A Giant Among Us

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Italian born artist Domenico Gigante is exhibiting his art in the Chittenango Middle School library until mid April, 2016.  He was an Italian and French teacher and, now retired, he dabbles in still life and landscape painting.

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I met him last year – I attended an exhibition of his work at the Onondaga Public Library in Baldwinsville, NY.  We had scheduled his show for last year but he had to cancel due to his extensive travel schedule.  I am so happy/grateful he was able to reschedule for this year, as I just found out he is moving out of state!

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Yesterday he spoke to some students at an after school art reception.

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He talked about how he was born in Italy and came to this country without knowing English.  As a child, he played soccer and did lots of other things, but he did not start making art until he retired from his teaching job at Henninger High School in Syracuse, New York.

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The children all listened intently to his stories of how each painting came about and at the end, we asked questions pertaining to what he’d said.  Students who knew the answers won free posters!

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I was surprised and delighted by how well those 5th – 8th graders were listening!  It was pretty incredible!

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I have four artists in this gallery space every year.  I think I have two booked for next year already, but I can’t remember right this second.  If you are interested in exhibiting work, please contact me at ktashkovski@chittenangoschools.org.

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The artists do this for free including giving a Tuesday afternoon talk (I make cupcakes!) but there is always the possibility of selling the work.  The library is used for other events, like the occasional board of education meetings and PTA meetings, so lots of people see the artwork.

Here is a link to Domenico Gigante’s art blog.

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Personal Jesus

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Does anyone else see the resemblance?  Byzantine Jesus looks like he could be my little brother.  OMG, we totally have the same eyes.  Seriously – the exact same nose too.

This is what I said years ago when I went on this church bus trip to the Orthodox monastery in Herkimer, NY.  We were in the gift shop perusing the icon post cards. I sort of said it to myself and then my friend Betty started yelling, “Karen thinks she looks like Jesus!  Karen thinks she looks like Jesus!”

Stupid funny.  I guess you had to be there.

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Apparently, there is no description of Jesus in the bible. There are stories of people seeing him in dreams then creating the first icon paintings from their recollections/imagination.  Most of those images look like the people of the time with features depicting the specific culture of the artist. Hence, the Eastern European looks.

Lol. My information comes from Wikipedia. I’m sure there is more to it than that, if anyone cares to enlighten me/do the research.

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The other night I was out with my sister and she took a group photograph.  In my defense, I was near the stage lights – it looks like I have a white beard in this one.  It’s the lighting!

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Can you see it now?

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Who is your celebrity look-a-like?

Seeing the Light

At the artist reception on Wednesday night at Light Work, I fell in love.  Yes!  This is something that I seem to do easily lately.  I am in love with life, so what can I do?

In this case, the objects of my affection are Ben Altman’s photographs, which are hanging in the hallway of this beautiful venue (316 Waverly Ave., Syracuse, NY).  They will be there until July 22, 2016, if you want to see them in person.

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Here is a link  to the whole shebang on the Light Work website –

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Altman uses an old-fashioned camera to take photographs of people using their cell phones to photograph memorial sites around the world.  He is sort of a voyeur looking over the shoulders of these tourists to create images that have an eerie-beauty to them.  The memorial site is blurred but we can see a part of it through the tourists’ viewfinders.

So, you kind of say – ohhh, that’s pretty – then you read the title and you are looking at a picture taken at Auschwitz or one taken at the site of the Oklahoma bombing.  It is just this startling feeling of, like, OMG, I just thought a place of utter sadness was so beautiful.  Then you feel totally weird for liking it.  So you go back and look again with the new knowledge and feel super weird, because it is still so hauntingly beautiful.

And by you, I mean me.

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What a profound experience.  The photos are very large.  They are all the same size, framed the same way, which alerts us to the fact that they are equally important.  I just love the concept, the follow through, the process of capturing frame-in-frame shots that are all different, yet remain in harmony.

Here is his artist statement –

“Tourists at iconic sights almost automatically photograph with their smart-phones and cameras. This act becomes more complicated at memorials, sites, and museums that commemorate episodes of mass violence. Over the past few years I have photographed visitors and their screens at many such places. The people in my images are strangers who are mostly unaware of my intention, even though I use a hand-held 1940’s 4×5 press camera. My vintage equipment fits well with thinking about the present in terms of the past.

“Raising a device between oneself and a site of atrocity can be seen as distancing and reductive. However an impulse to manage and diffuse what these places mean is understandable and perhaps necessary. Often the memorials themselves depict the appalling, chaotic events they represent with unwarranted coherence or with the blankness of preserved artifacts. They invite engagement but also obstruct it. The memorials and the photography each suggest questions: how to see these sites; how to empathize with the unknowable experiences of the people who were caught up in the events; how to understand the ways in which past horrors configure our present world; how to live with our knowledge.

— Ben Altman, March 2016″

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When I was in Jersey City, NJ, I took a picture at the memorial they have honoring the New Jersey residents who died in the Twin Towers.  It is two walls of granite with names on each side and when you walk through towards the waterfront, the Freedom Tower sits between them in your sight line.  It is an emotional experience to stand there and witness.  As a tourist, I took a picture exactly the way Ben Altman explained in his statement.  But my photographs contain my own reflection. I guess in this way, I become one with my empathy and that is a good thing.  Altman’s detachment invites the viewer inside in a way that allows us to see the light of beauty in darkness.

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For more information on Ben Altman, find his website here.

 

Things & Junk Like That

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Even though the Mary Mattingly art exhibit is now over (it was at the Katherine O. Ellis Gallery at Light Work on Syracuse University campus), I still wanted to share it with you.  I saw the show and took these pictures when I was in the building for that Jerome Witkin art talk.

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I loved the way she created these over-sized “junk” sculptures then placed them in environments and photographed them.  They had a similarity to Sandy Skoglund’s work. Kind of reminded me of – okay, I made this weird ball of stuff, now what should I do with it?  I like the idea of taking art into the world and placing it in other environments, and allowing the new place to give the work a fresh perspective or meaning.

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I am working on a self-portrait style texture sculpture with 5th graders and I’m getting inspiration from Mattingly’s work.  Thinking about having them add metallic embroidery floss to their completed pieces – we selected ten pieces of wood for the basis of the sculpture then added the other items to create the texture and personal meaning.  The work here is in progress.  Everything will be painted in the metallic paint, hopefully by next class.

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What do you think about the addition of the string?  I was thinking it’s like My Favorite Things – “brown paper packages tied up with string….” or will it be too weird?  Can art be too weird or do we always need to be pushing the envelope?

I absolutely love introducing students to contemporary artists they could potentially meet in their life-time – as I have been saying a lot lately, the world has become small enough through social media that the thought of interacting with your favorite living artist is a direct possibility!  As so much of what is being done today has a social impact, in this case, the idea of recycling (trash to treasure), I think these new artists have a lot to offer our students/kids/youth – think art in the modern world and what that constitutes with regard to emotion….

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If you want to catch the next art exhibition at the Katherine O. Ellis Gallery, it starts tomorrow night – Wednesday, March 23, 2016 with a reception from 5:00 – 7:00 pm and  a gallery talk at 6:00 pm.  The show is called The Passenger’s Present and is the work of Japanese born artist Miki Soejima.

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According to the Light Work website literature, they “were founded as an artist-run, non-profit organization in 1973.  (Their) mission is to provide direct support to artists working in photography and related media, through residencies, publications, exhibitions and a community-access lab facility.”

The gallery is at 316 Waverly Avenue, Syracuse University, Syracuse, NY 13210.  Contact them at (315) 443-1300 for more information.

Putting the A in Jersey City

Anne Novado will be opening a new gallery in Jersey City, NJ.  The building is currently under construction/being renovated.

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She is looking for artists to feature – here is something the gallery just posted on Facebook-

ARTISTS IN JERSEY CITY, BAYONNE, NEWARK, HOBOKEN, WEEHAWKEN, BROOKLYN & MANHATTAN: We are beginning to look at work for our new gallery at 110 Morgan Street. We are interested in working with emerging and established artists whose work shows a maturity of vision, a fresh approach and can include a creative use of materials-traditional or otherwise. We like humor, mystery, surprise, energy, beauty and seriousness. We anticipate our walls will be at minimum 10′ high and ceiling 12′. Email links of your website or PDF’s to our interim Gmail account: NovadoGallery@gmail.com (“artist submission” in subject line)
For more clues if your work might be a good fit, a few of the more known artists we like include:
Tony Ourlser, Tara Donovan, Wim Delvoye, Jim Campbell, Vija Celmins, Wayne Thiebaud, Jim Dine, Wolf Kahn, Beth Cavener, Mary Shaffer, Richard Wright, William Wegman, Fred Tomaselli, Mary Borgman, Lori Nix, Jill Greenberg, Romare Bearden, Bansky, Mark Wagner, Anselm Kiefer, Pat Steir, Bernar Vene

A spring 2016 opening is in the works. Of course, today is the first day of spring, but Easter is next week and Orthodox Easter isn’t until May 1st, so that is all relative.   I think she and business partner Steve Pearlman are targeting a May opening.  It will be called the Novado Gallery.

See the New York Times article about the building here.

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I loved walking around that area, which is what we did last weekend.  I think I have only been to New Jersey once before and that was for something at the Meadowlands. Oh, and all the times I landed in New Jersey and took the bus into the city. I mean by plane. Despite what my students may or may not think about me, I am not actually a witch or an entity who can literally take flight using other-worldy powers, lol.

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It is near the waterfront. Loved seeing the New York skyline from across the river. So close you could practically reach out and touch it and yet, you could get around effortlessly by car in Jersey City.  That was really cool.  Not at all what I expected.

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Anne took me to this big warehouse thing-a-ma-gig called Mana Contemporary (888 Newark Avenue, Jersey City, NJ 07306).  It houses art studios and galleries, and is open to the public – free admission on Saturdays. They have studio tours and open houses. The artists take turns opening their doors, like every other week or something.  www.manacontemporary.com

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Last Saturday, architect and artist Richard Meier exhibited a collection of mixed media silk-screen works on the second floor.  Gary Lichtenstein did a demonstration of silk screening techniques – with giant-sized silk screens (like six feet square)! And in the first floor gallery, there was an exhibition of artwork by the late Anthony Quinn!

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I had no idea he was an artist.  This was an incredible show.  According to the information provided by the venue, “The T’ang Horse: Anthony Quinn, is an exhibition of Anthony Quinn’s own art, accompanied by a selection of pieces from his vast personal collection that he acquired throughout his life and travels.” The show is curated by Ysabel Pinyol.

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Included in this exhibit is a Paul Gauguin, a self-portrait with his Yellow Christ in the background.  This was such a thrill for me to see because Yellow Christ is one of my favorite paintings and it almost looks like a selfie, as if it is saying, look at me with my painting! OMG!

Quinn played Gauguin in the film Lust for Life (starring Kirk Douglas as Vincent van Gogh).

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There were some Henry Moore sculptures and then Quinn’s own sculptures that looked very similar.  So much to see in this exhibit!  He sculpted, painted and even created a hooked rug. A man of versatility.

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What a spectacular gallery space!

Quinn was born in 1915.  According to the literature, he was born in Mexico, mentored as a child by Frank Lloyd Wright, and never wanted to be an actor.  He thought he would be an architect or a painter.  He broke his foot during the making of the movie Zorba the Greek and so he performed the dance slowly, which has since become a legit part of the dance, as though he invented it.

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As an actor, his accolades include two Academy Awards and a Golden Globe.  He starred in almost two hundred films!

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The man had quite the zest for life. He is considered a creative genius. In 2011, the Anthony Quinn Foundation began awarding scholarships to students and has since helped over sixty young artists.

If you wish to donate to this amazing organization, contact the Anthony Quinn Foundation at P.O. Box 539, Bristol, RI 02809. It is a donor funded 501 (c) (3) non-profit organization and the donations are 100% tax deductible. www.aqfoundation.org

Mana Contemporary  is open for tours Monday through Friday 11:00 am-3:00 pm and Saturdays noon-3:00 pm.  The next quarterly open house is on May 1, 2016.  This promises to be a big event where you can see it all – all studios open and all exhibits too!  They are on Tumblr, Instagram, Twitter and Facebook, if you wish to further connect.

As for the Novado Gallery, stay tuned!

Freedom of Choice

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Warner Bros. Harry Potter top, Banana Republic skirt, Nine West boots
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Free People sweater, BCBG Max Azria top and T-shirt, Trina Turk pants, Coach booties

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Just got home from an amazing business/fun trip to Jersey City, NJ. Now I am in my PJs with my cat on my heart thinking about what I will wear to work tomorrow.

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Banana Republic skirt and suede top, Ralph Lauren boots
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BCBG Max Azria top and pants,BCBG Generation sandals

Here are my looks from the past couple of weeks.

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Michelle DaRin jewelry, Trina Turk dress, Nine West boots
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Banana Republic suit, Syracuse University T-shirt (from Target) Nine West booties

The weather is getting warmer here but for a while it will be darker and probably colder in the mornings because of Daylight Savings Time.

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Michelle DaRin jewelry, BCBG Max Azria dress, Nine West boots

My new Michelle DaRin choker is currently in heavy rotation, lol. I have been wearing a lot of pink because of it.

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BCBG Max Azria cardigan and pants, Bailey 44 top, BCBG Generation booties

All of my clay projects are drying and the 5th grade wood sculptures are glued (will need to put all the boxes away!). Am going to be doing some painting in some classes starting tomorrow, so I will need to compensate by wearing short sleeves.

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Michelle DaRin choker, Banana Republic cardigan, BCBG Max Azria top and leggings, Ralph Lauren boots

Hmm…what to wear…what to wear??????

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J Crew cardigan, BCBG Max Azria dress and T-shirt, 7 For All Mankind jeans, Nine West booties

 

Combo Lesson

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Studio in Art is one of those jack-of-all-trades courses.  I cover drawing, painting, sculpture, ceramics and technology.  I teach still life, landscape, portrait and abstract concepts as well, so it is a little bit of everything.

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Every so often I do this sculpture/installation/photography project based on the work of American artist Sandy Skoglund.  I love how this lesson has so many concepts all rolled into one.

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First, students create the armature then plaster and paint a rat sculpture.  I’ve always done it with rats because they can be simplified and look both uniform and unique – usually students create a tail that makes their rat easy to identify in a “police line-up” of rats, lol.

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I usually give students a small Gatorade bottle then show them how to add newspaper or paper towels and masking tape to shape the armature, adding tagboard for ears and aluminum foil for the tail. This year I drank a bunch of Simply Orange and Simply Cranberry and we used those bottles to make giant-sized rodents.

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I have fourteen students in class.  They painted the rats gold – there were three hues from which to choose.  Every time I do this lesson the rats are a different color.  We’ve done them in red, blue, yellow and green, so I thought the gold ones would look fun.  Plus, I just bought more metallic paint.  It is Sargent’s metallic acrylic. Love it!

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Next, we take a tour of the school to spot areas that we travel everyday – to make the invisible visible.  We look through viewfinders made out of index cards to see the space from a number of different angles.  There are some wonderful bits of architecture in our school that make for great photographic landscapes!

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I have the students create storyboards – just a sketch of what they want to do for their photograph and I give them a hand-out with some questions to help them solve the riddle of this project.  For example, what emotion will they convey?  Will it be funny?  A depiction of social injustice?  Romantic?  Who will be in it?  What will they do?  What will they wear?

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In addition, we talk about POV – will the camera be at eye level or above eye level (w/ photographer standing on a ladder or standing at the top of the stairs looking down) or will it be at rat level?  And is it an active or passive photograph?  Is the viewer directed to what the people are doing or what the rats are doing?  Or is the viewer looking at what the people are looking at?

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You see, there are a lot of options and a lot to think about.  Sandy Skoglund’s models wear the same color to create rhythm and harmony.  Successful images would be ones where the photographer coordinated their models to do the same.

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I assigned the dates for their photographs, which were taken during class or after school if they wanted to take the shot upstairs (no one did this year). The rats were housed on carts that they rolled out to the installation area.  They did this unsupervised (I know!  Can you believe it?  I am actually letting go of my inner control freak!  It’s a slow process but it is happening!).  I gave them the camera and they came back with the rats and several shots. They told me which one they wanted and I printed them.

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While this was going on, the rest of the class worked on a wood sculpture lesson based on the work of Marisol Escobar.

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All of the photographs are on display in the school hallway.  In addition to seeing great art, the fun of it is to view and search for their rat – is it a star or a supporting player? And of course, it is fun when they see themselves as models in their friends’ pictures.

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Artwork is assessed as follows – how closely it resembles the storyboard vision, composition, which includes how well they have utilized foreground, middle ground and background concepts, and if characteristics of the work resemble Sandy Skoglund’s.  The rats were assessed separately (armature, plaster application, paint application).

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Yeah – this lesson encompasses so much, I think.  They must create a sculpture then create an image with a point of view, make that image come to life…and there is a lot of freedom, and yet, there is also tremendous responsibility.  So many of the images were nearly spot on from the original storyboards!  It was a really amazing experience this year – for my eighth graders and for me.