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. Each week I visit an inpatient unit, where I bake cookies in a communal kitchen. I then go from room to room, offering them to patients and families.
I’m often greeted with polite confusion. What is this? they ask. How much is it? It’s free? Really? Well, how nice. I’ll take one.
And with that, something happens. Given an unexpected chance to be still and savor a small pleasure, people settle in with a ragged relief that shows 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 blossom like parched fields after a storm. They describe their favorite foods. They recall childhood memories. They confess secrets and tell hilarious, scandalous stories. They discuss their faith. They sit in silence. They cry over their losses, reassess old hurts, recount victories, make jokes, ponder mortality, and announce that to be honest they’ve never liked peanut butter but damn, this cookie just changed their opinion. They hold my hand and tell 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 do for the people I meet 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. Follow her work on Instagram @dariapanichas; on Vero @dariaphoto; or at her website, www.panichas.com.