Images

Memento

I’m either three or four here (my sister Kathy, a year older). Drawing up a storm from the amount of paper in my lap.

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I’m not sure if you choose to be an artist.  Maybe you just are. Maybe we all are, but only some of us are lucky enough to embrace it.   Maybe your life on Earth is supposed to be filled with love for everything, and that includes depicting that emotion in art.

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I’ve been drawing for as long as I can remember.  I found these images in my baby book, done when I was five.

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I’m pretty proud of the fact that I could draw girls with necks – wow. It looks like I’ve named them too.  I imagine they are probably people from TV.

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When I was in 4th or 5th grade, my friends and I would draw these silly fashion beauty contests with puppy-faced models then ask people to vote on their favorite one.

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My friend Janet’s mother was an art teacher and I’ve since told them how much knowing them both contributed to my trajectory as an artist and ultimately my career – Janet at our 20th reunion and Carolyn Coit when I worked with her during my student teaching experience at Fayetteville-Manlius High School (and also her last year teaching before retiring).  I’d wanted to be as good an artist as I thought Janet was, and so, I spent many evenings and weekends in my room doodling away at my “craft”.

My grandparents (my mother’s parents) lived with us until they passed away.  In the 1970s, my grandmother had a group of lady friends with whom she played penny Bingo every other Saturday. They traveled from house to house, and one Saturday, when it was our turn to host, Auntie Blaga came to pick up her mother.  Mom told me to go and get my drawings to show her, as she had been an art teacher.  I think she’d already retired by then.  She was actually only a few years younger than Gramma, which was weird because she had the kind of effervescence and exuberance that was almost iconic.  I can’t explain that certain something but that positive energy probably contributed to her ninety-nine year long life.

I went to calling hours last Thursday and it was there I found out Auntie Blaga had taught art for forty-five years in the Syracuse City School district.  She’d changed her name to Evangeline Peters because she thought her real last name would be too difficult for kids to learn to pronounce.  The real world knew her as Eve.

She was so nice, so complimentary and, although it wasn’t at that moment I thought I would grow up to follow in her footsteps and become an art teacher, that day in around 1974 was a significant moment in my life.  The way she spoke to me, like I was an equal and not just a nine-year-old, you know?  I remember that conversation as if it were yesterday.

Fast forward to fifteen years ago.  I had an art exhibition at the May Memorial Unitarian Church in Dewitt, NY.  Auntie Blaga showed up. She was still driving then.  She didn’t look a day older twenty-something years later but was most definitely a lot tinier than I remembered her.

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I’d expected a bigger turn out but only about twenty people showed up.  I spent a lot of time writing press releases and was lucky enough to have the opening advertised in the newspaper. The reception was even covered on the channel 5 news so that was pretty cool. But the very best part of it was when Auntie Blaga said she’d seen my name in the arts section of the newspaper many times – she’d been following my career.

When something like that happens, it almost doesn’t even matter if you ever attain the kind of success you imagine for yourself. Auntie Blaga was here now, almost like a little fairy Godmother who really, really cared.  I mean, she must have been eighty-five then.

About six years later, she came to the reception I had at the Westcott Community Center.  It is an art venue in an old fire station on the corner of Westcott and Euclid, near Syracuse University.  She wasn’t driving anymore.  Her grand nephew, Craig, became her caretaker and he brought her up in the elevator and into the small space where my Mom had set up the food spread of cupcakes and way too many treats, as per usual.

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Auntie Blaga had injured her back, I think, and was using a walker, but her spirit was that same unique blend of happiness and sparkle. I couldn’t believe she came.  And the funny thing, like the way it is with old friends – we just picked up where we’d left off.

Later we spoke on the phone a few times and talked about visiting each other but I lived in a second floor walk-up flat and she said sometimes she couldn’t hear the door when someone knocked at her house.  We continued to correspond.  She’d write me letters at Christmas and tell me how proud she was of me.

I didn’t make the effort to visit her.  I should have and it makes me feel really bad.  Like I’m a horrible person for not being there for her. When I think about it now and think about the stuff I was going through at the time – I cannot justify why I wasn’t a better friend.

She never married nor had any children, see, and so she was kind of like me in the future.  I should have made the effort.

Auntie Blaga wasn’t related to me despite the moniker.  She had a real family of grand nieces and nephews.  I think her brother had seven children who had children.  She was well loved.

They didn’t know me.  But I do want them to know that she meant the world to me.   Auntie Blaga – knowing you contributed more than just a trajectory of career choice.  You believed in me before anyone else did.  You saw something in me that I didn’t see in myself then, something I want to believe is there now.

Good-bye for now, my friend.  I will cherish your memory in my heart.  Always.

 

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Texture Goddess

Yesterday was one of those perfect days where I did everything I set out to do.  It was kind of a thinking week and I finally executed decisions from the think tank.

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I was thinking about the Academy Awards.  In the past (read: up until yesterday), I scoffed at those who thanked their families for an award they received at work.  It seemed to me that the SHORT speech should reflect the specific aspects of the work and thanking co-workers was the way to go.  But then I had the flu and the subsequent bout with a debilitating sinus infection and the truth is that I could have never gotten through the week without help from Mom and Dad.  Mom for running to the grocery store to get me oranges, bananas, Jello, and meds, and sitting with me without any fear of getting sick herself, and Dad for helping me shovel/snowblow my driveway at least three times so that when I was ready to go out, I actually could fall back into civilization.  No matter what other successes I may have had otherwise, I owe so much of it to them for being there for me always, including supporting me and my decision to be an artist.  I am grateful they decided to get married when they were basically kids and are still going strong after fifty-three years of marriage.  So thank you, Mom and Dad.

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I don’t care if you call me a cat lady (at least you think I’m a lady) but I would also like to thank my two little indoor gin-gins for their companionship.  I tend to think they loved having me around this week.  My life was much like theirs.  Eat a little, dream a lot.  Go up and down the stairs and wonder what the hell I was doing up there once I got there, etc.  So thank you, Georges and Pablo.  Georgie is named after Georges Braque and Pablo for Picasso.  I’m kind of hoping they will want to help me make abstract watercolors this summer – I would love to see their polydactyl footsies stomping on Arches paper.

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They are not my first multi-toed nutters.  I found a picture of Meet-zee and me recently.  He was our first cat.  We got him on Halloween when I was about nine from a house on Erregger Terrace.  I was telling the story to some students the other day and it did seem a little weird, like not something that would happen today unless scripted into an episode of Criminal Minds or something.

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My sister, Kathy, and Anita Suritis and I were invited into the trick-or-treat house, went into the downstairs rec room and saw the orange and white kittens along with their mother in a comfortable cardboard box.  Their eyes had just opened making them about six weeks old, I guess.  We called Mom from the house and she came over in her bathrobe (not uncommon) and we got Meet-zee.  He only lived a year, hence no artwork.  Thought he ran away but only a few years ago Mom and Dad revealed that he was buried in the yard.  He’d been hit by a car over by where Kathy lives now.  Yeah, we used to let him go out at night and he would go hunting at Barry Park.

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So, back to yesterday, I re-joined Gold’s Gym, went grocery shopping, came home, gung-hoed on doing pilates, and went to an art show! Thank god for people like curator Anne Novado of Cappuccilli Fine Art, LLC!  She’d posted the event on Facebook, called Fine Art pairing at Wine 105 (105 Green Street, Syracuse, NY), and I had checked that I would be going.  Then the weather got all snowstorm again and I could have easily reverted to my specialty, staying home in jammies with a Duraflame log in the woodstove, but I did it.  I said I would and I did.  I ventured out (and I’m really glad I did)!

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I had a great conversation with the eternally youthful sculptor Arlene Abend and saw and chatted with Cheryl Chappell, Marna Bell, Sherry and Peter Allen, Linda Bigness, Anne Novado, and many others.

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I really love a captive audience so here it was – an art show at a wine store.  And I really, really love it when it isn’t a group show, when it is a one artist thing showcasing the depth and breath of one person you can truly fall in love with.  That person is Diana Godfrey.

Diana Godfrey (left) with Arlene Abend
Diana Godfrey (left) with Arlene Abend

Now, I’m not an art critic and I find that it isn’t really a job I want to have being that I am a colleague, a fellow artist.  With that said, I am completely head-over-heels for Diana’s work.  She is a texture goddess.  There were straight paintings, and paper collages – paintings on paper then torn and arranged in magnificent compositions on display, all framed by Cheryl Chappell from Edgewood Galleries.

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I met Diana for the first time last night and she had such a regal elegance.  I was born in Syracuse, lived two years in Florida – end of story.  I mean family is what brought and kept me here.  But Diana recieved her Master’s in Iowa and came here because her spouse had gotten a job at the university – not sure how long ago.  She spoke to me about the business of art and I loved that she could bridge both worlds – to be that talented and business savvy.  She makes a living selling art and well she should.

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I just love her sense of color and the texture in her work and the holy trinity of putting those together with the ease of rhythmic expertise. There is so much to see in her world.  It’s what I’ve always wanted in mine – a sense that once you are drawn in, you never want to look away.  You never want to leave.  Her prices are reasonable so you may want to head down there and pick up a few.  While you’re there you can throw in a few bottles of wine to enjoy while watching the female Superbowl tonight.  You’re welcome.

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My Booty Valentine

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There’s no such thing as a vacation when you are an artist because once you have free time, there’s almost an obligation to throw yourself into a project.  And by you I mean me.  I’m the never ending artist, except when I get sick, which is normally never until last week when I experienced the flu.

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I’m still all over the map with symptoms.  Yesterday I thought it felt like bronchitis and today I have the sinus headache, which I’m hoping will just leave on its own.  Blech.  But I still managed to FINALLY create the boot inserts I have always wanted to make.

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I bought duck cloth, polyester fiber-fill (JoAnn Fabrics),  Ziplock bags, and pinto beans (Target) and went to town.  I had a pattern from the Internet but it was really too big so I spent a bunch of time trying to figure out the right size and more time adjusting the filling.

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They take one straight sewing machine pass.  Add a rubber band to the bottom and fill them first with two handfuls of beans in a plastic bag then the poly fiber-fill.  Each top had to be hand-stitched but I did that while watching Anchorman 2 on Epix, so I laughed through the process.  I added the pom-poms this morning after viewing a tutorial on Youtube. The trick is to wrap the yarn around your hand 60 times to get them nice and full.

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I made eighteen of them, so nine pair.  The original plan was to make some to sell but I have eight pairs of knee-hi boots so I either have one pair to sell or the more likely choice – I will just have to buy another pair of boots!  It may not look like it, but this project represents an entire day of my life so selling them would not be very profitable unless I sold them for $25 a pair (at least).

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I guess I could do that but now that I finished the task, I really don’t feel like making any more.  Booty Valentine’s Day feels like a one-off.

Life. Liberty. Happiness. (on a belated Memorial Day)

Life.  Liberty.  Happiness. (on a belated Memorial Day)

Karen Tashkovski, Life. Liberty. Happiness., 18″ x 36″, 1997, oil & collage, $675 – This is one of my favorite paintings. It’s the only one of the Messages from the Other Voice series that incorporates the flag motif, (liberty component) My father escaped from a communist country so that I could have this life, the American starving artist! – and I’m very proud and happy to be labelled with that moniker because I feel that I am lucky to be living a creative life. It’s definitely hard to let go of the work even though the goal is selling it. Paintings are like my children; as silly as that sounds, I am emotionally invested.