Athena Tacha. Greek/American, born c. 1936

Tacha is a conceptual artist, working in painting, sculpture, mixed media. She often uses found objects. Her work is reactionary to life and death, landscapes, and political issues.

Artist Statement

"In 1992, my two best friends died from cancer (one of them unexpectedly) and I confronted, for the first time so intensely and directly, suffering and death. These works were generated in my effort to cope with the loss and pain, and to understand death. As the series developed, I did become reconciled with death, and the pain moved from the personal to the social level, while the vulnerability that I had experienced in the human body extended to encompass the entire life-system on Earth. From the start I used natural materials that I had collected over many years (occasionally combined with recycled human-made materials). But it was perhaps the physical debilitation of my dying friends that led me to wearable sculpture: armors that cannot protect, masks that reveal more than they conceal, shields that are too floppy or scratchy to defend - powerless, like the shells of the dead mollusks that are reversed to show their delicate interior. Generally, these works are riddled with contradictions, not the least of which is their ambivalent relationship to fashion design. Akin to it in their beauty, they nonetheless critique, if implicitly, the frivolity of fashion. Private memorials to tragic individual deaths, they move into the realm of the public through their references to social ills, to ecological threats and to corporate exploitation, specifically the exploitation of the female body and psyche by the industry of fashion." A.T.


Athena Tacha on artline 1936: Athena Tacha born in Larissa, Greece, single child of Constantine Tachas (neurologist) and Helen Malaki. Lived there with her parents and her adopted sister, Marianthe Karalaiou, throughout World War II and the Greek Civil War. Showed drawing and sculpting skills from age ten.

1954: Graduated from the Girls' Gymnasium (first in class), the Alliance Francaise and the Larissa Conservatory of Music (diploma in harmony). As prize-winner in French composition, made first trip abroad (Paris) and visited museums of modern art.

1954-60: Lived in Athens, studying sculpture at the National Academy of Fine Arts (topmost fellowship; MFA, 1959), and French literature at the Alliance Francaise, where she also taught (1956-60). Met three life-long friends: Maro Petychaki, her room-mate in the YWCA dorm; Irene Panayotidou, her classmate in sculpture; and Paul Mylonas, her professor of architectural drawing and history at the Academy of Fine Arts.

1960-61: To the U.S. with a Fulbright travel grant for graduate studies in art history at Oberlin College, Oberlin, OH. Completed her M.A. thesis under Professor Ellen H. Johnson, who became her mentor and closest friend.

1961-63: To Paris with a Greek government fellowship for Ph.D. studies in aesthetics and art history at the Sorbonne, University of Paris (Doctorat du 3eme Cycle, 1963, thesis on "The Role of Light in Modern Sculpture", directed by Etienne Souriau). Also Certificat de Museologie, Ecole du Louvre.

1963: Returned to the U.S. as Assistant Curator (under Chloe Hamilton Young) at the Allen Memorial Art Museum of Oberlin College, where she worked for ten years (after 1967 as Curator of Modern Art), organizing exhibitions and publishing books and articles on modern sculpture.

1965: Married Richard Spear, new professor of Baroque art history at Oberlin College. Traveled throughout the American West that summer; thereafter annual summer trips to Greece, visiting her parents and exploring the Greek ancient sites and islands.

1966: Exhibited in her first juried group show (May Show), Cleveland Museum of Art.

1967: Publication of her first art history book, Rodin Sculpture at the Cleveland Museum of Art.

1968: Awarded First Sculpture Prize at the Cleveland Museum's May Show (again in 1971 and 1989). Purchased with her husband 291 Forest St., their Oberlin house until 1998. Began assisting Ellen Johnson with restoration of her Frank Lloyd Wright house bought the same year.

1969: Became naturalized U.S. citizen. First solo museum show, Akron Art Institute, Akron, OH. Solo show Forms of Matter (E.A.T. benefit), New Gallery, Cleveland. Publication of her second book, Brancusi's Birds (NYU Press, New York). Death of her father.

1970: Organized for the Oberlin museum Art in the Mind, one of the three first exhibitions of conceptual art in the U.S.. Following a month in a Mount Pelion village (Greece) that summer, started designing step sculptures for outdoor spaces.

1970-71: Lived in Rome (one of four different years there with her husband while he was doing research), studying the city's steps and public spaces, making her first conceptual art, and working on films.

1971: Executed first full-scale (cement block) step-sculpture in Outdoor Sculpture Exhibition, Blossom Music Center, Peninsula, OH. Traveled with her husband to the Galapagos Islands and Peru, the first of their numerous trips for nature and archeology throughout the world. Inca, and later Mayan, Aztec, and other Mexico sites, made a permanent impression on her work.

1973: Taught a course on "Form in Nature" at Oberlin and organizing her last show of contemporary art. Abandoned career as art historian and museum curator in favor of teaching sculpture at Oberlin College (until 1998). Was included in exhibitions Ca. 7,500 (organized by Lucy Lippard) and Conceptual Art, Women Inter-Art Center, New York.

1974: Fellowship at the Center for Advanced Visual Studies, M.I.T., where she made Charles River Step Sculpture, a turning point in her aesthetic (ill. in Statement). It was exhibited at Cynthia Carlson, Joyce Kozloff, Athena Tacha, Ann Wilson, AIR Gallery, New York.

1975: Awarded an individual artist's NEA grant, used to build her first landscape sculpture, Streams, in Oberlin. Won her first public art commission, Tension Arches, Cleveland. Started 8-year affiliation with Zabriskie Gallery, New York. Installation at Site Sculpture: Hamrol, Healy, Tacha, CUNY Graduate Center Mall, New York.

1976: Won her first national commission, Tide Park, Smithtown, NY. Invited by Agnes Gund to Sculpture 1976 show, Greenwich, CT. Received the Ohio Arts Council Visual Arts Award.

1977-78: Lived in Rome, designing a number of major projects, including the drawing of Sawyer Point Park and the first model for 33 Rhythms (ill. in Statement).

1978: Won second national commission (GSA), Ripples, Norfolk, VA. Tape Sculptures solo installation-show at Wright State University Art Gallery, Columbus, OH.

1979: First solo show at Zabriskie Gallery, New York, including Tape Sculpture installation. Residency at Ossabaw Island, GA.

1980: Selected by Janet Kardon for inclusion in The Pluralist Decade, U.S. pavilion, 39th Venice Biennale.

1980-81: Sabbatical year in New York with a studio at PS1. Start of annual vacations with husband in summer house near Athens built for them by Paul Mylonas.

1981: Won two largest commissions: Blair Fountain, Tulsa, OK, and Connections, a city-block park for Franklin Town's development, Philadelphia (built in 1992). Second solo show, Fragmentation, at Zabriskie Gallery, New York.

1983: First Trip to India (and Nepal), which left an indelible impression on her.

1983-84: Lived with husband in Washington, DC, working on the Massacre Memorials series.

1984: Solo show, Massacre Memorials, Max Hutchinson Gallery, New York.

1985: Won two major public art commissions: Merging, Cleveland, and Green Acres, Trenton, NJ. Death of her mother.

1986: Lived a semester in London where her husband was teaching.

1989: Major retrospective (over 100 works) at the High Museum of Art, Atlanta, organized by Catherine and John Howett. Solo show, New Works, at the Cleveland Center for Contemporary Art.

1990: Received Honorary Doctorate of Fine Arts, the College of Wooster, Wooster, OH.

1991: Awarded Ohio Arts Council individual artist's grant.

1991-92: Executed a pair of public art commissions for the Connecticut Department of Transportation (Transit and Wave Fall).

1992: Appointed Honorary Curator of the Frank Lloyd Wright house and Estate Executrix upon the death from cancer of Ellen Johnson (subsequently edits Johnson's memoirs, Fragments Recalled at 80, and a revised edition of her Modern Art and the Object). Death of her friend Maro Petychaki, also from cancer.

1993: Extensive travel in China.

1994: Solo show, Vulnerability: New Fashions, Franklin Furnace, New York.

1995: Published Frank Lloyd Wright at Oberlin: The Story of the Weltzheimer/Johnson House, Allen Memorial Art Museum Bulletin, 49, no. 1. Extensive travel in Japan. Started her Website:

1995-96: Executed two public art commissions for the University of Minnesota, St. Paul (Eco-Rhythms in the Ecology Building and Rhythmics). Published her CD-ROM, The Human Body: An Invisible Ecosystem.

1998: Installation-exhibition Sealed Memories, University of Florida Art Gallery, Gainesville. Publication of book, Cosmic Rhythms: The Public Sculpture of Athena Tacha by Elizabeth McClelland, on the occasion of solo show at the Beck Center for the Arts, Cleveland. Moved to Washington, D.C. (to 3721 Huntington St., NW, house designed by Leopold Boeckl).

1999: Included in exhibition Modern Odysseys: Greek American Artists of the 20th Century, Queens Museum of Art, New York.

2000-01: Executed Victory Plaza (pavement design and fountains), a 40,000 sq. ft. plaza for the American Airlines Center (new sports arena), Dallas, TX (with the collaboration of the SWA Group landscape architects).

2000: Publication of book, Dancing in the Landscape: The Sculpture of Athena Tacha, with over 200 color illustrations of all her outdoor public commissions and 50 finalist's models for competitions. Trips to Israel-Sinai and Central S. India. Included in three-artists show, Citizens of the World (with Memory Temple installation), Eikastiko Kentro Synchronis Technis, Larissa, Greece.

2001: Solo exhibition of new sculpture and drawings at the Foundation for Hellenic Culture, New York. Extensive travel in Turkey.

2002: Extensive travel in Australia. Hiking in slot canyons of Utah/ Arizona.

2003: Residency at the Bogliasco Foundation on the Ligurian coast (Genoa).

2004: Travels to Ireland and Zagorochoria, Epiros. Solo show, i, Marsha Mateyka Gallery, Washington, D.C.

2005: Trips to Sri Lanka, Laos - Vietnam - Cambodia, and New Zealand. Completes two public commissions in greater Washington, D.C. (at Strathmore Music Center and Morgan Blvd. metro station).

2006: Trip to Mali, Senegal and Zambia. Completes 1-mile-long granite commission for the light rail trackbed, Newark, NJ. Solo show, Small Wonders: New Sculptures and Photoworks, Katzen Arts Center, American University, Washington, DC.

2007: Trips to Dominica; Alsace, Kassel Dokumenta and Muenster (for the third time); Sardinia and Corsica. Residency at Bellagio Foundation, Lake Como (April-May), where she executes a temporary installation with feathers. Continues work on large public commissions for the Wisconsin Place development, Friendship Heights, MD; and for the Muhammad Ali Plaza, Louisville, KY (in collaboration with EDAW). Creates many new photoworks.

2008: Trips to Roatan and Morocco. Creates several political PPT pieces (for DVD and the Net). Completes Water Links II for the University of Wisconsin, Madison. Late fall, solo show At Marsha Mateyka Gallery, Washington, DC., Rock and Water: New Photoworks. Also completes and shows at Ellipse Arts Center, Arlington, VA, 36 Years of Aging (1972-2007), with 216 photographs of her face and body.

2009: Travels to Meso-American Maya sites, the Galapagos and central China. Completes the Muhammad Ali Plaza in Louisville, KY, and the complex of Bloomingdale's plaza at Wisconsin Place, Friendship Heights, MD.

2010: Athena Tacha: From Public to Private, a traveling 40-year retrospective with over 100 works and a bilingual catalog, opens at the Center of Contemporary Art (State Museum of Contemporary Art), Thessaloniki, Greece, initiated by its director, Syrago Tsiara, and co-curated by Katerina Koskina, Artistic Director of the Kostopoulos Foundation, Athens (with the installation Athena's Web).

2011: Participates in the first exhibition at the Onassis Cultural Center in Athens, Greece, "Polyglossia", with a site-specific tape installation (Pull), March-June; travels (with her husband) to Syria, Lebanon and Jordan (ending in Akaba for snorkeling), April-May, and the Rhone Valley, France, in September.

2012: Travels to Namibia and Cape Town, S. Africa, in December.

2013: Has her third solo show at the Marsha Mateyka Gallery, Washington, DC, April-May, and is invited to have a mini-retrospective of her landscape sculptures and photo-works, "With/ in Nature", at Grounds for Sculpture, N.J., October thru March 2014.


born 1936 Larissa, Greece

1990 Honorary Doctorate of Fine Arts, College of Wooster, OH
1963 University of Paris (Sorbonne), France, Ph.D
1961 Oberlin College, OH, M.A.
1959 National Academy of Fine Arts, Athens, Greece M.A.

work included in the permanent collection
Ackland Art Museum, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, NY
Allen Memorial Art Museum, Oberlin, OH
M.C. Carlos Museum, Emory University, Atlanta, GA
Cleveland Museum of Art, OH
Dayton Art Institute, OH
DeCordova Museum and Sculpture Park, Lincoln, MA
S.P. Harn Museum of Art, University of Florida, Gainesville
High Museum of Art, Atlanta, GA
Hirshhorn Museum, Washington, DC
Milwaukee Art Museum, WI
Munson Williams Proctor Institute, Ithaca, NY
Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, TX
Museum of Modern Art, New York
National Collection of Fine Arts, Washington, DC
Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, MO
Power Gallery of Contemporary Art, Sydney, Australia
Rose Art Museum, Brandeis University, Waltham, MA
Sheldon Memorial Art Gallery, University of Nebraska, Lincoln
J.B. Speed Art Museum, Louisville, KY
Spencer Museum of Art, University of Kansas, Lawrence
University Art Museum, University of California, Santa Barbara
University of Arizona Museum of Art, Tucson
University of Utah Art Gallery, Salt Lake City
Vassar College Art Gallery, Poughkeepsie, NY
F.R. Weisman Art Museum, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis
J.V. Zimmerli Art Museum, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ


"Polyglossia" - Inaugural exhibition (30 expatriate Greek artists)
Onassis Cultural Center, Athens, Greece
March 15 - June 30, 2011

Athena Tacha on artlineA temporary installation by Athena Tacha, Pull, white fiberglass plasterboard tape, ca. 15 x 22 x 15 feet. (Assistants: Yannis Mouravas and Richard Spear).

Tacha initiated her "tape sculptures" in 1978, when Wright State University, Dayton, Ohio, and later Mattress Factory, Pittsburgh (1982), invited her to create solo installations. Responding to their galleries, she selected a low-cost architectural material, plasterboard tape, to connect vertical and horizontal features of the building in a variety of ways, transforming their spaces. In site-specific installations for her 2010 retrospective at the CACT, Thessaloniki and the Municipal Gallery, Larissa, she first used a self-adhesive fiberglass tape whose possibilities she explored further at the Onasseion.

In Tacha's Pull, the tops of two walls are pulled by 40 stretched tapes wrapping around a powerful column - like a fisherman gathering his nets. The tape flowing down the walls evokes foaming waves, riverbeds, clouds, galaxy clusters and quantum fluctuations, as well as organic shapes: delicate vines, flowers and sensuous body forms. Pull (in Greek Elxis) can be conceived as the attraction of opposites on many different levels: As massive column vs. ethereal material; as rectilinear ceiling strips vs. spirals on the column and curlicues on the walls; as clarity vs. ambiguity or shifting complexity; as fixed vs. open-ended, multivalent forms; as 'order' vs. chaos - ultimately, as a tug of war between contrary systems or forces.

SMALL WONDERS: New Sculpture and Photoworks by Athena Tacha
American University Museum, Katzen Arts Center, Washington, D.C.
September 6 - October 29, 2006

Athena Tacha's solo show at the American University Museum (Katzen Arts Center), Washington, contained over 30 new works - half sculptures and half photoworks - and was accompanied by a richly illustrated catalog designed by Jim Trulove. Anne Ellegood, Associate Curator of the Hirshhorn Museum, is author of the main essay, and landscape architecture critic Brenda Brown contributed a portion of her article on the artist from the October 2006 issue of Sculpture.

This show, particularly inspired by the American South West, was a celebration of nature's beauty and grandeur before it disappears through human intervention. Following her life-long interest in the forms of natural phenomena, Tacha faced a challenge familiar to 19th c. landscape painters but new to sculptors: how to capture the awesome scale of a natural site and the passage of time as a three-dimensional object.

Her small sculptures of archetypal canyons, volcanoes, caves, waves and waterfalls, made with an innovative mix of materials, were accompanied by Tacha's photographic works and silent films (DVD versions on plasma screens), exhibited for the first time in Small Wonders. Her serial photographs contradict their grids and the inherent rectangularity of the medium with an unexpected fluidity that characterizes all of Tacha's art.


Athena Tacha: from the Public to the Private, 2010
by State Museum of Contemporary Art
Contemporary Arty Center of Thessaloniki / Larisa Municipal Gallery

DANCING IN THE LANDSCAPE: The Sculpture of Athena Tacha, 2000
Introductory essay by Harriet F. Senie, Director of Museum Studies and Professor of Art History at The City College and Graduate Center CUNY.
Interview conducted by Glenn Harper, editor of Sculpture magazine.

Athena Tacha: Public Works, 1970-1988, 1992
by Athena Tacha, Catherine M Howett, John Howett

Athena Tacha: New Works, 1986-1989, 1989
by Thalia Gouma-Peterson
find more books on

© 1995-2018
All rights reserved.
3131 Connecticut Avenue NW
suite #2202
Washington DC 20008