To explain to you why I make art, I’d first like to tell you about giving cookies to the dying.
I’m a hospice volunteer. As part of this, for about eight years, I visited an inpatient unit each week, where I baked cookies in a communal kitchen. I then went from room to room, offering them to patients and families.
Even as the scent filled the unit, drawing the curious towards me, I was often greeted with polite confusion. What is this? people asked. How much is it? It’s free? Really? Well, how nice. I’ll take one.
And with that, something would happen. Given an unexpected chance to be still and savor a small pleasure, people settled in with a ragged relief that showed me, week after week, how little opportunity most of us have to visit the deeper parts of ourselves and our world. Clutching their cookies, inhaling the scent, folks blossomed like parched fields after a storm. They described their favorite foods. They recalled childhood memories. They confessed secrets and told hilarious, scandalous stories. They discussed their faith. They sat in silence. They cried over their losses, reassessed old hurts, recounted victories, made jokes, pondered mortality, and announced that to be honest they’ve never liked peanut butter—but damn, this cookie just changed their opinion. They held my hand and told me thank you, I needed that, I was so…hungry.
All that from one humble handmade thing and a little room to reflect.
Food has great power. It transports, evokes, unites, educates, motivates, and nourishes; it brings joy, stillness, contemplation, respite. It makes us whole and alive.
Art is food for the soul. Many of us are starving. Through my work I seek to offer sustenance and space. I hope that what those cookies did for the people I met in hospice is what my art does for you.
Daria Panichas makes art because it’s a joy, and likes to explore beauty, transformation, stillness and possibility. Through unconventional light, lines and contour, her monochromatic photographs distill natural objects, landscapes and streetscapes into ambiguous forms; freed from the familiar, they morph into new worlds that invite the viewer to explore and wonder, just as she did. First drawn to photography through the street and documentary work of Sebastião Salgado and Josef Koudelka, her current inspirations include early 20th century Japanese American photography, the light installations of James Turrell, and the philosophical approaches of photographers Sean Tucker and Douglas Beasley.
Daria has a bachelor’s degree in art and philosophy, with honors in painting, from Lafayette College. She also has a master’s degree in clinical social work and a professional certification in web design from Boston University. She has long been a hospice volunteer, and is dedicated to learning Spanish. Her photography education has been self-directed, through classes, workshops and interactions with fellow artists.
Daria’s writing and photography has been published in Humana Obscura, Hintology, The Washington Post, Many Mountains Moving, and Apiary Magazine. Her photographs were most recently shown in an exhibition called The Beauty of Stillness at the InLiquid Gallery in Philadelphia, PA.
Follow her work on Instagram @dariapanichas; on Vero @dariaphoto; or at her website, www.panichas.com.