Making Meaning in Art: In the Studio of Gabriel Karagianis

Raft Man-web
Raft Man

by Erin Denk

“ I have never made art that was in vogue. My art has never fit the contemporary world. I could make it fit but then there would be no meaning. That isn’t me.”


I meet Gabriel Karagianis in his studio at the Starline Art Studios in Harvard, Illinois to talk about his recent art and process. Gabriel’s studio’s brick walls are filled with past and present paintings, his painted skateboards, a recent mural for a local brewery and scattered on a platform are 8” x 11” paintings on boards. These small “$ 20.00” paintings start our discussion of how we find meaning in art. Gabriel describes the artist’s struggle: making an art product to sell and make income and, making art as a process that provides meaning and creative stimulation.  We walk around the collection of abstracts and figures, some just started with quick line gestures.  He describes his process and the meaning that he pulls from that process: “these are like a performance piece for me, there is this assembly line movement I get into; it’s immediate.”

Raft Mariachi-web
Raft Mariachi

Painting large allows Gabe to “be immersed in the canvas” and in a space to tell a story: whether of a fisherman, a garden or a matador. While the small paintings give immediacy, Gabe likes the large canvas for its capacity to pull you in as you work on it and at times to lose yourself in it.

Raft Gypsy-web
Raft Gypsy

Gabe’s paintings are allegorical, stories of the human condition rendered like religious icons or stained glass windows.  Gabe’s intention is “to try to bring back meaning to humanity, connect to a state of being”. He commits his art to “trying to bring back meaning in a world that has lost meaning.” We agree that this is essential to keeping Art alive in our society.  In ethologist, Ellen Dissanayake’s book, What is Art For? , she presents her theory of a biological need in humans to make art that transcends art galleries and consumerism, “ This behavior of art might be described as the manufacture or expression of what are commonly called “the arts,” based on a universal inherited propensity in human nature to make some objects and activities special “. (p. 107)  Gabriel expresses this behavior in how he lives his life as an artist and the process by which he creates paintings that reflect meaning and life to us all.

Le Griffon-web
Le Griffon

To experience the art of Gabriel Karagianis go to

Raft Challenger-web
Raft Challenger




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