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An Artist's Journey

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Chapter 5: Business Trumps Graduate School

 

I moved from Elmer Graphics to a duplex that my brother owned. He lived in one half with his new wife and rented the other half to me. It was only a mile from campus and suited my needs quite well. Unfortunately, he and his wife had difficulties and they soon moved out and divorced. The vacancy was filled in the fall by a good friend, Bruce Stogsdill, who had recently broken up with his girl friend.

Bruce Stogsdill and I at the duplex

Meanwhile, school had begun. I met with my faculty painting advisor, Charles Littler, a long-time teacher at the university and an artist I looked forward to working with. He agreed that I could continue to paint in my home studio and bring work in for him to critique. I also signed up for drawing classes with other faculty and wrote a research paper on Claes Oldenburg for an art history seminar. I enjoyed being regularly at the school working in the classroom with fellow students and the teachers.

Some of my paintings from grad school days:

Smiley Hat and Captain Mylar

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Lust Triptych

Primal Rabbit

Woman I and II. These paintings incorporated plastic tape and mylar with oil paints.

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Each time I tried to schedule a critique I had to track Charles down. We never met in an office or classroom to discuss my work. We had brief encounters in hallways. He would glance at the paintings and make a quick, cryptic comment before hurrying off. I continued to regularly bring work in. During our last hallway meeting at semester's end he said he was sorry if his attitude seemed cavalier, but he had completely forgotten that he was my advisor. This was the beginning of the end of graduate school for me.

Examples from drawing sessions

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Drawings from the imagination

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I had a new advisor for the second semester along with Charles for a drawing class and another drawing class with Bruce McGrew. Bruce was also a long standing presence in the school that I had not worked with as an undergraduate. Although both men were enormously talented and established artists, there was little chemistry between us.

Sparks did fly when I met Kay Stork in a drawing class. I was struck by her budding talent and beauty. I invited her over to the duplex for a beer. We clicked and kept seeing each other after that.

Kay Stork

Note from the future: In the summer of 2014, I recieved an email from a friend of Kay's notifying me that she had died from cancer. It happened in San Francisco. No other details were included.

By then I was also getting requests for more and more graphic design work from Vance Campbell at Ski Haus. Early in 1978 he offered a job in his office as advertising designer. Ski Haus was doing well, and Natural Duck was becoming a viable business needing to expand. Both businesses needed to maintain a steady flow of advertising and promotional graphics.

In March, I took a break to fly to New Jersey to visit the Monaco's for two weeks. Kay was not happy to see me go so soon after we linked up. Patricia had opened a store, The Silver Goose, in Tom's River to sell her jewelry. Anthony sold artwork there, and a weaver was also part of the shop. They were having an art show, and I brought a portfolio of figure studies from my classes to display.

Patricia and Anthony Monaco in front of the Silver Goose

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On that visit, Anthony took me into New York to meet a friend of his who lived in a loft in SoHo, the hot art district of that time. His friend was attempting to break into the art scene there. I had dreams of moving to New York and it was a chance to see what life as a painter there might really be like. His loft environment was wonderful, his work excellent, and he and his wife were preparing to be visited by some major gallery people. He'd been at this for awhile so we heard the story of how difficult it was to get attention in such a competitive environment. Certain circles of people dominated the arena. If you didn't fit in you were relegated to the multitude of small galleries throughout SoHo. We wished them well and went to lunch. The car was towed while we ate, and we spent the rest of the day, until 11:00 that night, getting it back.

Drawings from the Silver Goose exhibit

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Kay called a few days later to report that the duplex had been broken into and things were missing. When I got back I began to feel less comfortable living there and after the semester ended I moved to an old house on Perry Street. It was recently bought by friends who had cleaned it up and made it available to rent.

Although I officially completed the second semester of the graduate painting program, my work suffered those last few months. I had lost enthusiasm for the program and realized that I didn't actually need school or a degree to continue developing my personal art. I didn't plan on a teaching career, so an MFA wasn't critical for me. I dropped out to work full time with Vance at Ski Haus.

The changes didn't stop there. At the end of that summer Kay and I split up. It was an amicable parting and we remained good friends. Then, in December, my landlords informed me that they planned to sell the house and I had to move. In January, 1979, I found a small, backyard guest house for rent on Linden street, a half mile from Ski Haus. I moved in that month and have been there ever since.

 

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