Category Archives: Karen Tashkovski

Jasper’s Legacy

There is this book called Why Cats Paint.

http://www.amazon.com/Why-Cats-Paint-Theory-Aesthetics/dp/0898156122

In it, the author presents a number of cats throughout the world who put their paws in paint and create abstract art.  I bought the book as a joke.  I had it for several years before I sat down and read the text.  What’s great about it is it’s written in a serious manner, like a master’s thesis, with various theories and evidence of proof to support them.  It’s hilarious but also brilliant, especially the part where the author convincingly suggests the cats are actually painting representationally.  That if you turn it all upside down you can spot clear contour line imagery much like they do on that show Ancient Aliens when they are trying to convince you that some stone mountain in South America is really an Egyptian sphinx.

Sometimes the Rosamond Gifford Zoo at Burnet Park’s animals make art that they auction off to raise money and there is a tiger who is an abstract expressionist master.  Her name is either Tanya or Tatiana – huge paw prints with the perfect juxtaposition of complementary colors.  Crazy, really.

Sunday was Jasper’s birthday and next Tuesday is his death day.  He was fourteen when he died.  I grew up with cats as pets but Jasper was the first pet I took care of all on my own.  He represented almost my entire career at work at that time (save the first year) and as well, he was the same age as the students I had just taught that school year.

He had cancer and I had to put him down, something I thought I would never ever do to an animal.  Never wanted to do.  It still haunts me.  He was alive in my arms when I kissed him good-bye and then I had him killed.  Everyone said I had done the right thing.  I saw the MRI.  Cancer appears as white spots on it and his whole body was pretty much snowflakes.  He was very ill.  He’d stopped eating and although the specialist said he was not in pain, I knew that pain was imminent.  I didn’t want him to suffer.

I just loved him so much.

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I found him at the Humane Association on Taft Road in Liverpool, NY.  I had called ahead looking for a tiger tabby.  I already knew I would call him Jasper after Jasper Johns.  He had been brought there one day prior and was sitting inside a milk crate.  If you have ever been there, at least it was like this in the ’90s, you would know that the cat area is one large room with cats of all ages roaming freely.  Smaller kittens were in cages.  Jasper was a kitten too but he was fifteen weeks old and about four pounds.

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I didn’t see him at first because I was busy trying to get a giant monkey-like black cat off my back.  It was clinging to my wool coat with monster claws.  I managed to escape and walked up to Jasper.  I picked him up and said, “Are you my kitty?”  I put him down and waited to see what he’d do.  I kind of walked away and he approached  me.  When other kittens his size did the same (I believe they were his brothers because I was told he came in with four others from his litter), Jasper hissed at them forcing them to scatter.

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I walked to the exit and checked to see if he would follow me.  He did and that was that.  Because I noticed that he had target markings on his fur!  Definitely a sign that we were meant to be.

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Karen Tashkovski, Roi, 30" x 30", 2000, oil, latex & collage, $675
Karen Tashkovski, Roi, 30″ x 30″, 2000, oil, latex & collage, $675

I made the bulk of my artwork during the Jasper years.  The cat paintings from the Echo/Rune series and Dream Time series were obviously peppered with Jasper references, both Jasper the man and Jasper the cat.  Lots of target markings and neutral colors, as well as stenciling and found object additions.

Rune-11, 18" x 18", 2005, mixed media
Rune-11, 18″ x 18″, 2005, mixed media, $200

I created hundreds of watercolors too.  Growing up I had a cat named Tiny who planted his foot in a watercolor painting I did in college, but Jasper never once wanted to paint.

Echo-3, 18" x 18", 2005, mixed media
Echo-3, 18″ x 18″, 2005, mixed media, $200

He was extremely feisty.  That hissing incident when we first met was not an isolated one.  He used to hiss at everyone except me.  Once he jumped on my sister’s friend (as she sat on my sofa) and bit her on the head.  The technician at the vet’s told me that she and Jasper were “blood-brothers”.  Yep, he did bite a lot too.  A lot a lot, and I was not the exception.  I still have scars on my arms to prove it.  Scarification, it turns out, was his art form.

Touch, 9" x 12", 2001, mixed media
Touch, 9″ x 12″, 2001, mixed media, $75

I have two cats now.  They are very cuddly and loving.  They do not hiss or bite.  More docile than feisty for sure.  I don’t know if they will turn out to be artists.  They are polydactyls, Georges (named for Georges Braque) with six toes on one foot and seven on the other and Pablo (Picasso, naturally) with five on each and both with nails intact; so with those giant tootsie paws they could well become the stars of the next Why Cats Paint if there is another edition planned.  They are already turning the wicker baskets into deconstructed confetti heaps, so, maybe sculpture is their thing.

Karen Tashkovski, Ruby, 11" x  7 1/2", 2001, mixed media paper collage, $50
Karen Tashkovski, Ruby, 11″ x 7 1/2″, 2001, mixed media paper collage, $50

 

Karen Tashkovski, Play, 18" x 24", 2000, oil, latex & collage, $500
Karen Tashkovski, Play, 18″ x 24″, 2000, oil, latex & collage, $500

 

 

 

 

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Feet First

When I was growing up, I really hated being different.  Ethnic.  Whatever you want to call it.  The long last name that no one could pronounce.  A first generation American with a family from a country no one had ever heard of.  The funny thing is my dad actually added a letter H to our last name (making it even longer) so that people would be able to pronounce it.

Tash * Cough * Ski

Not so hard.  Of course the accent can be on either of the three syllables, and when I say it really fast people are like – what?

As I got older, I learned to appreciate my individuality.  It obviously helped that the world seemed to be heading in the same direction.  Actresses like Renee Zellweger, for example, were using their real names and we learned to accept that.  I loved signing my last name to my paintings.  It made me unique.  Special.  I may be the only Karen Tashkovski in the universe!  At least I am the only one who comes up in a Google search.  But if you search Karen Tashkovski – Artist, you’ll get a different result.

There is another artist with my last name.  Vasko Taskovski is a surrealist artist (think Salvador Dali) who creates these epic landscapes.  I’m particularly impressed with his series of horse paintings.  They morph into sand castles, mountains, trees, oceans and skies with the kind of attention to detail that is really breathtaking.

http://www.vaskotaskovski.com

My work may appear less intricate in comparison, although there are several layers to it.  There’s the texture of the canvas, the drawing, oil painting, stenciling, and adding found objects.  The paintings are about my life.  My move to Florida was meant to be my escape, the way Dad escaped the Iron Curtain to come to America.  In theory, I would plant my feet on the ground of a new state and make a name for myself.

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I do have an unusual footprint, I think.  One that my sister referred to recently as a deformity because everything about her is so terribly perfect in comparison.  I prefer to refer to my feet as unique and special.  Well, something has to be, since it is not my last name, right?

We all need that – to find what makes us special, and embrace it whether or not someone else thinks it is weird or stupid, or freakishly different.  At this stage of my life, I honestly don’t think anything embarrasses me.  I really don’t care what you think about my feet!  Everyone’s toes are kind of ugly anyhow.

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I found the above illustration on the Internet.  It’s one of those pictures people always post on Facebook to get a conversation started.  I would say that my “roots” must be Greek, which is no surprise since Velushina, Macedonia is literally a hop, skip and a jump to the border to Greece.

My low toe is not depicted in any of those images but I did happen upon it somewhere else.

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Archeologists found this 1.5 million year old human footprint fossil.

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/02/27/science/27foot.html?_r=0

It is supposedly a man’s size 9 footprint and not a woman’s size 7 1/2.  But it looks like my foot, doesn’t it?  No, really.  It totally does!

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Am I a time traveler?  Who’s special now?

 

 

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.

July 2014 @ Sullivan Library

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Here are pictures from my art exhibit at the Sullivan Library.  The paintings are in the Community Room section and will be up through the month of July 2014.

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The 24″ x 30″ paintings are for sale for $100 each.  They are all framed – gallery style in maple.

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Several of the paintings are from my Pompano Revisited series created in 1996.

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They are all oil & collage works with found object items such as sea shells, playing cards and dominoes.

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They open at 10:00 am.  The Sullivan Library is located at 101 Falls Blvd., Chittenango, NY 13037.  Email me at karentash@twcny.rr.com if you would like to make a purchase or leave a comment on this blog and we can connect.

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Art in Oz

It’s almost time for my annual art exhibition at the Sullivan Library in Chittenango, NY.  Actually, they said I could install any day now but the show is technically scheduled for the month of July.  It is located at 101 Falls Blvd.  My art will be in their Community Room.  This room is available for parties and club meetings as well as local events.  In November, it acts as a polling place for elections.  The decor is all things Oz, complete with various cookie jars and 1st edition books as well as plywood statues of the main characters.  The last time I was there, Dorothy and company were disguised with mustaches, which I deduced to be their Halloween costumes.

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The library is the old State Bank of Chittenango.  They converted the bank vault into a cool reading room for children.  You have to go through a Munchkin door to get to it.  It’s just really cute.  I’m assuming that you know Chittenango is the birthplace of L. Frank Baum, author of The Wizard of Oz, but if you don’t, well, you’re welcome.

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I still haven’t decided what I will exhibit.  Hopefully I’ll get it together soon then post pictures.  No reception or anything but if you want to buy the art, contact me through this website or on my Facebook like page. https://www.facebook.com/pages/Karen-Tashkovski-Visual-Artist/167509472886

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Life. Liberty. Happiness. (on a belated Memorial Day)

Life.  Liberty.  Happiness. (on a belated Memorial Day)

Karen Tashkovski, Life. Liberty. Happiness., 18″ x 36″, 1997, oil & collage, $675 – This is one of my favorite paintings. It’s the only one of the Messages from the Other Voice series that incorporates the flag motif, (liberty component) My father escaped from a communist country so that I could have this life, the American starving artist! – and I’m very proud and happy to be labelled with that moniker because I feel that I am lucky to be living a creative life. It’s definitely hard to let go of the work even though the goal is selling it. Paintings are like my children; as silly as that sounds, I am emotionally invested.