NEW YORK – When Kristina Williamson first ventured to the island of Kythera as a Fulbright Scholar, the wary natives referred to her as the “Amerikanida,” but after getting to know the thoughtful young artist and feeling her love for their island home, they called her “our Kristinaki.”
The George “Best” Costacos Cultural and Cancer Research Foundation recently organized a reception at the Tenri Cultural Institute in Manhattan to launch One Year on Kythera, the book that was the culmination of Williamson’s journey.
The enthusiastic crowd delighted in Willamson’s stories and were enthralled by what was described as “the beauty and complexity of the images.”
Writer Catherine Rogers introduced Williamson, who made a slide presentation that included pictures from the book that illustrated the process that led to the book’s creation.
The first slide had the heading: “Frequently Asked Questions.”
“No I am not Greek,” she said, “I an honorary Greek and a true Grecophile at heart.”
Then she addressed Kythera: “It is an Ionian Island the size of Manhattan, but there are only about 3000 inhabitants – down from about 13,000 around 1900 – in 60 different villages…many of them completely abandoned.”
She explained her interest in “photographing the lives of those who chose to stay,” and in studying “what traditions were preserved and in what ways the people changed and adapted to the modern world.”
Willamson’s impetus to go to Kythera was born of two experiences: Growing up in Pen Argyl, Pennsylvania, which made her interested in small communities and the way traditions are transmitted through the generations, and her college semester abroad in the Greek precinct in Melbourne Australia, when she became fascinated by how the residents recreated the Greece of their youth within a 5-block radius.
The guests were welcomed by Theodora Ziongas, Vice President and co-founder of the George Best Costacos Cultural and Cancer Research Foundation, a 501(c) 3 nonprofit organization founded in 2009 to honor the memory of the late actor/singer George “Best” Costacos who died of a brain tumor at 44.
The Foundation’s mission is to both to foster young artists, and to support research in the causes and treatment of tumors.
A wine and cheese reception was held throughout the evening and a portion of the proceeds will be donated to the George Best Costacos’ cancer research program which supports NY Presbyterian Hospital, Weill Cornell Medical Center.