Tag Archives: Yolanda Tooley

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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.