inspired by the continuation of life. He honors the spiritual beliefs and deities of different cultures that are brought together and reflected as heated light.
OSHUN by Malika Jackson
Oshun is the goddess of love and abundance. Often seen as the Aphrodite of the Orishas, Oshun is called upon for guidance in love and desire and, as importantly, to support those who are going through a period of growth and transition.
The Journey of Sol by Tyrue Slang Jones
Most of the historical poetical dramatists wrote of Apollo and Helios in reference to the Sun in Greek mythology. Jones, an internationally renowned graffiti artist, wanted to take a fresh new approach and create a visual story/storyboard of the God Helios as a Goddess named Sol which is the Roman equivalent for the Sun. Using traditional mythology and adding a contemporary twist in style, Jones tells his adaptation of the story.
A Neon Sun Sign by Victoria Martin
Inspired by the idea of the sun being a rare G-2 Yellow-Green Star, Martin uses fluorescent yellow in this artwork. But, bowing to more traditional experience, the artist includes orange as this is the color most visible through the atmosphere during sunrise and sunset.
Sun and Moon by James McNeill Mesplé
In this artwork, Helios (the Sun) is flanked by his two sisters, Eos (the Dawn) and Artemis (the Moon) as they follow each other in a perpetual procession across the sky. Inspiration for this artwork comes from an ancient Greek coin featuring Helios (400-333 B.C.) and the artist’s recent reading of Sunflowers, The Secret History by Joe Pappalardo. Further, a large statue of Artemis (the Moon) sits beside Mesplé’s desk at the back of his studio and served as his muse.
Helios the Sun Shining in the Sky by Molly McGrath
The inspiration for Molly’s art came from a dream she had about Helios, the Sun god, flying over Greektown on South Halsted Street, over the CTA Blue Line train station to Forest Park, the trains, train tracks and platform—and the CTA #8 bus stop on Halsted.
Aureole of Helios by Patricia Owsiany
The classical Greeks considered Helios a minor god, but pulling his chariot from the East to the West every day is no minor feat. In this piece, Owsiany focuses on using hyper-warm colors to represents his aureole, which is the seat of his power. She styles the horses Helios used to reflect the sculpture and the paintings of the ancients.
Eye of Hours by Terry Poulos
Poulos exhibits the concept of warped time at relativistic, luminal velocities through the imagery of a harmonic oscillating photon pendulum. Featured visual elements in his work include the light spectrum, melting clock, solar eclipse, a homage to Dali’s “Persistence of Memory,” a sun dial, Tower of the Winds, Stonehenge, Mayan calendar, Egyptian obelisk, solar deity Ra, Horus, Archimedes’ “death ray” and a depiction of the ancient Helios statue.
Tower of the Son by Takashi Shallow
The mother Amaterasu declared, “I am this child’s sun.”
The father Helios proclaimed the same.
The two argued. And while they argued, the disconnected spots of rouge turned to solid stripes. Soft cheeks turned to stone. The flares receded into a perfect circle.
The baby wondered: “Why does the sun always fight with itself about where its ashes will go?”
Medusa and the Sun by Vicky Tesmer
On one side of the sculpture edition, Tesmer features Medusa, described in Greek mythology as having living snakes in place of hair. The myth goes that whoever looks at her will turn to stone. On the other side of her piece, Tesmer highlights the beauty of the Sun—god of light and life.
Helios/Thalassa by Diane Thodos
The two Greek words meaning “Sun/Sea” show the bond between these two things both in the ancient world and today. Thodos depicts fish, squid, and octopi inspired by Minoan murals and ceramics showing bountiful and lively sea life. The Mediterranean Sea and its life-giving force is inseparable from the bright Mediterranean sun, two of the most indelible forces that travelers seek out when visiting Greece today.
Sun, Sun, Sun by Vasiliki Valkanas
Science is constantly exploring the significance of the sun. Countless societies personify the sun in their mythology, tradition, and religion. And, in children’s drawings, a smiling yellow sun is a constant character. In this piece, Valkanas captures the multitude of ways that the sun inspires people’s imaginations, culture, and ideas.
Clytie by Miss Alex White
The Greek word for sunflower is ηλιάνθου (heliánthou), from the words for sun and flower. Greek mythology tells the tale of how the sea nymph Clytie was transformed into the sunflower, or heliotrope, which continuously turns its head to look wistfully at Apollo’s chariot of the sun. The Clytie artwork blends colors of the sky and sea into a bold, stenciled work reminiscent of retro, botanical wallpaper.
Helios over Rhodes by Kiki Whitehead
Whitehead, a first-generation Greek American, drew inspiration for her art piece from Helios (Helius), the Titan god of the sun, a guardian of oaths, and the god of sight. She explains that the worship of Helios was most important in Rhodes. This is the island Helios chose as his gift from Zeus. Greek mythology is one of Whitehead’s favorite subjects making this project a pleasure to work on.
Our Healing Power by Rebecca Zaragoza
Ancient cultures around the world celebrated the sun as the giver of energy and warmth for all living things. People, plants, and animals thrive because of its rays. The sun was of great importance to the ancient Aztecs and among their deities was the sun god “Tonatiuh.” One of the most renowned representations of Tonatiuh appears on the famous Aztec calendar stone or Sun Stone that was uncovered in 1790 and now resides in the National Museum of Anthropology in Mexico City. Zaragoza’s interpretation celebrates the sun’s influence on time, life, and the human spirit.
Sun sculpture design/build by Eve Moran and Connie Hinkle, The Greektown Arts Committee.