Dhimitri Zonia is an 88-year-old American artist of Albanian origin. He is an unusual man who creates unusual art. Now he plans to offer 125 pieces of his current exhibit at William Woods University for $50 each. The proceeds will benefit the gallery endowment fund.
His work is on display at the Mildred Cox Gallery of the Gladys Woods Kemper Center for the Arts at William Woods through Nov. 23, when there will be an artist’s reception from 1 to 3 p.m. The gallery is open 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday and 1 to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.
Zonia, who lives in St. Louis, is a self-taught artist who has studied art independently in Italy and England. He is a painter, sculptor, muralist and designer of digital imaging involving three-dimensional modeling and animation.
“My work is in the genre of science fiction,” he said. “The larger body of this effort is executed in the medium of digital painting and drawing. Most of this exhibit was created directly on the computer using Painter and Photoshop software.”
Zonia became a full-time artist in his early 40s, but it wasn’t until 1998, when he was 78, that he got into computer-generated art. A friend at St. Louis Community College-Meramec encouraged him to take a digital art class, but when he entered the classroom, he was in for a surprise.
“All the students turned on their computers and I had no idea how to turn mine on—it was embarrassing,” he said in a newspaper interview three years ago.
The instructor convinced him to stay and he became fascinated.
“Computers give you a million colors to choose from. In traditional art you try to keep your pallet limited to eight colors, but ideally to three primary colors and black. (Now) I sort of create these things out of my imagination. I allow my creativity to run wild. It’s much more satisfying,” Zonia said.
The computer art class wasn’t his first college course and it hasn’t been his last. He takes one class every semester, on such varied topics as fiction writing, ceramics, Italian and comic book art.
“The thing older people have to overcome is fear, fear of anything new,” he said. “Life is more exciting now than in the past if you overcome your fears.”
Zonia gets up each day at 5 a.m. and works at his computer until 10 p.m. He begins his artistic process by using a pencil to draw a scene on paper. Then he scans the image into his computer and uses a computer program to add color and create the finished version.
On Nov. 11 he will demonstrate his process for WWU students and the community during a program at 7 p.m. in the Library Auditorium.
During his career he has done everything—watercolors, paintings, murals, printmaking, stained-glass windows and book illustrations. He has had mixed media exhibits in Houston, Kansas City, Chicago, New York, London, Paris, Munich, Warsaw, Prague and Tokyo.
Zonia has received the Gold Medal, Best of Show Award at the International Science Fiction Exhibition for Artists, Authors and Film Makers, and a painting prize from the American Artists Magazine.
Among the many commissions are a series of large paintings, “Windows on St. Louis” commissioned by Anheuser Busch, St. Louis; poster for the McDonnell Planetarium, St. Louis; “Children,” a three-dimensional mural for the Jewish Community Center, St. Louis; motorcycle racing prints for Yamaha Corporation, Tokyo, Japan; Ryder Cup Golfing Classic, and drawings for live television, Hughes Sports Network, New York City.
His religious paintings and murals grace St. Michael’s and St. Thomas Eastern Orthodox Churches in St. Louis and Sts. Cyril and Methody Church in Granite City, Ill., as well as a ceiling mural in the Oak Grove Mausoleum, St. Louis.
Earlier this year, he won first and second prize for drawings from the Missouri College Media Association, exhibited digital art at St. Louis Community College and completed four portrait commissions for the Cosand Center. Not one to slow down, he is working on a book of his drawings to be published early next year.
For more information on the exhibit, contact Vikky Bucher in Kemper Art Center, room 120, at (573) 592-4245 or firstname.lastname@example.org. All reservations for purchases must be made through Bucher to avoid double-selling.