Blanka Amezkua

You cannot tell just by looking at her that Blanka Amezkua is a philhellene in more ways than one.

She lived for six years in the heart of Athens from 2000-2016 during the height of the Greek crisis. I had the chance to speak to interview her in her bedroom gallery, the now famous BBBP or the Bronx Blue Bedroom Project.

When Blanka received the BRIO award from the Bronx Council on the Arts in 2007, she did an unheard of thing: she converted her bedroom into an art gallery. The BBBP, the Bronx Blue Bedroom Project, was vanguard in its inception. In a borough that lacks spaces to view public art, Blanka made the private public. Her apartment doubles/triples as a living space, a gallery and a workshop area. When I visited her, the exhibit titled, “What we were left to see. . ." featured the works of Michele Brody and various artists who painted scenes outside of their windows during the quarantine in 2020.

Her relationship with Greece and the Greek culture can be summarised in one word: Kairos.

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Blanka confesses that Greece had always been very present for her as an artist who had studied the Western classical tradition and from the films featuring summer lovers on the islands from her youth in Mexico. Was it coincidence or fate that she has been married twice, both to Greek men, both of whom she met in California. (One is a worldbeat DJ who still spins tracks for Neos Cosmos and Sto Kokkino in Thessaloniki.) Leonidas, her current husband of 25 years, had spent time with her in Mexico, so she insisted she experience his country not as a tourist but as a citizen.

When she arrived in April 2010, “it was perfect!” she exclaims. “I am not going back to New York.” But living in the chaos during the height of the Greek crisis sandwiched between Exarcheia and Kolonaki with the wafts of tear gas without a job. She taught English for a while and took Greek lessons. She admits if it had not been for the twice a week English conversation sessions she had with a Greek psychiatrist and the rich conversations that flowered as a result she might not have survived. But she will never regret the experience of living through the worst. She told her husband, “If I die I have experienced all the beauty in my blood and spirit because I lived in Greece.”

Blanka Amezkua

Blanka's creative impulse in Athens mirrored much of the same chutzpah that BBBP had. She came up with another idea for a project: the 3///3 . . . three walls on Wednesdays. This project began with her physically trudging three walls through the Metro of Athens and setting up a gallery space in different neighbourhoods of the city inviting artists from any point of the globe to exhibit their work on them.

For two years, she became a portable art gallery setting up in the streets. “Who is this crazy woman on the sidewalk?” she recounts. Yet, because she was in the right place at the right time, the project blazed through headlines. Artists from around the world sent her work; the Greek press picked up the story. Until she hurt her back. Week after week as a portable gallery, a burro galleria, had taken its toll.

It was then that she turned her attention to opening a more traditional art experience.

In the spring of 2014, she set up Fo Kia Nou 24/7, a dynamic project space for the arts, music, workshops, food, dialogue residencies and general community come-togethers. In 2016 Fo Kia Nou 24/7 became Fokianou Art Space when she returned to New York and is now run by two Athenian artists friends.

Blanka attests to the affinity between Mexican and Greek cultures. "Even if all of Greece fits into the state of Chihuahua, when I am in Athens it feels like I am in Mexico. Greeks and Mexicans have a similar temperament,” she cites. There is a vibrancy in the streets. The two countries share a similar political context sharing many of the same issues: ravaging unemployment, catastrophic debt, corruption, crime, street protests. But she notes there is a light in Greece that sets is apart. “That light is very special. You understand why so many things flowered there as they have.”

Blanka Amezkua

Blanka attended the Accademia di belle Arti in Florence, Italy and received her B.A. from California State University, Fresno. Her work has appeared in the United States, Mexico, Belgium and Greece and for cultural establishments such as MoMA-P.S.1, Exit Art, The Bronx Museum of the Arts, El Museo del Barrio, Queens Museum of Art, Towson University, Dorsky Gallery, The Taller Boricua, The Block Gallery among others. She is currently completing a residency for Wave Hill at the Winter Workspace 2022.

Blanka represents the sort of resilient, fly by the seat of your pants power of the creative. She has a knack for building alternative exhibit spaces and taking her raw energy to the streets. Just the kind of person that fits right into the framework of Greece.

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Blanka Amezkua

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