She was resolute in her determination to create art on her own terms.
I have known Syracuse artist Arlene Abend for thirty years. We met when I joined the now defunct Visual Arts Committee at the Civic Center. We held juried exhibitions and installed the work of local artists on the walls of the space – a captive audience situation, which lead to several sales. My sister even bought someone’s art from there and I met my first patron who ended up buying several of my paintings over the years.
I left the program after about four years. I wanted to do member exhibitions and everyone felt that was self-serving. Later, they moved the exhibitions to the PBS building (was it? I don’t really remember) but they did start having those member’s shows.
I have always felt the same way about the Everson Museum of Art. They would bring in these out of state artists who’d get recognition from our less established museum subsequently gaining the confidence to go on to illustrious careers. I couldn’t understand why the Everson didn’t cultivate from within. That seemed the perfect opportunity – to big up our talented local artists and catapult us towards successful art careers nationally. It would be a win-win as it would generate interest and revenue for the museum because there would be so many wealthy and amazing artists who would give back. I guess I was never thinking universally, but selfishly (my vortex contains the dream of showcasing my art in all four of the upper galleries – I can 100% fill them), The idea that we are an art community that helps and supports each other – is that too daft?
Well, it’s finally happening. Elizabeth Dunbar has begun this trajectory and we can currently see this manifestation in the form of a feisty little ninety-year-old woman who is currently showing her sculptures in the Robineau Gallery at the Everson Museum of Art.
We create our own realities and Arlene Abend’s road has been one primarily of family and deep-rooted friendships combined with the solitude of her artistry. Every one of us has stated a collective “it’s about time” in reference to this exhibition!
The bumpy amorphous shapes in her metal wall sculptures sort of mirror the curves in her path/emotions in her path – health issues, worry, relationship heart break, disappointment, money struggles, fears…and yet, the tiny humanoid figurines showcase her whimsy and humor, her belief in the human spirit even while the resin pieces indicate a sort of trapped suffering.
This exhibition has always been in Arlene Abend’s vortex – of that I am certain. It’s almost as though the resolution was in lowering the resistance. Lessening the struggle in favor of the resiliency of the human condition. Here she is at the apex of her career, all ragged edges, highs and lows, structures and voids, liquids solidifying inside her mind for all of us to witness – a life lived with an expectation to share it in all its incarnations.
It really does not matter how much time it takes for a dream to come true. That’s the beauty of it.
Arlene Abend – RESOLUTE is on display through April 17, 2022. Visit the www.everson.org for information regarding hours of operation and admission price or call (315) 474-6064.
Yes – Joyce, Penny and I were gallery hopping Friday night. Here we are at the Edgewood Gallery for the Mixed Media show! (216 Tecumseh Road, Syracuse, NY 13224)
This show is comprised of Clare Willson’s whimsical mixed-media pieces combining metal found objects with a painted under-structure, Arlene Abend’s metal sculptures and copper jewelry, Talking Trickster Studio’s pottery by Amy Komar and Sheila Roock and Terry McMaster’s abstract art.
Clare sold four small pieces before she even arrived for the opening, which is so great and worth the wait. Cheryl Chappell, gallery owner, curator and framer extraordinaire, books her artists well in advance, sometimes as much as five years in advance!
It is really very impressive how each exhibition is so different from one another, and each pairing of artists works so well together. That, combined with the punch Cheryl packs in terms of breadth of works fitting so nicely in the space, the great spread of wine, grapes, hummus, crackers and Brie, and the always amazing conversations with all my cool artsy friends, made for a great time!
Clare’s boyfriend bought her one of Arlene’s fabulous necklaces. Arlene Abend always surprises me with something new. Although she prefers to work in steel (“I hate copper – it doesn’t fight back” was what she said with a smile on her face), the copper jewelry appears simultaneously delicate and strong (or feisty more-like, lol). Arlene is such a spit-fire. I just love her to death. I am always telling my students the story of how she was in art school, took a metal-smithing course on a whim and fell in love with it. You never know where art will take you is the point of that story, and a result of Arlene’s journey are these wonderful reasonably-priced pendants and pins.
Amy Komar is another one of my Facebook friends who until last night, I hadn’t actually met. As with social media though, we seemed to know a lot about each other and ended our conversation by hugging it out. I loved her positive energy! She glazes the collection of pottery while her Talking Trickster Studio partner Sheila Roock is the wheel-throwing expert. Many of the pieces are created in porcelain with a fun-loving cat-(dog? no whiskers so…)man and other whimsical imagery decorating the surface. I believe these pieces may be cash and carry while the wall art will remain on display until the take-down date of September 23, 2016.
I met Terry McMaster for the first time Friday night. Lol, I didn’t get a selfie with him – oh well, next time! He is known for his photography – I purchased a print from a basket of cards he was also selling. These new paintings are somewhat of a departure for him. He agreed to a future exhibition in the library gallery at Chittenango Middle School. I am looking forward to working with him in the future! Exciting.
Call Cheryl Chappell at (315) 445-8111 for more information including the contemporary art and frame shop’s hours. Check out the web-site too!
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.
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.
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!)
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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….
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.