Good Gig

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Whenever I run into J.P. Crangle, he always tells me that my teaching job is a good gig.  I LOVE that because it is soooo true!  I totally love my job – everything about it.  The curriculum is flexible enough that I can incorporate any artists or art movements, or even cultures that I choose.  I mean, there are thousands to pick from, as everything we know about ancient civilizations comes from studying their art.

I love the people at school.  The students are really fun.  Eighth graders and now, after a ten-year hiatus, I will be teaching fifth grade again (one section)!  They seem to love the projects we do and we spend a lot of time smiling, laughing and having fun while making art.  And it only gets better every year.

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J.P. Crangle and I went to graduate school together.  He is a professional artist and caricaturist extraordinaire!  I still have the one he drew of me, which he had created for the open house we had for students back in the M-17 days of the Syracuse University Art Education department.

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Good gig – he said it again when I saw him Friday, January 8, 2016 at the Edgewood Gallery art opening reception where he is showing and selling brilliantly-hued cartoon paintings on wood and quirky plaster doll sculptures in a show titled “Small Planets” alongside the work of Dan Shanahan and Sharon Alma.

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His paintings and sculptures are truly whimsical displays of color and fun!  The gallery/frame shop looks totally different from the way it looked during the last show (with the exception of the amazing David McDonald’s mugs on a table and powerhouse artist Arlene Abend’s tiny sculptures on the window ledge surrounded by healthy, leafy plants!  They were there the last time too and are not part of this exhibit).

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Dan Shanahan is exhibiting these incredible watercolor paintings and hand painted prints rendered with the tiniest details that keep you involved, seeking and finding more to see.  They are doodles with precision.  Really incredible stuff.

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Sharon Alma, another friend of mine, is selling jewelry in the display case.  Very colorful and incredibly, they are made of paper!

I went to the Gold Key awards ceremony for the regional Scholastic Art Awards competition last Thursday night at OCC and I was struck by the proficiency. The majority of artwork selected as winners this year were literal translations in portrait, still life and landscape.  Student technicians with inspiring mastery of detail.  The rendering skills are nothing short of breathtaking.  Not much over all in the abstract realm though nor in emotional content.

It was the same way when I was in high school.  Top prize was a Blue Ribbon back then, which I won for my portfolio – this led to getting accepted at Syracuse University where I was told my portfolio was one of the best the interviewer had seen.

Funny that, because when I look at the work now – some on the walls of my parents’ home and others that I have in a paper portfolio shoved away in the crawl space of my 2nd bedroom – I think it completely lacks emotion.

Yes, I can draw, but the artwork I enjoy making now is abstract -about my emotional journey through life, one rich with texture and rhythm, and color.

Which is why I was thrilled to support my former student Maria L. Her sculpture portfolio won a Gold Key (her current instructor is Allison Kominecky).

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She created this white dress from an underlying structure of chicken wire.  The bodice was shellacked with her parents’ divorce papers.  All of the tissue paper from Christmas (according to her mom) made up the fluffy skirt.  This hauntingly beautiful piece filled with raw emotion transcends the competition and becomes a kind of memory of time and space while her other large piece filled with a cascade of paper butterflies almost says that beauty is abundant yet fleeting so one must enjoy the moment while one can.  It all makes you want to laugh and cry at the same time while giving the artist a giant hug for her bravery and perseverance.

That’s joy.

Her work, like the three artists’s at Edgewood, can also be described as whimsical and fun.  One can surely find the beauty in realism, but art can also symbolize magic in other ways.  Maria’s work and the rest resonate joy, an emotion we can all do well to include more of in our lives.

I just read a thingy in one of Rhonda Byrnes’ books about it.  Say it to yourself whenever you can, but slowly.  I – AM – JOY.  Say it a bunch of times and often.  If you are ever down for whatever reason, I guarantee it will make you smile.  Makes you realize that life is supposed to be joyous and fun.  That’s definitely a good gig if you can find it.

The Edgewood show will be on display at 216 Tecumseh Road, Syracuse, NY 13224 until February 19, 2016.  For more information and hours of operation, find the gallery here or call (315) 445-8111.

If you are interested in checking out Maria’s art and the rest of the Scholastic Art Awards winners, it is all on display until the end of February at the Whitney Building at Onondaga Community College, Syracuse, NY.

 

 

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The Dreamer’s Legacy

You’d think that Syracusans would have no trouble driving around in a blizzard yesterday, but the hazardous conditions resulted in many car accidents around town.  I stayed home in my little bungalow in my pajamas all day, a fire in my wood-stove and a cat on my lap.  Spent much of the day dreaming.  Thinking about future art and writing projects and reflecting on the last six to twelve months of my life.

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I met Jan Brett once and asked her if she stays in her pajamas all day since she creates her children’s books from her home office.  She laughed and said she gets dressed every morning and makes it like a nine-to-five job.

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So, today I got up with the intention of bracing the storm to go to work.  I had breakfast and used the snow-blower on my driveway only to find out once I came in that school was changed from two-hour delay to closed. (I am about to go out again to do it all over again.  It is seriously snowing like cray-cray!)

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I am in yoga pants and a cashmere sweater and my Ugg boots that I wear as slippers.  Plus a cashmere beanie because it is still a little cold in here – apparently, I have the worst insulation in the neighborhood, as National Grid likes to remind me every month with those you-use-way-more-energy-than-anyone-else letters.

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I compromised a little – not quite the Tashionista I would have been if I had gone to work, but I am “decent”, lol.

Okay, now that all of that is out of the way, welcome to my first blog post of 2016.  Part of my contemplation has been deciding what my goals will be for this blog for this year and beyond, for my art and for my life in general. As I still sit here pondering, I am also looking back to see how far – if at all – I have come on this artistic journey.  Last year at this time, I noted a few things.  Like I had two students win awards in Scholastics. This year I had six honorable mentions out of fourteen entries, which is pretty great!

Last year at this time, I had 3,700 followers on Twitter.  Now I have 6,504.  I also doubled my connections on both Facebook and Linkedin.  By promoting these blog posts, I have received a lot of support from so many people all over the world, and tons of endorsements from friends, acquaintances and strangers on Linkedin.

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My friend Anne Novado recently closed Gallery 4040 here in Syracuse and moved to Jersey City, NJ to start a new gallery, which will open in the spring.  I miss her already, but it is such an exciting time for her.  She is embarking on a new chapter in her life, a new adventure.  A Syracuse artist/businesswoman branching out into another city and state.

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I love the idea of reinventing myself, of finding my purpose, and a part of me wishes I had some giant life-altering event to focus on like Anne has.  At Christmas, my sister said something I thought was profound – she said, “I chose to move back to Syracuse (from Boston) I chose to live my life here.  I don’t want to find a job elsewhere.”

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I did that once, when I lived in Ft. Lauderdale over twenty years ago.  My life feels like it is supposed to be here now.  I mean, I think so.  I want to say I have the same conviction that she has, but I am not quite sure that I do.  I do think of myself as a Syracuse artist though, as I have lived the majority of my life here.

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On Sunday, Penny Santy and I visited the Onondaga Historical Association.  It is a museum encompassing a history of Syracuse, New York.  It is such a beautiful thing to have historians who keep track of what once was and are the guardians of both past and future here in Syracuse. Like The Giver, lol.

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There are two art exhibitions currently, as well as permanent collection memorabilia.  One of the shows is called Snowy Splendor – Winter Scenes of Onondaga County.  It’s on the 2nd floor.  My friend Joan Applebaum has a painting in this show.

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There are paintings and photographs depicting Syracuse scenes and landmarks.  They’ve filled the room with flocked pine trees and old sleds too.  And of course, that giant statue that used to be on the roof of a brewery on the North side.  I remember seeing it a lot growing up.  We used to wait in the car while Mom ran into a bakery around there, I think.

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It’s weird seeing it as part of Syracuse’s history because I don’t feel like I am that old and it is a part of my life’s narrative.  That’s what this museum is like for me.  A lot of what I saw in there looks like it came from our old house on Ashworth Place or things many of us can still find in basements or attics complete with that familiar musty mildew smell.  There is a collection of World War I medals like the one in my jewelry box that belonged to my great grandfather.  There are plates from the defunct Syracuse China factory – the ones my parents have with the bird in the center.  Someone has made broken pieces of these plates into jewelry that is for sale in the gift shop.  You can purchase silk scarves with that same bird.  It’s just all so familiar, like a home away from home or a dream….

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The other art exhibition is called A Life in Art – A Highlight of Women Artists in OHA’s collections.  Its location is adjacent to the gift shop.  This show is up until June 5, 2016 so there is plenty of time to see it.  My friend Arlene Abend is represented in the exhibit.  In the ’70s, she created these little metal sculptures for the Syracuse Symphony’s fundraiser. Arlene has been such a force in the Syracuse art scene.  I am so glad to see that she was recognized here.

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You know, every generation thinks they invented the arts in a way.  You know what I mean – kids think they are way cooler than their parents or their teachers….  What I love about this show is how these women from the earlier days were able to create art at all and get recognized – in a time when they were expected to be wives and mothers first and foremost.  They were true creative trailblazers!  Like the woman whose husband was a firefighter and she sometimes accompanied him to a fire resulting in paintings.  Or the woman who painted the Syracuse Savings Bank for her relative who worked there.

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There’s a marble sculpture and block prints, watercolors, oils and charcoal portraits. Mostly portraits and landscapes.  Betty Munro was a landscape artist.  A watercolor of hers is part of this show and there are more originals for sale in the gift shop.  It is really incredible to see these beautiful pieces for sale (only $425-$575 unframed).  They are images depicting downtown Syracuse landmarks, which would be perfect for the walls of any businesses still located in the vicinity!

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I loved viewing this show and imagining one of my abstract pieces alongside the rest of these talented artists’ work.  Someday….  Am I worthy?  Maybe that is part of my dream. To be recognized internationally just so that my hometown can someday acknowledge me as one of Syracuse’s best.  Now that is something I truly would love to manifest.

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The OHA is located at 321 Montgomery Street, Syracuse, NY 13202.  They are open Wednesday-Friday 10am-4pm and Saturday and Sundays 11am-3:30pm (Closed Monday and Tuesday).  Call (315) 428-1864 for more information.  Find their website here.  You can donate or become a member, or even volunteer as a docent.  It is such an amazing place! They do a lot of student field trips and have an archive you can search.  I am very interested in locating an old picture of my house, which was built in 1900. That would be very cool.

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