John Kalamaras - Faculty/Staff
Artist John Kalamaras died in Los Angeles on August 23, 2020 of respiratory failure at age 86.
John's artistic talent was nurtured in Vallejo, CA schools, but it was his athleticism that was most evident at Vallejo High School and Vallejo Junior College. He was awarded a baseball scholarship to attend UC Berkeley. He also played football and rugby at Cal for Doc Hudson. Teammate Joe Kapp, while head football coach in the '80s, asked former athlete, and now artist, John to design a new helmet logo for the Golden Bears. In March of 2019 he was inducted into the Vallejo Sports Hall of Fame.
At Cal, John's academics flourished. In 1959 he earned a Master of Arts in Educational Psychology, completed an educational credential program, and cultivated his artistic abilities. John's emerging talent had been encouraged by Vallejo artist, and SCC Art Department Chair, Dorothy Herger.
After several years of teaching art and coaching sports at Richmond and De Anza High Schools in the SF Bay Area, he headed overseas with the American Dependent Schools program to teach near Paris at Dreux Air Force Base. His interest in pursuing a more rigorous and formal training in art led him to The Sorbonne, where his adviser expressed interest in his engraving and etching portfolio. With his fluency in French increasing, he also enrolled at L'Ecole Nationale Superieure des Beaux-Arts Academy under the guidance of Dr. Jean Bersier. He would paint in the summers around Frejus, St. Tropez, and Côte d'Azur areas. Trips to Venice produced a pivotal body of work that was influenced by the sun and focused on architecture of both St. Mark's Square and the French Chateau Bagatelle.
When John returned to the US in 1965, he earned a Master of Fine Art at Cal under the direction of Karl Kasten, Art Professor Emeritus. Berkeley is also where John began the most productive and formative part of his career: acrylics on very large canvasses.
With exhibits in Canada, Europe, and the United States, along with sales to private collectors, John established his place within the era of Diebenkorn, Thiebaud, Bischoff, Park, and others pushing hard edge acrylics beyond surrealism.
"Kalamaras offers supra-real castle vistas from the South of France, playing serious optical and coloristic games triggered by the ambiance of that spectacular part of the world. There is a decided formalism in these paintings which are nevertheless ebullient in their total effect and particularly delightful in the artist's very personal comments about the painter's perennial question about the window and the wall… Deserves the serious attention of curators and collectors." -Henry J. Seldis, LA Times
John, himself, summarized: It has been a varied and splendid life for John, he was a man of many hats, he spoke 5 languages, had traveled the western world, lived in France, Italy, Spain, Portugal and Greece. Paris changed his life. He painted for over 50 years. "One thinks about choices… advice… beware of corners, blinders and bookends. Avanti!"
John emphasized that "For an artist, the first 200 years are the hardest." Those who were fortunate enough to be in his circle of close friends and associates knew him as a remarkably diversified and intellectual human being. He truly could be described as a Renaissance Man.
John's family came to Vallejo in the 1930s and helped establish the Greek Orthodox Church on Alabama Street. John leaves behind his sister, Katherine Legarra, of Cottonwood, CA, his extraordinary circle of LA friends, many nieces, nephews, and cousins in the Sperow family, plus Houndroyanis relatives in Greece. He was predeceased by longtime partner Sherle North, brothers Anthony, George, Gus, and Peter, and sister Stella White-Smith.
Hopefully, John's next 100 years are his best! Celebrations of his life will be announced when COVID restrictions are less rigid and allow such opportunities.
Published in Los Angeles Times on Sep. 5, 2020.