u Break It – u Buy It

Here is another meme photo I took for the school yearbook – #eatingmoney

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This boy is my favorite model because of his hair, of course. Unfortunately he got a haircut last week and so, I won’t have the opportunity to take anymore shots like this for however long it takes to grow a foot of hair back, which would put him in high school or college by then.

The photo represents a fleeting moment in time, one that can’t be replaced, although photographs can be duplicated, as long as you still have the image on a computer or thumb drive.

Karen Tashkovski, Dreamtime, 2000, oil & collage $500
Karen Tashkovski, Dreamtime, 2000, oil & collage $500

A few months ago I shared that I’d repaired my painting Dream Time, but what I didn’t tell you is that around the same time my friend Joyce visited from Binghamton, NY, and I gave her a replacement Scrabble tile for the painting I made for her from this series.  I didn’t want it to seem as though all of my paintings are falling apart at the seams – they are not, by the way.

The thing is that any additive sculpture or combine style painting utilizing found objects could come undone at any time.  It could be bumped into or it could be a simple case of fluctuating humidity in the space where the piece resides.

My last post generated an array of opinions about the destruction of art.  People in agreement with me and others so opposed to the idea that it was pretty intense!  This happened mainly on www.linkedin.com where I shared the blog post in about a dozen art groups.

I really love the passion people brought to the table.  I also love the comraderie of artists, that we all in one way or another are aware of the impact (or the hope of an impact) our art will bring to future generations.  I wonder now how artists feel about the repairing of damaged art?

Joyce didn’t ask me to repair her Karen Tashkovski original, but she knew I probably had extra tiles in my art supply arsenal.  I am not keen on repairing my work the way my cobbler fixes the heels on my favorite boots.  While I try to use the strongest adhesives I can find, often the whole shebang can be very experimental, and I can’t worry about how my art will be displayed once it leaves the nest.

When I’m making art, I do admit to thinking about the compliments I might receive once it’s done, which puts me in a positive frame of mind, but I feel extremely in the moment and present while I’m creating.  I’m not thinking about one hundred years from now.

The only time I do, ironically, is while working with encaustics.  The wax will eventually harden and become one with the wood surface (and by eventually we’re talking  a thousand years) and it will become the most everlasting type of artwork that exists.

Unfortunately, any time before then the wax is fragile and must be handled with care, something of which the art teachers who hung the Scholastic Art exhibit (in January of this year) and the visitors to the Whitney Building at Onondaga Community College in Syracuse, NY were not aware.

My student’s silver key winning encaustic painting was terribly damaged during the show.  Whether it fell from the wall or was touched, or perhaps it was the humidity in the building – I mean I don’t know and I’m not suggesting blame, but it was tragic.

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The student does not take art class anymore, but I’m hoping she will be able to come in after school to rework it.  The entire neck is gone and the feather part is cracked, like the plaster walls in my house.  We used my personal encaustic materials so I’ve brought them back to school and will get to layering the uncolored wax on it to build the canvas back up and have it ready for Ellie when she’s ready to do it. The issue is that the wax takes time to heat up so it’s not a fleeting fix but a planned we-will-do-this-thing and make everything right with the world.

I think I took this damage harder than she did.  I felt responsible even though I could not protect the art when it was not in my possession.  She worked very hard on this piece and she was very proud of it!  Now she must rework it, like the fraggles on Fraggle Rock.  Whether or not she repairs the painting, it does not diminish the fact that she won high honors for it, but I think it’s difficult to accept that the art will not be the same the second time around.  The hope is that it will be better.  Yes, I’m ready to believe that!

Which brings me to the latest art tragedy:  a sculpture by Cy Twombly was just knocked over by a visitor to the museum in which it was displayed.

Cy Twombly sculpture toppled by visitor 

Conservators will be repairing it.  He died in 2011.  But if he were still alive, I can’t imagine anyone would ask him to fix it.

cy twombly chalkboard

Twombly is famous for creating these scribbly abstract expressionist paintings and my favorites are the ones done on chalkboard because they could easily be erased.  Have you ever seen the scene in I ❤ Huckabees when Dustin Hoffman’s character leans on the chalkboard painting in his office and he erases it with his jacket?  And of course, the irony is that he is supposed to be an existentialist detective!  OMG, I love that movie.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wr-Kpvhq73s

I am always questioning why things are the way they are and how these disjointed circumstances will eventually weave themselves into the story of my life.  I even have an existential coincidence!

Now fashion, that is an art form that isn’t supposed to be everlasting.  Colors fade, fabrics disintegrate.  We are always looking for something new and fresh while still holding onto our loved possessions because of sentimentality or some such other unreasonable abstract.

I am now selling my art as fashion on redbubble.  So if this blog post has convinced you not to buy my artwork in case of damage and the subsequent wrath of Tash (you really haven’t lived if you haven’t received that tongue lashing is how it goes), then maybe some Karen Tashkovski original leggings would be the way to go.

Sage leggingwindow legging

You buy them, wear them, break them in.  Wash them, wear them, wash, wear infinity – until you throw them out.  No artist fix or conservators necessary!

The Destruction of Devices

The famous story goes that Jasper Johns destroyed all the pieces he’d made prior to 1955 to start over, creating his new works as encaustics – the target and flag paintings that Leo Castelli put in his gallery subsequently selling them to major NYC art museums…and an art god was born.

http://www.jasper-johns.org/

Recently I read that Jean Michel Basquiat drawings had surfaced and were going on the auction block.  I think they were sketchbook thing-a-ma-bobs, not intended to be shown as potential masterpieces or anything but I guess once you are dead your immortal soul can command millions.

Basquiat drawings

So what’s the right thing to do?  Keep every single thing you’ve ever made – did Picasso do that?  (I think so.)  Or chuck the stuff you think is junk and not representative of your work?

I do this with my clothes all the time.  I give most of my stuff to the Salvation Army.  Sometimes it isn’t even a year old.  I live in a small space and I don’t keep things that I don’t wear.  Like if I don’t think it will ever be my go to for an event, it doesn’t matter how nice it is; it needs to move on.  I regret some of those chucks.  I’d gained some weight a few years ago and thought I’d never get my twenty-five inch waist back so I said good-bye to some pieces that would have transcended time if I would have allowed it.  Oh well.  There are always new clothes out there.  New ideas in shape and fabric that make a person feel current.

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If I were immortal, I think I could hack the changes, at least in fashion and art.  In technology, not so much.  So I guess that’s why I choose edit/delete.  The three paintings illustrating this blog post are long gone.

I gessoed over their surfaces because I just didn’t feel good about them.  They were 24″ x 48″ paintings, all framed in maple wood gallery style frames that cost a small fortune once upon a time in the ’90s.

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I came across the pictures while hunting for the one of Evangeline Peters.  These three were part of that exhibition I had at the May Memorial Unitarian Church in Dewitt, NY circa I don’t remember.  I want to say 1999.

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I kind of miss them, but that might just be the silliness of all of this retrospective melancholy.  This series was born from taking devices from all of the other works of art I had created up until then and placing them into segments puzzle pieced together.  The idea is much like my own life.  It is compartmentalized in such a way that you’d really have to get to know me pretty well to really know me.  And I can’t say that there is a single anyone in the world who truly does know me.

Do we all think that of ourselves?  Do we all wear masks as Billy Joel sings in The Stranger or are some people truly transparent?  I’m not sure.  At any rate, these pieces just didn’t make the cut.  There are portions of them that I feel a connection to and other areas that fall flat.  I have the pictures at least, and if I want to incorporate them somehow into the newbie Futura series this summer then maybe they will in a small way be resurrected.

I plan to reuse the frames so I will replicate these dimensions – and puzzle it out.

Black & White

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While searching for the pictures for my last blog post, sifting through pages and pages of photo albums, I came across these gems.

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In 1999, I had an art exhibition at Roasters, a coffee shoppe that used to be next to where the Fayetteville, New York YMCA is now. It was owned by artist Ilene Layow and her husband. One wall was devoted to a mural and the other available for monthly art shows by local artists.

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I used to make postcards for my events and had a 200+ mailing list to insure that I would get a 10% return – meaning about twenty people might come to the opening.  This party happened on a Sunday afternoon in December of that year so I was happy to have welcomed enough people to fill the whole place.

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I created only eight pieces in this series, called Black & White.  For those of you saying to yourself, why not twelve?, I think when I went to purchase a dozen canvases, the store didn’t have enough in stock – something like that.

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I prepped the canvases as I always do – canvas collaged to canvas, the addition of some drink coasters for texture.  Then I created compositions by using a ruler to break up the space including the use of a border, using the width of the ruler to establish it.  I painted with oils and added collage bits at the end.  My work was beginning to be more three-dimensional.  I am devoted to Jasper Johns, but I’d been to the Robert Rauschenberg retrospective at the Guggenheim in NYC in 1997, and I really fell in love with him and his combines. That may explain why I played with elements at the edges of the canvases for the first time.

I also had applied and won a grant from Rauschenberg’s foundation, Changes, Inc.  That $1,000 came in the nick of time when I needed it most, so he will always hold a special place in my heart and my art!

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I used to write articles for the Bridgeport-Chittenango Times, a now defunct free weekly paper.  At the time, I was the only person besides the school superintendent allowed to share school news in a public forum.  I wrote about art lessons and community events such as Ozstravaganza and other neat things happening in the village (the birthplace of L. Frank Baum, author of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and dozens of other children’s books).

This may have contributed to my receiving such a super-sized article (posted above) about my exhibition, which may have assisted in sales.  Maybe not.  I sold five of the eight pieces – two to one patron and three to another.  My artwork seems to be purchased in multiples a lot, which is why I tend to prefer one woman exhibitions over group shows.

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Of course, this (above) is probably my favorite picture from this flashback – the late, great, BEAUTIFUL artist Yolanda Tooley.  She was such an inspiration to me, as I’ve mentioned before.  She always encouraged me to be fearless with my work and used the word brave – you’re very brave – the idea that exposing your emotions can leave you very vulnerable.  You can easily fall victim to criticism, but revealing oneself in this way is really the only way an artist can share their work with the world.

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I’ve had a number of people compliment my honesty in regard to writing these blog posts, something that, if you read earlier posts, I wasn’t actually doing.  I started writing like a child learning to swim. Toe in first then comfort, and then diving into the deep end on a spring board with a bit more spring than she thought.

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This series was titled Black & White because I was living on limited funds due to my obsession with fashion (mainly, as well as other actual wasteful spending), so I had planned to only use black and white paint, like Picasso during his blue or rose periods.  Each painting has text with either black or white written in different languages – four of each.

At least that anchored the theme, because I just couldn’t do it.  I can’t see the world in black and white nor shades of gray.  It’s complex, rich with color, limitless and…okay I’ll stop before I go off the deep end.  Oh, forget it – I’m already there.

Memento

I’m either three or four here (my sister Kathy, a year older). Drawing up a storm from the amount of paper in my lap.

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I’m not sure if you choose to be an artist.  Maybe you just are. Maybe we all are, but only some of us are lucky enough to embrace it.   Maybe your life on Earth is supposed to be filled with love for everything, and that includes depicting that emotion in art.

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I’ve been drawing for as long as I can remember.  I found these images in my baby book, done when I was five.

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I’m pretty proud of the fact that I could draw girls with necks – wow. It looks like I’ve named them too.  I imagine they are probably people from TV.

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When I was in 4th or 5th grade, my friends and I would draw these silly fashion beauty contests with puppy-faced models then ask people to vote on their favorite one.

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My friend Janet’s mother was an art teacher and I’ve since told them how much knowing them both contributed to my trajectory as an artist and ultimately my career – Janet at our 20th reunion and Carolyn Coit when I worked with her during my student teaching experience at Fayetteville-Manlius High School (and also her last year teaching before retiring).  I’d wanted to be as good an artist as I thought Janet was, and so, I spent many evenings and weekends in my room doodling away at my “craft”.

My grandparents (my mother’s parents) lived with us until they passed away.  In the 1970s, my grandmother had a group of lady friends with whom she played penny Bingo every other Saturday. They traveled from house to house, and one Saturday, when it was our turn to host, Auntie Blaga came to pick up her mother.  Mom told me to go and get my drawings to show her, as she had been an art teacher.  I think she’d already retired by then.  She was actually only a few years younger than Gramma, which was weird because she had the kind of effervescence and exuberance that was almost iconic.  I can’t explain that certain something but that positive energy probably contributed to her ninety-nine year long life.

I went to calling hours last Thursday and it was there I found out Auntie Blaga had taught art for forty-five years in the Syracuse City School district.  She’d changed her name to Evangeline Peters because she thought her real last name would be too difficult for kids to learn to pronounce.  The real world knew her as Eve.

She was so nice, so complimentary and, although it wasn’t at that moment I thought I would grow up to follow in her footsteps and become an art teacher, that day in around 1974 was a significant moment in my life.  The way she spoke to me, like I was an equal and not just a nine-year-old, you know?  I remember that conversation as if it were yesterday.

Fast forward to fifteen years ago.  I had an art exhibition at the May Memorial Unitarian Church in Dewitt, NY.  Auntie Blaga showed up. She was still driving then.  She didn’t look a day older twenty-something years later but was most definitely a lot tinier than I remembered her.

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I’d expected a bigger turn out but only about twenty people showed up.  I spent a lot of time writing press releases and was lucky enough to have the opening advertised in the newspaper. The reception was even covered on the channel 5 news so that was pretty cool. But the very best part of it was when Auntie Blaga said she’d seen my name in the arts section of the newspaper many times – she’d been following my career.

When something like that happens, it almost doesn’t even matter if you ever attain the kind of success you imagine for yourself. Auntie Blaga was here now, almost like a little fairy Godmother who really, really cared.  I mean, she must have been eighty-five then.

About six years later, she came to the reception I had at the Westcott Community Center.  It is an art venue in an old fire station on the corner of Westcott and Euclid, near Syracuse University.  She wasn’t driving anymore.  Her grand nephew, Craig, became her caretaker and he brought her up in the elevator and into the small space where my Mom had set up the food spread of cupcakes and way too many treats, as per usual.

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Auntie Blaga had injured her back, I think, and was using a walker, but her spirit was that same unique blend of happiness and sparkle. I couldn’t believe she came.  And the funny thing, like the way it is with old friends – we just picked up where we’d left off.

Later we spoke on the phone a few times and talked about visiting each other but I lived in a second floor walk-up flat and she said sometimes she couldn’t hear the door when someone knocked at her house.  We continued to correspond.  She’d write me letters at Christmas and tell me how proud she was of me.

I didn’t make the effort to visit her.  I should have and it makes me feel really bad.  Like I’m a horrible person for not being there for her. When I think about it now and think about the stuff I was going through at the time – I cannot justify why I wasn’t a better friend.

She never married nor had any children, see, and so she was kind of like me in the future.  I should have made the effort.

Auntie Blaga wasn’t related to me despite the moniker.  She had a real family of grand nieces and nephews.  I think her brother had seven children who had children.  She was well loved.

They didn’t know me.  But I do want them to know that she meant the world to me.   Auntie Blaga – knowing you contributed more than just a trajectory of career choice.  You believed in me before anyone else did.  You saw something in me that I didn’t see in myself then, something I want to believe is there now.

Good-bye for now, my friend.  I will cherish your memory in my heart.  Always.

 

Prize