Born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, Thomas Xenakis began his artistic career as a medical and biological illustrator, with a Masters degree from the John Hopkins School of Medecine.
In 1987 he entered a personal quest to study the media of the Byzantine art era, to include egg-tempera, fresco, mosaic, egg-oil emulsion, and wax encaustic. He began to write sacred icons then, and was awarded a Senior Fulbright Fellowship to Greece in 1994-1995, which was followed by an artist-in-residency at the Wesley Theological Seminary Center for the Arts and Religion, Washington, DC. He continued his work with the sacred icon and its contemporary applications in media and subject. Thomas completed a Masters of Fine Arts at the Maryland Institute College of Art Hoffberger School of Painting in Baltimore, Maryland under the guidance of the late Grace Hartigan, abstract expressionist.
He was awarded a second Fulbright Foundation to research Greek outsider artists. In 2000-2001 Thomas spent his tenure in northern Greece producing a large and varied body of work in wax, oils, and graphite.
In 2004 artist Thomas Xenakis had his first retrospective exhibition, Sailing from Byzantium, Twenty Years of Painting and Drawing, at the Visual Arts Center, Portsmouth Virginia. He has participated in the 5th Florence Biennale of Contemporary Art in December 2005 in Florence, Italy.
Mr. Xenakis is continually working in his Washington DC studio. Since 2003 he is working on sculpted and painted gilded panels with a variety of precious metals. These works in series are titled XPYSO (GOLD).
Thomas teaches painting, drawing, and design at Georgetown University in Washington DC. Additionally he teaches at Marymount University in Arlington, Virginia. He is represented in collections throughout the United States, Greece, France, and Germany.
I’ve been a painter most of my life. The same things that thrilled me when I first started to paint thrill me now: creating the illusions of space and light with paint. Looking at paintings – really looking – has everything to do with the recognition that the artist held the brush and put on the paint. No matter how refined or active the surface is – the extraordinary illusions of Dutch still life paintings or the force of Franz Kline’s brush stroke – there’s still the power of the artist that made those paintings. Stand up close to a Van Gogh and you are transported to the moment that he put that paint on. It’s the paint, the precise color, Cezanne’s brushstroke transforming paint into atmosphere that’s the miracle; his still lifes are symphonies for the eyes and the mind.
During my short years in art school I learned not only to paint but what the pursuit of being a painter was about. My teachers are all the artists that I’ve loved. Writing them all down would fill a book, but standing in front of the wonderful Bonnards at the Phillips Collection is one of my greatest pleasures. The way he structures his paintings in order to use color so freely – well, I’m beginning to absorb it. I love Richard Diebenkorn’s surfaces and Roy Lichtenstein’s mind, de Kooning’s big landscape abstractions and Edward Hopper’s composition.
I believe that there are unexplored paths that began with these painters and every day I am faced with reconciling the contradictions of the abstract expressionists which were at the heart of my training and the great representational painters of the past and present. This is what I love and teach and dedicate my life to.
Education: Cooper Union Art School, 1957-60
Goddard College, M.A. in Painting, 1978
Corcoran College of Art and Design 2003- 2010
Duke University Department of Art, 1971-80
UNC Charlotte, 1972