Chryssa Vardea-Mavromichali (Greek: Χρύσα Βαρδέα-Μαυρομιχάλη; December 31, 1933 – December 23, 2013) was a Greek American artist who worked in a wide variety of media.
An American art pioneer in light art and luminist sculpture widely known for her neon, steel, aluminum and acrylic glass installations, she has always used the mononym Chryssa professionally. She worked from the mid-1950s in New York City studios and has been working since 1992 in the studio she established in Neos Kosmos, Athens, Greece.
Chryssa began painting while she was still an adolescent, and on the advice of a leading art critic in Greece, her family sent her to Paris to study at the Academie de la Grande Chaumiere in 1953-54. She was barely twenty-one when she sailed to New York. "I had an enormous curiosity about America and I felt that it would be much easier in America to achieve a freedom of expression rather than in European countries."
Chryssa, best known for her "Luminist" sculpture in brilliantly colored neon tubing, was born in Greece and now ranks as one of the outstanding and innovative artists in America today.
Soon after her arrival in the early 1950's, Chryssa discovered the neo-Byzantine world of Time Square and its lights. She also found inspiration in the newspaper for which the Square is named. Her Early "Newspaper" paintings and sculptures were innovative experiments using typography, newsprint collages, metal molds, and alphabetical forms in raised relief. The luminous mythology of Times Square, its giant glowing and blinking signs and letters fascinated Chryssa. The impact was overwhelming as she associated the dazzling imagery of the Square's neon signs to the art of Byzantium. The references she uses to indicate the breadth of her discovery are highly significant "I saw Times Square with its light and letters, and I realized it was as beautiful and difficult to do as Japanese calligraphy... In Times Square the sky is like the gold of Byzantine mosaics or icons. It comes and goes in the foreground instead of remaining in the background." These signs were ultimately transformed by the artist into her own mysterious symbols and alphabetical elements expressing, as she put it, the "Homeric wisdom" of the signs.
Chryssa's genius is expressed in a variety of mediums, ranging from sensitive arrangements of calligraphic elements in plaster and metal to the luminous, and equally disciplined, neon works. Her work lifts the anthropology of our world to its greatest height.
Chryssa has had individual and collective exhibition shows at the Museum of Modern Art, The Guggenheim, The Whitney -New York. Harvard University; Institute of Contemporary Art at the University of Pennsylvania; Carnegie Institute among many others.