Tag Archives: Syracuse University

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.


Come This Way




Point of Contact gallery is located in The Warehouse building, 350 W. Fayette Street (near the intersection with West Street) in Syracuse, New York.  It is an annex of Syracuse University located in the Armory Square area of town.  Its mission is to provide an arts dialogue with the community focusing on Latin American culture.




In the summer, however, the gallery opens its doors to a juried exhibition, welcoming all local artists to participate.  Currently, Sum Art 2017 is up until mid-August.  The art reception was last night.





For some reason, every time I enter this gallery, it starts out feeling like Dr. Who’s Tardis – bigger on the inside.  Last night, as I winded my way around the exhibit taking quick snapshots here and there around the many patrons who attended finding myself in the second room and nearly impaling myself on a tall wooden sculpture, I realized that idea is an illusion.



It isn’t so big and yet, this show really packs a punch.  So much to delight in – to see.  Large scale works and tiny collage pieces.  Realism in both painting and ceramics juxtaposed with pricey abstracts.  There was something for every individual aesthetic.





Last year I bailed on this show, lol.  I made up for it last night, even getting an Instagram fashion post out of the dealio – thanks to contributing artist Penny Santy (photo cred)!

BCBGMaxAzria romper, belt and clutch, BCBGeneration booties

Maybe next year I will go a step further and enter my artwork…. (???)






Gallery Hours: The gallery is open Tuesday-Saturday, 12-5 PM to the general public.









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.












Mayer on Cloth



At 6:00 p.m. tonight, Jeffrey Mayer, Associate Professor of Fashion Design at Syracuse University, will be presenting a talk on the Art for Every Home: Associated American Artists exhibition at the SU Art Gallery.  He will be focusing on the clothing and textiles that are in the back gallery.



I took these pictures when I was at the opening reception.



Here is more info taken from their Facebook invite page –

Join Jeffrey Mayer for a thrilling discussion focusing on the costumes and textiles featured in the current exhibition “Art for Every Home: Associated American Artists,” on dislay through March 19th in the galleries!

Post World War II fashion, with a new silhouette and a new appreciation for the designer as an artist, created the perfect opportunity for Associated American Artist to team with textile manufacturers to produce art based fabric prints. Creating series of textiles for both home decoration and clothing use these prints were marketed as being created by ‘fine artists’. The collaboration with textile manufacturers would only last for a very few years before AAA designed print fabrics would cease to exist. This lecture will include additional textile print examples from the Syracuse University Sue Ann Genet Costume Collection which document how the trend became popular and what contributed to its demise.

Jeffrey C. Mayer is Associate Professor and Program Coordinator of Fashion Design in the School of Design, SU CVPA, as well as the curator of the Sue Ann Genet Costume Collection for which he has designed many historic costume exhibitions. He is also author of ‘Vintage Details; A Fashion Sourcebook’ published by Laurence King, London.


The show continues though March 19, 2017.  The gallery is located in the Shaffer Art Building on Syacuse University campus.  Gallery hours are Tuesday – Sunday 11:00 am – 4:30 pm.  The gallery stays open until 8:00 pm on Thursdays.  They are closed during university holidays.  Call (315) 443-4097 for more information or email them at suart@syr.edu.


Educational Camaraderie




The gist of the art exhibition currently residing on the walls of the SU Art Gallery at Syracuse University in Syracuse, New York is the sense that art matters.  It was a factor in business in the 1930s, as artists worked in tandem with corporations to promote products and lifestyles.  A mutual admiration society of people helping people.




Thomas Hart Benton is at the core of this show, an artist a bit more well-known than others (with the exception of Grant Wood; he is now a household name to most of my students). They used Benton’s clout to generate sales for all the artists in the stable of a company called Associated American Artists.  Prints were sold to customers to bring art to every wall in American homes with lesser known artists being carried along for the ride of capital gain.  The company closed shop in 2000.



The conscious acknowledgement of and respect for artists is what I walked away with from this exhibit, a system that worked and should continue to work. I would love to see artists promoted by local businesses in this way – perhaps a group showing of work based on local and regional products that would catapult said products into the national spotlight.  It’s a  mutual win-win.  Artists would maintain their stye and sense of freedom in the creation of the art and still create work that represents a company’s point of view.




Syracuse University does an outstanding job curating this gallery.  It is remarkable how different it looks from the last show they had and how well more than one hundred thirty objects of art fit into the space.  I like to think I am well-versed in art history but … I learned so much tonight.  A truly educational experience.  I would expect no less from my alma mater!  Loved it!

This show, titled Art For Every Home (Associated American Artists, 1934-2000) came from Kansas State University, Manhattan, Kansas.  It will continue through March 19, 2017 with a gallery talk by one of the curators, Elizabeth G. Seaton. Ph.D, curator of the  Marianna Kistler Beach Museum of Art at Kansas State University, scheduled for Thursday, March 2, 2017 at 6:00 pm.






Sascha Scott, Ph.D., Associate Professor and Director of Graduate Studies in the Department of Art and Music Histories at Syracuse University, will give a presentation on Thursday, March 9, 2017 at 6:00 pm.



The gallery is located in the Shaffer Art Building on SU campus.  Gallery hours are Tuesday – Sunday 11:00 am – 4:30 pm.  The gallery stays open until 8:00 pm on Thursdays.  They are closed during university holidays.  Call (315) 443-4097 for more information or email them at suart@syr.edu.











Matter of the Minefield




Size Matters is the title of the latest art exhibition at Clayscapes Pottery, Inc. (1003 W. Fayette Street, Syracuse, New York 13204).  The ceramic sculptures by Syracuse University grad student Peter Smith will be on display and for sale through February 23, 2017.




The show is a combination of two things – the idea of farm equipment enlarged and age simulated to act as a metaphor for man’s “relationship with the environment” according to his literature, and brilliant-hue glazed ceramic weapons mixed with porcelain gas masks, which I am assuming constitutes man’s willingness to destroy it.




The work is found attached to walls, resting on tables, hanging from the ceiling and strewn about the floor.  This, for me and my band of fun artist friends, created a sort of surreal adventure in art wonderland, as we contemplated the minefield of meaning around the space.

It was the dialogue I was having as we posed in these pictures. Guns and missiles glazed in beautiful colors, a wall of blades that reminded me of the backdrop in a knife throwing performance at the circus….   Should we laugh or be afraid?  Pretty weapons.  Fragile weapons.  But still weapons.  And the haunting effect of decaying metal artifacts produced a kind of guilt-ridden sorrow.



There is definitely something about Peter’s work that makes you want to start a discussion.  I love the idea of that narrative.  Love the way the work fits together in a cohesive way and yet any one of the pieces could find a home and continue to resonate on its own.  These gas mask castings are priced individually.


It was surreal and beautiful. Like whimsical horror. I just love this meeting of minds, love the way a college student can be such a free thinker, creating art for art’s sake but also as a means to tell a story or voice an opinion of the world as he sees it.  It’s all in the perspective!  You really ought to see this show.


You can read about Peter in this month’s issue of Ceramic Monthly.





The gallery is open Tuesday – Saturday from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm.  Call (315) 424-6868 for more information or visit their web-site at www.clayscapespottery.com.  They are also on Instagram (clayscape_pottery) and have a Facebook page (Clayscapes Pottery)!




Seeing the Light

At the artist reception on Wednesday night at Light Work, I fell in love.  Yes!  This is something that I seem to do easily lately.  I am in love with life, so what can I do?

In this case, the objects of my affection are Ben Altman’s photographs, which are hanging in the hallway of this beautiful venue (316 Waverly Ave., Syracuse, NY).  They will be there until July 22, 2016, if you want to see them in person.


Here is a link  to the whole shebang on the Light Work website –


Altman uses an old-fashioned camera to take photographs of people using their cell phones to photograph memorial sites around the world.  He is sort of a voyeur looking over the shoulders of these tourists to create images that have an eerie-beauty to them.  The memorial site is blurred but we can see a part of it through the tourists’ viewfinders.

So, you kind of say – ohhh, that’s pretty – then you read the title and you are looking at a picture taken at Auschwitz or one taken at the site of the Oklahoma bombing.  It is just this startling feeling of, like, OMG, I just thought a place of utter sadness was so beautiful.  Then you feel totally weird for liking it.  So you go back and look again with the new knowledge and feel super weird, because it is still so hauntingly beautiful.

And by you, I mean me.


What a profound experience.  The photos are very large.  They are all the same size, framed the same way, which alerts us to the fact that they are equally important.  I just love the concept, the follow through, the process of capturing frame-in-frame shots that are all different, yet remain in harmony.

Here is his artist statement –

“Tourists at iconic sights almost automatically photograph with their smart-phones and cameras. This act becomes more complicated at memorials, sites, and museums that commemorate episodes of mass violence. Over the past few years I have photographed visitors and their screens at many such places. The people in my images are strangers who are mostly unaware of my intention, even though I use a hand-held 1940’s 4×5 press camera. My vintage equipment fits well with thinking about the present in terms of the past.

“Raising a device between oneself and a site of atrocity can be seen as distancing and reductive. However an impulse to manage and diffuse what these places mean is understandable and perhaps necessary. Often the memorials themselves depict the appalling, chaotic events they represent with unwarranted coherence or with the blankness of preserved artifacts. They invite engagement but also obstruct it. The memorials and the photography each suggest questions: how to see these sites; how to empathize with the unknowable experiences of the people who were caught up in the events; how to understand the ways in which past horrors configure our present world; how to live with our knowledge.

— Ben Altman, March 2016″



When I was in Jersey City, NJ, I took a picture at the memorial they have honoring the New Jersey residents who died in the Twin Towers.  It is two walls of granite with names on each side and when you walk through towards the waterfront, the Freedom Tower sits between them in your sight line.  It is an emotional experience to stand there and witness.  As a tourist, I took a picture exactly the way Ben Altman explained in his statement.  But my photographs contain my own reflection. I guess in this way, I become one with my empathy and that is a good thing.  Altman’s detachment invites the viewer inside in a way that allows us to see the light of beauty in darkness.



For more information on Ben Altman, find his website here.