Tag Archives: art exhibitions

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 www.suart.syr.edu for more information about the SU Art Galleries including hours of operation.


Triple Whammy




So, here’s something crazy weird and great – I will be exhibiting artwork in three locations during the month of April 2017.  Showing watercolors – the ones with the baseball themed titles – at the Half Moon Bakery and Bistro in Jamesville, New York.  No date as of yet for the reception, but I am hoping they will do a baseball cake or cupcakes for it.  That will be fun for spring, right?


I’m installing an exhibit at Dolce Vita World Bistro in Syracuse, New York on April 2, 2017.  It would be nice to keep them up longer than a month, but no deets on this yet.  I would love to have a gathering one evening, maybe fill the dining room with friends and have music too, but I haven’t planned that far ahead.  Art shows are a great excuse for a party!  I will either exhibit the encaustic crown series from 2012 or something more retro – oil & collage paintings from 1998.  I don’t remember what I called this series.  I made them in the 2nd bedroom of my apartment on Woodbine Ave. during winter break that year.  Does anyone remember anything pre-new millennium?

CROWNING GLORY(11X14-12) (243x300)
Crowning Glory, 18″ x 15″, 2012, encaustic, $125
LIFE. LIBERTY. HAPPINESS., 18X36, 1997 (300x156)
Karen Tashkovski, Life. Liberty. Happiness., 1997, oil & collage, $675

And finally,  my 1997 oil & collage series of paintings Messages (From the Other Voice) is up in the Chittenango Middle School library, Chittenango, New York, for the next two months!

STRENGTH, 18X36, 1997 (300x159)
Karen Tashkovski, Strength, 18″ x 36″, 1997, oil & collage, $675

So happy to be able to share my artwork in public spaces (you know, to captive audiences).  New work is actually coming soon.  My sister is opening a yoga studio around the corner from my house.  I will be making encaustic paintings to exhibit and sell there. I’m going to be turning my kitchen into an art studio during spring break next month to get those (horseshoe paintings and maybe hearts too) ready for Syracuse Yoga’s opening in May 2017.

What’s Right is Left




Dolce Vita World Bistro is across the street from Syracuse Stage – at 907 E. Genesee Street, Syracuse, New York.  The restaurant serves international cuisine, hosts musical and theatrical events in collaboration with Syracuse University and promotes local visual artists via monthly art exhibitions on the walls of its dining room.


Friday night I attended the opening reception for What’s Left, an art show combining the talents of Le Moyne College colleagues Erin Davies and Penny Santy.  The title is derived from a Robin Williams quote –

What’s right is what’s left if you do everything else wrong.

The show features wood collage pieces by Erin and oil paintings by Penny.




Meredith Cuddihy on violin provided the musical entertainment.   There was wine and cake, and other yummy fare, as well as friendship, camaraderie, and lots of fun!  It is always very special to support my friends in all of their endeavors and of course, any excuse for a party is a good one, especially now – we are weathering a severe cold spell in Syracuse, New York and no one really wants to hunker down in their respective shelters to wait it out.





According to their web-site, Dolce Vita is open Monday – Thursday 4:00 pm – 9:00 pm, Wednesday – Friday 11:00 am – midnight, and Saturday 4:00 pm – 11:00 pm.  They schedule private events on Sundays.  If you are interested in scheduling one, making a reservation or checking out the wonderful art, call (315) 475-4700 for the deets.












Black & White

roasters art show 1 001

While searching for the pictures for my last blog post, sifting through pages and pages of photo albums, I came across these gems.

roasters postcard 001

In 1999, I had an art exhibition at Roasters, a coffee shoppe that used to be next to where the Fayetteville, New York YMCA is now. It was owned by artist Ilene Layow and her husband. One wall was devoted to a mural and the other available for monthly art shows by local artists.

roasters art show 2 001

I used to make postcards for my events and had a 200+ mailing list to insure that I would get a 10% return – meaning about twenty people might come to the opening.  This party happened on a Sunday afternoon in December of that year so I was happy to have welcomed enough people to fill the whole place.

roasters art show 3 001

I created only eight pieces in this series, called Black & White.  For those of you saying to yourself, why not twelve?, I think when I went to purchase a dozen canvases, the store didn’t have enough in stock – something like that.

roasters art show 4

I prepped the canvases as I always do – canvas collaged to canvas, the addition of some drink coasters for texture.  Then I created compositions by using a ruler to break up the space including the use of a border, using the width of the ruler to establish it.  I painted with oils and added collage bits at the end.  My work was beginning to be more three-dimensional.  I am devoted to Jasper Johns, but I’d been to the Robert Rauschenberg retrospective at the Guggenheim in NYC in 1997, and I really fell in love with him and his combines. That may explain why I played with elements at the edges of the canvases for the first time.

I also had applied and won a grant from Rauschenberg’s foundation, Changes, Inc.  That $1,000 came in the nick of time when I needed it most, so he will always hold a special place in my heart and my art!

roasters article 1 001

roasters article 2 001

I used to write articles for the Bridgeport-Chittenango Times, a now defunct free weekly paper.  At the time, I was the only person besides the school superintendent allowed to share school news in a public forum.  I wrote about art lessons and community events such as Ozstravaganza and other neat things happening in the village (the birthplace of L. Frank Baum, author of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and dozens of other children’s books).

This may have contributed to my receiving such a super-sized article (posted above) about my exhibition, which may have assisted in sales.  Maybe not.  I sold five of the eight pieces – two to one patron and three to another.  My artwork seems to be purchased in multiples a lot, which is why I tend to prefer one woman exhibitions over group shows.

roasters art show 5 with Yolanda 001

Of course, this (above) is probably my favorite picture from this flashback – the late, great, BEAUTIFUL artist Yolanda Tooley.  She was such an inspiration to me, as I’ve mentioned before.  She always encouraged me to be fearless with my work and used the word brave – you’re very brave – the idea that exposing your emotions can leave you very vulnerable.  You can easily fall victim to criticism, but revealing oneself in this way is really the only way an artist can share their work with the world.

roasters art show 8 001

I’ve had a number of people compliment my honesty in regard to writing these blog posts, something that, if you read earlier posts, I wasn’t actually doing.  I started writing like a child learning to swim. Toe in first then comfort, and then diving into the deep end on a spring board with a bit more spring than she thought.

roasters art show 7 001

This series was titled Black & White because I was living on limited funds due to my obsession with fashion (mainly, as well as other actual wasteful spending), so I had planned to only use black and white paint, like Picasso during his blue or rose periods.  Each painting has text with either black or white written in different languages – four of each.

At least that anchored the theme, because I just couldn’t do it.  I can’t see the world in black and white nor shades of gray.  It’s complex, rich with color, limitless and…okay I’ll stop before I go off the deep end.  Oh, forget it – I’m already there.

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.