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Meet Maria Photinakis

Today we’d like to introduce you to Maria Photinakis.

Every artist has a unique story. Can you briefly walk us through yours?
On paper, I don’t make much sense. I’ve studied computer science and journalism. Somehow that has led me to painting and illustrating, finding narratives and discerning the abstract in a visual way. I started painting only in the last few years but I’ve always doodled and usually took a sketchbook with me on my travels. I’ve had a very tumultuous past two years, my father passed away two years ago and I had my first child a year ago, but even in this time of great upheaval I’ve been working and creating more work than ever. I guess given my professional background I’m used to working very fast on deadlines and under a lot of pressure.
I grew up in the Merrimack Valley area outside of Boston and have been working as an artist in greater Boston for the past five years. I previously worked out of my studio at Mad Oyster Studios in Somerville, and currently live and work out of my backyard studio in Waltham.

Please tell us about your art.
When it comes to my paintings, which can be oil or acrylic, I tend to work quickly and spontaneously. I might sketch out some thumbnails or general ideas, but overall, I like to let the painting evolve as I work without planning much at all where I want the work to go. I want my paintings to convey a sense of movement and strong energy, all kinds of energy, and lead the viewer into a space where they can create their own story around the work and what it means to them.

Lately I’ve been incorporating more unusual materials into my paintings to give a more 3D cast, most recently I’ve been working on my Smoke Paintings series that incorporate olibanum resin and charcoal remnants and soot. These paintings are a reflection on grief and the unreliable nature of memory, especially when remembering loved ones who are gone. This is directly from my own experience grieving the death of my father, and the soot and smoke used in these paintings are from when I burn incense in the vein of Greek tradition in remembering and memorializing the beloved dead. I use the smoke and soot to add texture and dimension to the paint and inks, sometimes I add burn marks from the incense or take away the soot with my breath to yield new shapes.

While my Smoke Paintings are abstractions, other painted series I work on are much more narrative-heavy. With these narrative paintings, I’m usually inventing some kind of elaborate story or world in the background to guide the composition and palette to what I’m creating. This is especially true for my more literal science-fiction paintings, I think of these as concepts as base elements for a greater story and invite the viewer to take those elements and figure out where that might take them.

As an artist, how do you define success and what quality or characteristic do you feel is essential to success as an artist?
If my work makes you ask questions, feels inviting to you and inspires you to daydream, or if it stops you and brings up a cherished memory, that means it has resonated with you on some level. That for me is what I’m looking for. Some pieces I hope will bring joy, others might convey a deeper melancholy or wonder, but ultimately, I don’t believe it’s up to the artist to delineate what people “should” feel, but instead hope that they will feel something and always work towards that.

How or where can people see your work? How can people support your work?
You can find a selection of my artwork on my portfolio site at, and I’m always posting new works, process photos, and works in progress on my Instagram at @mphotinakis.
I’m often exhibiting at local shows like Arisia and participating in Open Studios events (most recently Somerville Open Studios). Anyone interested in commissions can reach out to me through my website, Instagram, or email me directly at

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Maria Photinakis

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