in search of the art we love.

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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:

Image may contain: textWhen 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 storeIt 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:

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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:

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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:

I know people probably think this is strange, but it’s part of the provenance of the piece: who created it.  Now do I think her work is going to be worth tons of money? No, but I like it. Or I like this piece.

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.

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buy art that makes you happy

I found myself a small treasure today. “Society Hill” by Margery Niblock.

I have written before about family friend and artist Margery Niblock. She was a New York transplant who lived in Philadelphia for many, many years before heading north to Maine.

Margery has been a printmaker artist of woodcut and linoleum since 1958. The 1972 UNICEF Engagement Calendar had one of her woodcuts, “Fantasy,” chosen for inclusion, and her work was used as a cover and feature story in the then “Today Magazine” of the Philadelphia Inquirer She also taught private classes for both adults and children. (Yes, I was one of her students!)

Margery was commissioned by many organizations to do special pieces during her many years in Philadelphia — The Institute of Pennsylvania Hospital, Ars Moriendi, Atlantic Richfield Company (ARCO), American Friends Service Committee, Pearl S. Buck Foundation, Developmental Center for Autistic Children, and Support Center for Child Advocates.

In 1989 Margery moved to Maine, where she has had solo exhibits as well as illustrating quite a few books. In Maine, her drawings and woodcuts appeared in Greater Portland Magazine and the Maine Times. For a while she also produced beautiful jewelry made out of found beach objects – like shards of pottery and beach glass.

Margery, or Margie as I have grown up calling her, is a family friend. I have many memories of her and being in her home as a little girl which was across the street from St. Peter’s where I went to grade school. We are still connected today and I treasure her.

As I had already mentioned, she taught me how to do woodblock and linoleum cutting and printing. I still have the scar on my right wrist from when she warned me how to hold my tools when cutting and I did not listen. As a creative medium, I loved wood block and linoleum and I did some of it throughout high school.

To this day, Margery is still one of my favorite artists.  If I see her work anywhere (and it’s affordable), I buy it.  Her work represents very happy memories to me. (I see it and I smile.) I can still see her prints as well as the work of other artists fluttering on clotheslines held by clothes pins during the craft fairs of my childhood at Head House Square, known also as “the shambles”.

Circa 1974. That is me on the left watching a quilter at the Head House Square Craft Fair.

One time when we were little, Margie used my sister as a model.  My sister was sitting on the beach in Avalon playing with my mother’s wide brimmed straw hat and playing in the sand.

And during the holidays, Margie would also create these fabulous Christmas-y wood cuts. I have several of those framed and hanging in my home now as an adult. My mother saved them for me and a few years ago I framed my favorites.

When I stumble across her work now, it is referred to as “mid-century modern” . This inexplicably makes me giggle and I wonder since a lot of what’s out there was created when I was growing up, I guess that make me mid-century modern too?

Art brokers and gallery owners alike probably wouldn’t like me saying art doesn’t have to be rare or priceless to hold value to us. But that is a very simple truth. 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?

Living in Chester County, we have so many amazing artists living here among us. And the art these artists create are at so many price points, so there is literally something for everyone’s budget.

In Chester County we not only have galleries and studio tours, we have the Chester County Art Association. Their gallery in West Chester and their outpost in the Exton Square Mall. (You can find some of my friend and artist Catherine Quillman’s work there, for example.)

Art is everywhere around us.

My friend Sherry Tillman who owns Past*Present*Future in Ardmore, PA started First Friday Main Line years ago to literally put art in unexpected places. The whole thing was about making art accessible to everyone, and to make the process less intimidating.

Sherry is so right. So many are intimidated to go into a traditional gallery setting even if they should not be. But because art is everywhere, you can find art at consignment boutiques, thrift stores, rummage sales, fairs, and so on.

Today I stumbled upon the wood block I opened the post with. It’s one right out of my childhood years and the location is also right out of my childhood years. It’s value is I like it. It made me smile as soon as I clapped eyes on it.

I am literally really lucky that I have quite a few friends who are artists. I feel connected to their work in part because I know them.

Yet on the flip side, there is art I feel connected to just for the subject matter. I don’t know the artists at all.

So here we are in the season of giving so why not something homemade? Like art? Buy a piece of art even if it’s just a little print for yourself. And if you need something framed I will gladly direct you to Framer’s Market Gallery in Malvern. (They also represent quite a few local artists, so make sure to check it all out!)

Thanks for stopping by.

My perfect Thanksgiving card from my friend and artist Catherine Quillman

100 artists of the brandywine valley by catherine quillman

Recently my friend Catherine Quillman gifted me a copy of this glorious book she wrote, 100 Artists of the Brandywine Valley.

I love it! I think everyone should own it 😊 and you can read an excerpt HERE.

Catherine is very talented and just a wonderful human being!

You can read more about Catherine and what she has been up to on her website. (Catherine is always on the go, so her website is not updated often . She is also a regular contributor to West Chester FIG .

In addition to being a writer and author of many wonderful books (some of which I own!), Catherine is a working artist. You can often find her work at The Chester County Art Association . As a complete segue but related, the Chester County Art Association ofersterrific classes for children and adults and some classes are even free.

Catherine’s book 100 Artists of the Brandywine Valley joins my copy of Eugene D’Orio’s Chester County: A Traveler’s Album on my coffee table.

Chester County is home to so many talented artists and writers!

christmas 🎄 serendipity


Tonight we went to Malvern’s Victorian Christmas. I have sponsored a lamp post Christmas tree the past couple of years and we couldn’t go last year. Sadly I did not find my tree but serendipity was the word of the evening. We did a little shopping, had dinner….and strolled.

While we were strolling I noticed the sign photographed above. I had seen it fly by on Facebook- it is the new gallery next to Gallery 222 on King Street (which was also so much fun this evening as a matter of fact!)

Painted Fine Art & Gallery Coming Soon the sign said. The gallery exterior was warm and festive. So I had to check it out, and I am so glad I did, as this is definitely Malvern’s next treasure! (you heard it here first😊)

Inside the studio greeting people was the gallery owner and artist, Sharon Henderson McHugh.

I have an affinity for artists to be sure, but Sharon is someone you would just like if you met her somewhere else. Warm and welcoming, and her art is amazing I think. She has a tremendous sense of color, texture, and light. Her subjects also come to life on the canvases – each has a vibrancy.

Her middle room were portraits and portraits of nudes. Nudes can be extraordinary if they are painted by the right artist. Sharon is in the photo above, and I photographed her next to the nude that is my favorite. I also love the garden scene which is the last photo in this post.

I am sorry I did not take more photos of her art. She also has some pencil drawings which are exquisite.

I look forward to the gallery’s opening and you will definitely want to check it out.

#ShopLocal and go to Malvern’s Victorian Christmas tomorrow! So much fun!

small art

Small art is anything but. They are a little jewel boxes of works of art that you can tuck into small corners in your home. You can even tuck them into bookcases.

My friend Sherry Tillman, who is an artist and owns a store in Ardmore, PA called Past*Present*Future used to have an artist show hang in her store occasionally during First Friday Main Line events called a "Square Deal".

This "Square Deal" was a show that always intrigued me – it was a show of literally small art as in inches big that was affordable to everyone, and helped spread the principle of art in unexpected places and didn't intimidate people. Because that is the thing about art – it shouldn't intimidate people but it often does.

A lot of people when it comes to the art in their homes are hung up with names and value. To me it is more important to have something hanging that you love to look at, versus an actual monetary value.

Nothing is worth anything if it does not bring you pleasure when it comes to art. And beautiful art can be sourced from all sorts of places and doesn't have to cost a lot.

For example, one of my favorite pieces in my home has no real value and I found it quite literally on a trash pile before a home in Haverford, PA was demolished years ago near the Haverford School. It had meant something to the occupants of the home at one time, but it wasn't anything that would ever have resale value so after the property was sold the house with everything that was left inside of it was demolished. This one piece was left propped up with bags and bags and boxes of trash and I happened to see it walking my dogs. So I took it off the trash pile, and had it reframed.

Again, nothing valuable, I just like it.

And that is how I have chosen my art. Do I like it when I see it? Does it evoke emotion in me? Do I think it's pretty?

I have never forgotten those "Square Deal" art shows. They have made me mindful of the beauty of small pieces, so when I see ones that I love I don't pass them by.

Recently I found three very small pieces. Not expensive, in fact so inexpensive you might term them "cheap" yet there's nothing "cheap" about them.

These pieces are Chester County scenes and they are literally inches big. None of them are signed that I can determine, but I think they're beautiful.

I just tucked them into little spots around my house. And there they will hang, bringing me pleasure.

I have written before about how you can find art all over the place. You can find artists hanging art at local fairs and festivals. You can find art at garage and yard sales and even estate sales. You can pick art out of barns, and find it in thrift shops and consignment stores. The piece just above this paragraph is a little winter scene oil painting. I paid six dollars for it. It is about 3" x 5". Tiny and I love it.

You can also find reasonably priced art of lesser known artists at local galleries. It doesn't have to be expensive – the most basic of rules (again) is you just have to like it.

The only person you need to impress with your art choices is yourself. Art is a very personal thing – just ask any artist who creates. And don't forget as we grow as human beings, often or tastes will change or evolve. So you don't have to be wed to pieces. You can swap things out.

Twenty years ago I would've looked at people like they were crazy if someone mentioned to me how cool small art was. Today, I totally get it and appreciate it.

Experiment with small art. And always remember you can source local art probably more inexpensively wherever you live then the fake art canvases you will find at stores like Home Goods or TJ Maxx.

When you find yourself a piece of local art it ties you to where you are from no matter where you move in the course of your life. Small art is portable. And to me the other thing that is important to me is someone actually took the time to create it, it just wasn't an image transferred in a factory onto a canvas.

One of the great things about living in Chester County is the fact that there is a thriving arts scene. You can find beautiful quality pieces hanging in local galleries and shops, festivals, fairs, and so on. And one of the things I love is the abundance of small pieces out there that you can buy to experiment with.

Small art. It's a good thing 😊

Thanks for stopping by.

something new: gallery 222 in malvern

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Today I had a meeting with someone at The Buttery in Malvern (one of my favorite places).  On my way out of the door, I realized I had not been able to make the opening over the weekend of the brand spanking new gallery that opened on King in Malvern.

And there it was, across the street.

So I crossed King (carefully, today pedestrians in the crosswalks were largely invisible and ignored by drivers – Malvern PD can you do some enforcement?) and cheated on my Malvern favorite, JAM Gallery.

29988643225_f8072635e2_oIn my own defense, I love local art and I love welcoming galleries even more. And Gallery 222 just beckoned me like an old friend.

I did a Facebook live video that is loaded on this blog’s Facebook page but the audio today on every Facebook live thing I tried was messed up, but it is a very nice virtual tool.

The owner, Andrea, is a friend of a friend.  And much like walking into JAM which is across the street and down a piece, it’s a comfortable feeling when you enter. And the art is lovely.   I saw several pieces that also like at JAM, are reasonably priced.

Andrea said to me that this is her dream to have a gallery. I totally get that, and her dream is ever so lovely. She will also have artist space above the gallery floor, which to me is so cool. She is creating an artists’ colony right in her building!

29988643315_4c99f49927_oMalvern having a presence in the local art scene with galleries and artists in residence is a great idea, and so positive for a small town.

Ironically, I have a friend who shares this vision.  My friend Sherry Tillman who owns Past*Present*Future in Ardmore, PA and who is an artist  in her own right. She had the vision to create First Friday Main Line to put art in unexpected places. For several years before I moved to Chester County, I did the event PR and photography for First Friday Main Line and loved every minute.

222-2Sherry made me remember why I loved local and regional art.  It wasn’t about the price point or if they were a listed artist, it was about liking what you saw. Did it evoke an emotion? Strike a memory chord? That was the thing: you liked a piece for whatever reason. And when the art is affordable, you can take that piece of happiness home and look at it every day.

Looking at art is a wonderful experience.  And no, you do not have to like all of it.  For example, I might be committing art sacrilege but I do not like Picasso anything.  I never saw the genius.

29694684380_567dcb36bd_oI like landscapes. I love portraits that tell a story. I like my farm animals and my farmhouse scenes.  I also like a lot of the work of my parents’ friends who are (and were) artists.  Joyce De Guatemala, Harry Niblock, Margery Niblock, Noel Miles.

I don’t know the artists of some of the stuff I have picked up over the years. I just bought whatever because I liked it. It made me happy.  I have a  watercolor of three girls and a dog that was an early 20th century equivalent of sofa art.  I found the piece on a trash pile years ago when a developer was getting ready to tear down what was the Clothier House in Haverford on Buck Lane. I saw it and felt bad for a piece of art tossed like a sack of rotting potatoes on the trash pile.  I was walking my dogs when I saw it and walked it across Lancaster Avenue and had it re-framed.  It has no real value but I like it.

Local artists have a way of connecting us to where we live in very special ways, so I am happy Malvern is becoming a gallery town at one end. I told Andrea today that 222 and JAM should do a Gallery Night – maybe quarterly as the seasons change.  I learned from First Friday Main Line that bringing art to the community is so positive, so why not spread the love further in Malvern?

I wish Gallery 222 in Malvern a long and happy existence! I look forward to their next show and JAM Gallery’s as well. I like the idea of Malvern being an art destination.

Gallery 222. 222 East King Street Malvern Pennsylvania 19355
610.608.6636 | andreastrang@gallery222malvern.com

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jenkins arboretum

 I am at Jenkins Arboretum for a gallery  

 opening for my friend Dr. E Ni Foo. The exhibit of his latest paintings run through the first of November or so. The show is amazing and so is the arboretum. I also had to buy some plants and a membership!