Once upon a time in a lifetime of mine long, long ago I worked in New York City. Ok yes, decades ago at this point but there were things outside of work that are still these pleasant snippets of enjoyable experiences and memories. Among them was there was (and still is) art everywhere.
Music, art, theater. Subways with poetry on posters like my favorite poem by William Butler Yeats:
When You Are Old
When you are old and grey and full of sleep,
And nodding by the fire, take down this book,
And slowly read, and dream of the soft look
Your eyes had once, and of their shadows deep;
How many loved your moments of glad grace,
And loved your beauty with love false or true,
But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you,
And loved the sorrows of your changing face;
And bending down beside the glowing bars,
Murmur, a little sadly, how Love fled
And paced upon the mountains overhead
And hid his face amid a crowd of stars.
Hearing fabulous jazz bands at the Blue Note. Rediscovering Caffè Reggio on MacDougal.
All of the various street fairs, and flea markets, and art markets. Dusty old bookstore, antique stores, thrift shops.
A lot of what I liked at the time was down around Greenwich Village. There were so many cool stores and places to check out.
And then there were all of the artists you would see hawking their wares outside of various museums all over the city like the Metropolitan Museum of Art. A lot of this still goes on, incidentally…in between the knock off designer handbag stands and so on.
I was young and well when you are young your salary doen’t go far and funky shoes from a boutique on the Upper West Side was likely to win out over art because well…you couldn’t wear a painting to happy hour, right? But here and there there were artists I would see and just liked for whatever reason. Not necesarily them personally, but their work.
There was this one artist named Anna Tefft Siok whose work I had seen somewhere one time that I liked, but had then forgotten even her name. It had been a bird watercolor. An owl. Sort of abstract but I liked it. And that was saying something because abstract is not really me.
I had not seen work from this artist again in the intervening years until a piece popped up on eBay a year or so ago. Dishfunctional in West Chester had this woodpecker for sale in their eBay store. It was that artist from long ago. I remembered the owl. Her name was Anna Tefft Siok. Only I did not want to pay what Disfuntional was asking for something I would have to definitely re-frame.
So I watched the woodpecker print and waited…and over a year later I pulled up the Disfunctional listing just to see. The print had not dropped in price but when I put in the artist’s name another copy of the print showed up with an antique dealer in Maine. At less than half of what the other exact same print was listed at. That seemed more reasonable to me. (I have found the Disfuntional prices to be a little high at times, sadly.)
Today I took my newly found woodpecker to be framed. Framers Market Gallery in Malvern is who I use for all of my framing. As a related aside, they also represent quite a few Chester County artists. I will have to take something off of my walls when the woodpecker comes home.
I love the process of finding the perfect mat and frame. Framers Market Gallery is very patient with me when it comes to that. And the owner Jayne has impeccable taste.
We ended up with a double mat and a frame which will pick up the texture of the woodpecker’s tree:
The frame my print arrived in was older and while in o.k. condition, the print had never been properly framed and you could see some yellowing on the edges – nothing which was properly acid proof was in the frame with the print and when we took the old mat and paper away from the print we could see the damage from inexpensive framing, sadly. When it is finished, the woodpecker print will be framed properly and last a long, long time.
Curious about the artist, I went a Googling. I discovered she had gone to RISD in Rhode Island and had taught for years at Greenwich House Pottery and the 92nd Street Y.
I found her obituary, which told me more about her:
Courtesy of Greenwich House and the pottery staff the following sentiment from them was shared with me about my rediscovered artist:
Esteemed faculty member Anna Siok taught children’s classes at Greenwich House Pottery from 1958 to 2009. Throughout this period, Anna’s generosity of spirit enriched many lives. We established the Anna Siok Award in her honor in 1995, which honors her life of creativity, nurturing support and enduring presence. We continue to give out this award annually to an artist at Greenwich House Pottery who displays excellence in handbuilding.
I will note I also contacted the 92nd Street Y. Sadly, they had absolutely nothing to share. What I got was “Unfortunately we don’t have her bio on file. Good luck in your ongoing search!” Anna Tefft Siok taught at both places for over 50 years. I know she died in 2010, but seriously? They had nothing on file? It’s like she never existed.
I am glad Greenwich House too the time for me. I urge people to check out Greenwich House Pottery. It seems really cool.
In the obituary online, I found photos of my artist:
And once again that is the thing about art: buy what you like. It does not have to be expensive. It does not have to be a famous artist, although Anna Tefft Siok was respected and was well known throughout her life in New York.
Art brings me joy. I have core things I will never part with (my Margery Niblock wood cuts for example), but I will replace art pieces I discovered with other pieces I discovered. Tastes change, we evolve in what strikes a chord with us at different stages of our lives.
Art brokers and gallery owners alike probably wouldn’t like me saying art doesn’t have to be rare or priceless to hold huge amounts of monetary value. But art should make us happy, evoke a memory, provoke a memory, cause a new memory to happen. Or when all else fails, you just like something. And no one else has to like it. Only you.
So many people love art yet live with blank walls. Sometimes I think it’s because they do not know what to buy. Or are afraid. To them I say: what do you like? What would make you happy?
For me it makes me happy that I stumbled upon an artist once again I had seen long ago. And living in the woods, having a woodpecker print is kind of appropriate, I think.
I will close with one last photo of this artist from her 2010 obituary. Painting in the summer. I now have a cool provenance to go with a print I just liked.
Explore art. Support local artists wherever you live. Life is too short for bare walls.