Christmas in July

I am on summer vacation from my teaching job – full swing.  It’s been a week of staying up late but still getting up early because I have two pets to feed.  They are not interested in having a summer schedule.

The art exhibit at Sullivan Library will continue through this month and possibly next.  I only say that because last year I had student work up in July and there was no one scheduled for August so I was able to keep the work up until school started and that was really nice.  I personally prefer a two-month run at a captive audience style venue – libraries, restaurants, etc. because it gives people enough time to eventually venture over there and see it.  I sometimes exhibit at the East Syracuse Free Library and when I took the last show down, (honestly, I can’t remember when – two years ago?) a preteen approached me and told me that she came to the library nearly every day that summer and she enjoyed the time she was able to spend with my work.  Yeah, that really happened.

I invite four artists a year to exhibit artwork in the library of the school and we have had so many phenomenal local artists in the past four years, among them, two who have passed away – Yolanda Tooley and George Benedict.

Yolanda was someone I met over twenty years ago when we volunteered on the Visual Arts Committee affiliated with the Cultural Resources Council of Onondaga County here in Syracuse.  She was always such a positive force in my life.  She told me that I was very brave to create artwork that has such a personal meaning to me and I think about that any time I feel like I should revise my thought process and make art that caters to some unnamed consumer.  She was a photographer who used colored inks to hand color her images, many of which were done in collage to create her own personal visions of landscapes from her many world travels.  This one is of Venice.

yolanda tooley art

Mr. Benedict was my Studio in Art teacher circa 1976-77.  I could never call him George even as an adult (which probably means I will always be Ms. Tash to some people, I imagine).  He was the very first artist to showcase his landscape oil paintings (see below) at the school library.  He pretty much taught me, in that one year I spent working with him, everything that I know about teaching.  He was always so proud of me, and all of his former students for that matter, and made sure to stay in touch for many, many years.

george benedict art

They both had cancer, which brings tears to my eyes every time I think about them because they loved life, lived it  creatively and fully, and there is just never enough time for good people.  Cancer is evil.

I’m not sure if either of them made significant money selling art.  I know that Yolanda’s family sold much of her work at a retrospective after her death.  It kind of makes me wonder what the hell will happen to my stuff in the aftermath of me.  Will someone sell it, give it away, trash it?  Is it meant to last way past my expiration date?

Do people buy art to appreciate it for what it is – a visual representation of an image or idea?  Or do they buy it because they think it will go up in value once the artist kicks it?  I guess it depends on the buyer.  I was a little troubled by the fact that when I asked my Studio in Art students to tell me what they learned from viewing those art shows this past year, someone said something like – if you want to be an artist you have to take another job because you won’t make a living at it.

I can blame myself for that.  The comment was most likely directed at me as I was the second artist to exhibit, which I do on occasion when an artist cancels on me.  As you can imagine, many people think teachers teach because they can’t be successful in their respective fields, which as you all know, is not true at all.  I think we tend to work harder to pursue our hearts’ desires while still managing to encourage students to pursue theirs.

Selling art is as much about marketing as anything else and what I find difficult about it on a personal level is that although I have a job where I talk a lot (some may even say too much), I really am an introvert. I should have pursued more shows, gallery representation, grant money – stuff like that.  But I just didn’t.  Part of it was not knowing how to parlay one experience into the next, not having a business head on my shoulders, having that pesky burden of occasional self doubt.  You name it, and I will use it as an excuse.

My goal this summer will be to expand the scope of this website and hopefully reach people who are interested in my work.  Not that I plan to leave my job any time soon if money starts falling out of pockets and dropping into my lap, but it would be nice to nip that you-can’t-make-a-living comment in the bud. I don’t travel like Yolanda did and aside from my abstract Pompano paintings, I don’t create landscapes like Mr. B.  The landscape of my life is pretty much art and family.  So in the spirit of my mother’s favorite TV network, QVC, I will leave you with some Christmas in July.  Here is my mom reading ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas to my sister’s best friend’s kids.

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