Category Archives: Karen Tashkovski

Land of the Living

According to the blurb in the SU Art Galleries’ newsletter,

Artist Kiki Smith has been the subject of numerous solo exhibitions worldwide, featured at five Venice Biennales, and is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Among her many honors is the recognition by TIME Magazine as one of the “TIME 100: The People Who Shape Our World.”



She is a living legend in the art world, a kind of giant, a dichotomy of sorts because in person she really is quite delicate looking with slender features.  Her hands in particular, which seem a stark contrast to the sort of macabre drawings they produce.  Kiki Smith is my favorite artist’s favorite artist.  I read that somewhere decades ago.  Jasper Johns is famously tight-lipped to disclose the inner workings of his mind.  Smith is similarly private.  The language with which gallery director Domenic Iacono uses to describe Smith’s prolific career’s trajectory reminds me of this thing I read by a dating coach who insists women must keep men off-balance by speaking gibberish, like saying one thing and flipping it on its side to keep them guessing, lol.  Not to say that his words are not an accurate portrayal.



Yes, I saw immediately via Smith’s slide presentation on Thursday evening, February 15, 2018 in the lecture hall adjacent to the gallery in Shaffer Art Building at Syracuse University how the work relates to life from birth to death and how that relationship is reproduced in a type of modern allegory.  It’s just that the description gives the impression that the artist set out to make particular meaning in her work, that there was clear and deliberate intent to be a crusader of issues or whatever.  And so, this presentation was like a breath of fresh air to me because it wasn’t what I expected at all.



There were around (or over) three hundred people in attendance, many of whom students searching for a road map to art success, a short-cut maybe despite their unique circumstances.  Penny Santy, Laurel Morton and I had a different experience.




She said, “I don’t know” a lot.  My friends and I responded to the realness of her being. Kind of reminded me of the Star Trek TNG movie where they time-travelled to meet the guy who invented warp drive.  How they had studied him in school and expected him to be a type of god only to find him to have the same sort of trials and tribulations as any one of us.


Smith sat in a corner until she was introduced then raced up and got caught up in the microphone’s battery, which messed up her hair and caused her to flop into position and, while struggling with the technology, to utter, “I’m totally discombobulated.”



You can hear my laugh in a large group situation.  I really should get a job sitting in the audience during the taping of TV sit-coms.  It was this unexpected sort of absentminded normalcy that I fell in love with.  Because Kiki Smith was not there to teach us to be like her or offer advice on the inner workings of the international art world or art super-stardom.


She was here to share her art.  It was her focus on the specific and unique problem solving issues related to art material and rudimentary technique that propelled her journey, which if plotted probably resembles a scribble rather than a connect-the-dot drawing.


Some people think or expect that you should make the same kinds of art forever because it creates a convenient narrative…I want my work to embody my inherent contradictions.



Art, she said, is not meant to be permanent and neither are we.  It is simply a thing we can do to make our marks.  It passes the time.  You can sell it or give it away to friends. This despite also indicating that 90% of her art is self-owned and in storage, which most of us can relate to, lol.  She acknowledged that she was priveleged; she mentioned her father several times as well-known sculptor Tony Smith.  She said she was a college drop-out who had an inkling to become a baker and chef but never really learned to cook.  So she began to experiment with cheap or rather, non-archival art materials to sort of replicate the braid strands in challah bread and from that her artwork evolved through the evolution of several decades to sculpture, jewelry making, tapestry and stained glass via printmaking.



My father was a baker and chef so I was amused by this.  The internet is littered with people who chastise her, thinking her success is solely attributed to her father’s connections and not to her talent, creativity and attitude.  Had she and I been flipped at birth, I can safely say that her self-proclaimed lack of culinary skills would not be in jeopardy.  Parents raise you – they do not do the work for you.  Everyone knows that.  You and you alone create your life.



Her journey has taken the New Jersey native around the globe – to Germany to paint on glass, Iceland where the tapestries take years to manufacture and, as mentioned, to Venice, Italy several times for the Biennales.  She has even worked on and off as an adjunct professor at NYU and Columbia!  It was a sort of Alice in Wonderland type story where help became available when needed.  Experts in their fields there to assist in creating the vision so that she could maintain the integrity of her mark-making, revisit old drawings and turn, turn, turn leaving no stone unturned – flipping everything on its axis until an idea had/has been fully explored.


It was this part that I just loved.  Naturally, the point to me is meaning.  Not meaning in her work, more like, the meaning of my own life.  I saw the seemingly disparate dreams I have come together.  I saw my own path and how I got to where I am.  I am a dreamer first and foremost.  That is abundantly clear to me.


A writer, an artist, fashion designer, teacher, friend.  And within these categories, sub-categories (in the case of my art, I am across the board with watercolor, collage, encaustic and all that).  But I do see how it is all related and that is a beautiful thing.


I am so grateful I had the chance to meet Kiki Smith and selfie with her too, of course!  It truly is all about our personal journeys.  We are all exploring the body, the muse and the spirit in an experimental way.  Smith relayed the bit about how her mother’s passing, as well as the death of a beloved cat affected her work while I have sort of been hibernating all winter, I guess you could say, dealing with my own thoughts of mortality.


Many of you know that I have been absent from work.  I have another month of healing from a medical thingy and that includes slowly getting back to exercising in a couple of weeks and venturing outside my little corner of the universe.  Before you get all freaky with the I’m sorry-ies, I am totally fine.  Trying to be private and like, kind of forgetting that people have noticed that I have been out of the public eye.  I mean, I put myself here so there it is.


I am discombobulated in my own way, but I decided that instead of hiding from the world entirely or walking around with a dumb old grimace on my face, I will choose to smile.  Smith said sometimes she is thinking about some weird murder movie while making art.  She doesn’t want people knowing what is going on inside her brain.  I tend to agree with the limits of what should and should not be revealed.  People are going to believe what they want to believe and say things about you and/or about your art and it really is not anything you can control.  But you can/I can control my own experience and I choose happiness.


So grateful to her – an amazing artist – for coming to our neck of the woods to be herself in such an inspirational way.  We are all here together, in the land of the living, and that is a precious thing.  I appreciate the love I know I feel from friends, family, students and readers of this web-site.  All of you have shaped my world and I appreciate you all very much. ❤

Kiki Smith and Paper:  The Body, the Muse, and the Spirit was curated by Wendy Weitman and is here courtesy of Oklahoma State University Museum of Art until March 9, 2018.  Visit for more information about the SU Art Galleries including hours of operation.





Thirteen paintings from my angel series “Futura” are currently on display at the Half Moon Bakery & Bistro in Jamesville, New York!  Bobbi Petrocci and I pulled the switch-a-roo – she took down the CBA Hope for the Bereaved exhibit and installed my show by lining up these encaustics to look like ethereal soldiers hovering from above to love and protect the foodie patrons at this wonderful café.



The paintings are $111 each.  If you want one, just let proprietor Debbe Titus know.  She can contact me and I will meet you there.  You will get to take one (or more) home for Christmas!  They really do work best in multiples!  They are small:  8″ x 10″ paintings on masonite mounted on 11″ x 14″ chalkboard.



It is always such a thrill to exhibit here.  I have a fondness for a captive audience – people who do not ordinarily go to art shows, so we bring the art to them.  Making the invisible visible is what it’s about.  The show will be up during the month of December 2017.


Dish Babies



Gratitude is in abundance in November.  It is in the air we are breathing here in Syracuse, New York  The cold air that is making its journey across the ocean as I write this, which may actually bring with it a snow day or at least a two-hour delay on Monday (according to my meteorologist friend), is actually clearing our sinuses of the allergens from last season with every breath we take.

We are grateful for the freedom from headaches and nausea associated with said allergies, lol.  By we I mean specifically me, but I assure you, there are many who share the same sentiments.

With Thanksgiving fast approaching, we (again me, lol) are all more keen to bring conscious awareness to our love and appreciation for our lives – our families and the pets we love, our friendships both near and far, and all of the things we love (yes! like art!).


I hosted a dinner party last night along with my friend Bobbi Rock Petrocci – Friendsgiving 2017, our 3rd annual and the biggest to date with thirty people dining together in the private room at Grover’s Table in Fayetteville, New York.  It was a blessed evening.  I just feel so overwhelmed with gratitude and love for these amazing people.



Last week, I met Bobbi at the Half Moon Bakery & Bistro in Jamesville, New York to assist her in installing her latest exhibition of Christian Brothers Academy student artwork.  I did very little.  She is an epic installer, equipped with level, hammer, tiny nails and the perfect plan to display these very special diminutive plates.  I just provided the oh-that-looks-so-goods, and was the first to make a purchase.


They were made by CBA art club students in grades 7 – 12 for the purpose of fundraising for Hope for the Bereaved, a grief counseling group.  These dishes are infused with color and spiritual messages, and/or delicate imagery meant to allow the flow of positive energy to encompass the viewer and subsequent owner.  They are priced at $10 each.  You put your money in a jar on the counter and write your name on the accompanying master grid to secure the one you want.  A butterfly sticker is then placed under the purchased piece until November 30, 2017 when the show comes down and all the artwork are released to their respective new owners/homes.


These dishes epitomize kindness, the idea that we help each other heal; that children are just as capable as adults are to feel, express and share the positive vibe of love.  Each piece is unique.  I am sure that you will find one that speaks to you.

And while there, give thanks to amazing proprietor Debbe Titus who has been busily creating, crafting and baking pies to sell for Thanksgiving, as well as offering daily specials of breakfast and lunch – soups, salads and sandwiches that are very, very yummy – and of course, desserts like half moon cookies and pumpkin bread, cupcakes and all things deliciously amazing!  So grateful! ❤


Pigs for Sale



You may have noticed the development of pig sculptures – I’ve had them on the counter as background in my #ootd pictures.  The project had a couple of components.  Students created armature with paper towels, masking tape, aluminum foil and a recycled bottle of juice or iced coffee (I have tons!).  The sculptures were engulfed in Pariscraft then painted.  Once they were done, the artists took their pigs to a secret location somewhere in the school and using their I-Pads, photographed them in a composition.  It was a really fun project.




My Facebook friends inquired if the sculptures would be auctioned off.  I mentioned that to the students and a few got the professional artist bug, lol.  So, some of the pigs are for sale.  Proceeds will teach students a valuable lesson about their time and effort.  All pigs are priced at $50 each.


These eight pigs are available.  Artwork can be collected at Chittenango Middle School.  Email me at to make arrangements to purchase.  All proceeds will go to the budding artists.


















OMG, I love, love, LOVE Halloween!  I dressed as a prom queen, a dark angel, a lion tamer, the Mona Lisa and Hermione Granger.  It started on October 20th – I chaperoned the school dance.  The following Wednesday there was a costume party at the Dinosaur BBQ in downtown Syracuse; Saturday it was a house karaoke party and on Halloween, I did a day and night thing – school then costuming at Notch 8 in Jamesville.  Why don’t we do this all year long?  Halloween is just the most creative holiday.  It is the best! So fun….

















Workin’ It

BCBGMaxAzria dress, BCBGeneration booties
Trina Turk top and pants, BCBGeneration sandals
Banana Republic cardigan, Bailey 44 top with BCBGMaxAzria T-shirt, BCBGMaxAzria pants, BCBGeneration sandals

Catching up on blogging – there is a new feature on word press – maybe not so new; I only just discovered it – that I can program when the blog articles are posted.  So, now I can write a bunch on the weekends and post throughout the week, which is genius!

Trina Turk top, BCBGMaxAzria leggings, BCBGeneration sandals
Lord & Taylor cashmere sweater, BCBGMaxAzria pants and sandals

It has been a whirlwind autumn – exercising, meditating, socializing, art business-ing, shopping, lol.  So much to do!  I have attended art shows that I did not post about due to their fleeting nature – those pop-up shows offer no opportunity to generate customers after the fact and I simply could not post in real time.  I am just not that organized, unfortunately.

BCBGMaxAzria sweater, Banana Republic skirt, BCBGeneration booties
Trina Turk top and skirt, BCBGeneration sandals

I was invited to join a group holiday art show.  I will investigate that more today to see if I have anything that will fit the space.  I’ll keep you posted.

Free People cardigan, Rachel Zoe top, BCBGMaxAzria sandals
Banana Republic cardigan, BCBGMaxAzria top and skirt, BCBGeneration sandals

Here are my most recent outfits of the day at work.  You can see the progression of the plaster pig sculptures behind me.  They are finished bar three.  Students painted them, added details and finalized the last component, which had them finding a location and photographing the pig in a composition.  I will post those pictures soon!

Screw blazer, Bailey 44 top, 7 For All Mankind jeans, BCBGeneration sandals
Banana Republic sweater, BCBGMaxAzria pants, Nine West booties

All of my students bring the school I-Pads to class.  Some have taken to photographing or videoing their progress on art projects and it is really fun to see that progression.  We are always in the now and tend to forget the immediate past on the way to the journey.  This is such an amazing way to witness their own incremental learning.  I love it!  In the earlier #ootd pics you saw the beginning stages – how students wrapped bottles with paper towel and tape and they just looked like blobs.  A little leap of faith later and these sculptures became badges of honor.  I love it when students take pride in their work.  It is just the greatest gift a teacher can receive.

Trina Turk dress, Karl Lagerfeld boots
Michelle DaRin Jewelry ring, Trina Turk top, 7 For All Mankind jeans, Nine West sandals
Banana Republic cardigan, Bebe top, 7 For All Mankind jeans, BCBGeneration booties

T Minus One Week





Futura comes down on Saturday, November 11, 2017 (11/11).  You can still see the show and buy the work in a cash and carry.  Paintings are $111 each.  Eye Studio is located at 712 W. Manlius, East Syracuse, NY.  They are not open today – hours are 11:00 am – 7:00 pm Monday – Saturday.



Here are the pictures from the closing reception last Friday night.  I am so grateful to Ilene Layow for offering me this wonderful space and throwing such an awesome party complete with music by Jerry Cali, and that gratitude is extended to all of my friends, patrons and family who came to support my art career.  Great time! ❤ ❤ ❤









Trina Turk dress, Michelle DaRin jewelry bracelets, BCBGMaxAzria sandals