Tag Archives: playing cards in art

Retrospective Reflection

My mom is not a hoarder.  Everything she has is organized – she just keeps a lot of stuff. In her defense, it’s a lot of our stuff, my sisters and me, things we left behind when we moved out.  I can ask her for the most random thing – a super-ball for playing jacks for example, and she will produce it in thirty seconds or less.

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I went over there today to hunt for vintage bridesmaid dresses for a Halloween costume idea I have and found a dress from 1978.  Yes, it still fits, which is hilarious because it just feels so weird to put something on that I wore when I was fifteen.  More so because it even exists, lol, and is actually in decent condition.

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I started looking at the old photo albums stored in heavy duty plastic bins in the basement, which took the better part of the afternoon – all the bad hair and bad posture pictures that make me cringe and think thank God we didn’t have Facebook then.  I’d rather be the keeper of my own image and so I brought the albums home with me.

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Yesterday I went to visit Linda Bigness in her art studio at the Delavan Center in Syracuse, NY.  We did a video interview and as soon as I can figure out how to send her the video through email- it’s about 45 minutes long – she will edit it for a future post.  Watching her work made me wish I had a studio like hers and that I was as compelled to paint everyday as she is.  I used to be.

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In 1997, I worked as a Master Teacher at the New York State Summer School of the Arts.  It was held at Cazenovia College that year.  I was thrilled to have been hired by former Syracuse University professor James Ridlon because at the time they were looking for high school art teachers and I taught elementary  (although my certification is K-12) and I didn’t even have tenure.  I taught one class in the morning and spent the rest of the time in a studio space painting 36″ x 36″ canvases.  This was right after my first year at my job.  I was still living in my parents’ basement (cellar dweller) and right after that two-week stint complete with living in the dorm, I got my apartment on Woodbine Avenue where I ended up existing for nine years.

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I had lunch every day with a Cazenovia art professor, Corky Goss, who later offered me the opportunity to exhibit in their gallery. Bring everything you have is what he said, because the space was so big.  I took that literally and framed a heck of a lot of paintings for the show the following year.

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I found pictures from that show in one of the photo albums.  I think they were pictures Mom took because you can see the reception spread and Mom always documents the food.  Upon reflection, it’s so funny because I still look at that show and remember how much I thought I had arrived as an artist and how I thought I was going to be phenomenally successful and all I would need to do is wait passively for the accolades and the next step to just happen to me.  The rollercoaster ride, you know?  Like it would just happen.

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I wonder how many other artists have had that same feeling.  Probably everyone of us at one time or another.  The moment arrives and you are so sure it is a turning point but then it isn’t, wasn’t.  Art is quite a ride, whether it is visual or performing arts.  You have to have a thick skin to deal with the rejection.  Maybe nobody has a thick skin.  It’s more that we try to focus on the positive experiences and remind ourselves of them when things are not going so well.  In my career, it was never so much about not going well, it was more success-nothing-nothing-nothing-success-nothing-nothing, etc.

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Maybe things will change, maybe not.  I’m not discouraged because I do feel very lucky.  I have my family and memories complete with decades old paraphernalia.  Reflecting on the past makes me realize that there have been so many good chapters in my life and a great many goofy ones.

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Artist’s Dozen

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So when I create art I have this thing about crafting a dozen pieces in a series.  It has to be twelve for some reason and when it’s not I feel a little bit like the the TV detective Monk – a little OCD-ish about it.  You can imagine what this is like for me when I sell only one out of a series and I’m left with stupid eleven.  It is, I don’t know – I’m weird, let’s just put that out there right now.

If you watch New Girl on Fox, you would have caught the last episode where Jessie explains about how we all have stupid stuff wrong with us – we’re all weird.  It’s a wonder anyone ever finds anyone to love, really. (Or am I the only one who identified with that episode?)

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These pieces are meant to be purchased together, so they are technically one work of art even though I signed each one for some reason.  They are 12″ x 12″ canvases, layered with thick canvas and painted with latex paint.

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I traced a heart stencil I hand-made and cut up all sorts of textures to attach resulting in individually unique hearts.  I added playing cards, suede and other fabric, and photographs from old calendars – Pre-Raphaelite imagery as well as Harry Potter film photos and international pictures from Paris, Greece, Scotland, Venice…and maps.

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I don’t travel at all but I feel like a traveler in a way because my artwork can go anywhere in the world and I can feel transported by it. I almost can’t believe how many people from different countries have viewed this website, by the way.  People from every continent.  I assure you that I have no cousins in South America or Africa.  I really need to get a passport and put myself out there for real, but then I would probably want all my pages stamped in the united colors of the over fifty countries represented here.

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The finished hearts are stitched with embroidery floss then I added collage items – checkers, Scrabble pieces, wooden spools, tinker toys, buttons, sea glass and coins.  Each is a separate entity but when together they tell a story, like always, a puzzle of my life or yours, or whoever embodies them/buys them and adds their own interpretation.

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The one above now resides in a friend’s house and I can’t tell you in words what that means to me because it is poetically emotional in a way I just cannot express.  It’s supercalifragilistically amazing when someone else cares for my work as much as I do.  If you want one of these sets, let me know.  I think I have five of them ($600 for a set of twelve).

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Creating Links

I joined www.linkedin.com.  It’s like Facebook, but without all the personal stuff.  People only post things regarding their jobs.  I connected with a lot of people I don’t really know because it tells you that someone is a shared connection with someone else so you just press connect and they usually accept.   There are groups you can join so I joined a bunch of art and art marketing ones.

What I learned is that for every opinion about how to do something, from making art to selling it, there is a counter opinion and factions of people who start arguing opinions, and soon we have an occupation with no concrete way to assess it.  It reminds me of the family that airs their dirty laundry in public.  Art and artists seem to make other people uncomfortable.  I get the sense that people don’t respect art as a profession.  Mainly because they don’t understand it.

Non-artists need concrete information to understand things and the truth is, there is concrete information, but some people, including artists, just don’t know it.  A woman had asked one group to share how they know a work of art is a quality work.  I said I use the art criticism format – description/detail, formal principles of art, and emotional content.  She replied that she was surprised (read appalled) that details should go first.  I’m all, what?  The order is just the format used in the textbook I use at school called Art Talk.  I am surprised that more professional artists don’t know how to criticize art properly – how do they know if their own art is good?

The problem is that some people do not give equal weight to the three components (ultimately four because using the other three you determine if the artwork is successful, the fourth component being judgment).  This woman felt that emotion was the key to art and should have top billing.  (Later she revealed that she was, in fact, a self-taught artist).  Naturally, people in mathematics or the sciences, or any kind of non-art related business don’t think highly of emotionalism.  These are the people who call artists artsy-fartsy.  It’s all just very frustrating.

I connected with a gallery owner through Linkedin who viewed this website then asked me to bring a few things to the gallery so he could see them in person.  Naturally, I was very excited that it took only a day to receive an opportunity and I felt like the universe was finally cutting me a break.  When I did meet with him with a bin of paper collage pieces and two 18” x 18” paintings in tow lugged through the rain, he proceeded to share his opinion of why he didn’t think my artwork would sell in his gallery or this town for that matter, which was to do with price-point, materials, subject matter and pretty much my entire aesthetic.  His advice was I should find out what the customer wants and make that.  Landscapes would be a good choice, he said.

Funny that, because a few months ago, one of my students told me she was going to have a booth at the Ozstravaganza Fest in Chittenango, NY.  I asked her what she was going to sell.  She said she planned to take some fantasy drawings and make them into prints.  I told her she should draw Dorothy and the other Wizard of Oz characters.  That’s what people will be looking for – because locals tend to forget that this festival is international.  People do find their way to that yellow brick road from all over the US and Canada and I think there were even people from the UK there this year!  After the event, she told me she’d taken my advice, made the Oz art and ended up making over $500!  Not bad for a thirteen-year-old, right?

So, I understand the gallery owner’s advice.  I’d given the exact same advice myself to successful results.  When I told the Oz/student story to my dad he said, “Why didn’t you do that?”

I think you know the answer to that.  I can’t do that.  I can’t make art that satisfies a need.  Not now, not ever.  I’m peddling the art I’ve already made, not trashing it in favor of a fickle customer’s whim.  My whole belief system regarding art is that you put a piece of yourself in everything you make, kind of like a Horcrux in Harry Potter but without the negative part.  You educate the potential customer about who you are…and they see you.  They understand you, connect with you and believe in you.  I feel like I am speaking a visual language, one you may or may not understand fully, but you might walk away feeling like you know enough and fill in the rest with your own context.

Yesterday at my sister’s garage sale, I sold four paintings.  (Needless to say, I proved that gallery owner wrong – I can sell work in this town!)  I sold one of my encaustic horse paintings to an elementary school-aged boy.   I explained to him my decision to mount the work onto chalkboard painted masonite.  The intent is that the new owner could write on the board with chalk, maybe draw horses themselves or name the horse – really anything.  And in this way, he would be contributing to the meaning of the work and we would essentially be making art together.  I feel that art makes that transformation even without an actual physical change – once it leaves the artist, it takes on new meaning, the one its new owner attributes to it. For example, a playing card can mean gambling or it can have something to do with fortune telling.  Most likely it is a symbol of the spirit of gaming, which may be a nod to childhood, bringing along with it happy memories.  And a horse is a horse, of course, of course.

I want to believe that I am right about all of this.  Well, I am right.  I’m just not making hundreds of thousands of dollars to prove it.  But this woman is.

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She was a music teacher but something possessed her to start painting.  An empty wall in her house provoked her to think she could paint well enough to fill the space.  This led to her quitting her job and painting full time.  She then kept going to see a Manhattan art dealer for critiques.  The dealer’s advice was to paint something that no one else paints.  Be unique.  She kept at it for months until she happened upon a cityscape idea that the dealer liked and now she’s selling paintings for $100,000 each.

When I told my dad, he asked, “Is this a real story?”

I’m like, “Yeah.”

So he said, “Why don’t you do that?”

I don’t watch Glee and I’ve never actually seen the High School Musical trilogy, but I am forever breaking out in song at work.  I don’t seem to care that I am not a trained singer and never participated in chorus once I hit middle school.  Someone will say something that triggers the first lines of a song I know the words to, and off I go in what I believe to be the same perfect pitch Mrs. Firth said I had at Tecumseh Elementary circa the early 1970s.  I like the idea that life could be a musical, so maybe I will find success in music.  Wouldn’t that be funny if me and this lady criss-crossed and I became an unlikely pop star?

But that would mean that no one should go to school for art or music.  And that’s the other debate I’m finding on social media.  The factions of self taught artists are against formal training because they think it’s hokum while the educated artists virtually roll their eyes.  I think you know where I stand on this matter, being that I teach art and believe in the creative process, as well as a strong need to develop creative thinkers for all career professionals.  The time-traveler in me doesn’t plan to go back and reverse my decision to become a trained artist any time soon.

 

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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Cards on a Beach

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I think this is the first article anyone ever wrote about my artwork.  I exhibited in Sweet Babas restaurant in Armory Square, which is an area in downtown Syracuse, NY, referred to as the Karen section of town in the 1980s by my cousin Nick, when it was just art frame shops and antique stores.  I think I was the only one who ever went down there back then.

Sweet Babas was built between two buildings so the exposed brick from the facades was the interior walls.  I loved the way my paintings looked in that place – I think it was something like seven feet wide and so it was an intimate dining experience.  I sold the painting pictured for $200.  It was one of my first oil and collage paintings, called Jacks, with card jacks as well as the metal game pieces.

For some reason, I really love that this article is plagued with typos.  You know how it goes – when you think you’ve finally “arrived” as a force to be reckoned with in the art arena, that you think you’re a big fish in the small sea of your local town – it’s just funny.  The artist Linda Bigness once told me that I would have to paint for twenty-five years before I’d get any real recognition (something like that) and in a way she was right.  It took me about twenty-five years to decide to create this website!

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The above article is from The Syracuse New Times, from around the same time because at the bottom where it says Art Around Town, they list my Sweet Babas show.  I’ve always loved captive audiences because they do not come for the art but they may fall in love with it and that emotional attachment can lead to a sale and even a life long patron, which is why I used to (and still do!) solicit for shows in restaurants and coffee shops, and libraries.  In this article, the author responds to the Goodyear blimp in my Pompano paintings as atomic bombs.  I have mentioned this to my students during lessons on art criticism.  Interpretation in the art criticism format is what you think the artist was trying to tell you – like why they made the paintings.  Maybe my playful Florida landscapes contained this ominous item and meant that life is fragile.  In a way, my life in Florida had its demise so maybe there is an underlying truth to her interpretation, but let me be honest and say that clearly, I was not that “deep” when I painted them.  The blimp is simply another device in my repertoire that reoccurs throughout the years.  You can take the girl out of Pompano but you can’t take the Pompano out of me.

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Karen Tashkovski, Deerfield Beach, 36″ x 48″,  1990, acrylic & collage, $1,000

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Karen Tashkovski, Pompano Beach, 36″ x 48″, 1994, oil & collage, $1,000

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Karen Tashkovski, White Pompano, 36″ x 48″, 1998, oil & collage, $1,000

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Karen Tashkovski, Three Crosses, 36″ x 48″, 1995, oil & collage, $1,000