Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Escaping With Friends

 © 2013 - Patricia Zalisko - Flux V-14-13 - 40x40
Probably nothing is more uplifting than spending some quality time with friends. But I've discovered that, even better than that is spending days, meals and nights with friends who also share the same passion for creating and viewing art for days on end.

 © 2013 - Fran Gardner
The University of South Carolina - Lancaster and Professor Fran Gardner welcomed four friends to their campus and art studio in order to paint. We were greeted by Dean Walter Collins III, and faculty and staff visited us in open studio on our last day of work. Fran joined us in the studio as did fellow professor, Brittany Taylor, and student studio assistant, Phil Brown. We took a short break to pop into downtown Lancaster to visit the new Native American studies center, a true gem, which serves southeastern tribes and prominently features an enormous collection of Catawba tribal art forms and pottery

Fran Gardner preps a finished 
mixed media piece

Beau Wild at work
Lisa Stroud steps back to view her work in progress

My fellow artists included Eli Corbin of Asheville, NC, Lisa Stroud of Raleigh, NC, and Beau Wild of Port Orange, FL. We worked and played hard, enjoyed our studio time, produced stunning art and supported one another during breaks for critiques or advice.

L. to r. - Fran Gardner, Beau Wild, Lisa Stroud, Eli Corbin
Much laughter, excellent meals that we prepared for one another, tall tales and some wine followed at Fran's home, which she and her husband, Van, opened to us for the week. 

  © 2013 - Beau Wild

 © 2013 Eli Corbin

A beautiful retreat set on 70 rolling acres in a nearby town, their home beckons visitors to stroll the grounds, listen to the whippoorwills, watch their dog disappear into tall golden wheat and purple grasses, peek into Fran's studio, and check out their pond. Our visit ended with a 'field trip' into nearby Charlotte, NC, where we visited the Bechtler and Mint Museums, lunching in its sleek and artsy bistro.

Photo courtesy of USC-L Photographer, Shana Dry. L. to r., Lisa Stroud, Fran Gardner, Brittany Taylor, Eli Corbin, Phil Brown, Pat Zalisko, Beau Wild
We were restored, strengthened as artists, and cemented our friendships in this beautiful school and home. Fran and USC-L have invited us to return soon, an invitation we plan to accept next year.

 © 2013 - Patricia Zalisko - Flux V-5-13 - 64x24 on linen

The artists reserve the copyright in and all rights to reproduce their respective work. Their permission has been secured in order to publish this blog entry.

Thursday, February 21, 2013


I recently had the opportunity to engage in self-directed study with art coach and artist, Steven Aimone, at the Atlantic Center for the Arts, in New Smyrna Beach, FL. I remained on campus for a few weeks, living there with two separate hand-picked groups of artists. These individuals arrived from different areas of the northern hemisphere. All of us were asked to focus on an objective, a 'mission statement' or 'contract' that would guide us over the period of study.

During the first week, I focused on Holodomor, the Ukrainian holocaust that is marked by its 80th anniversary this year. Starting with events begun in the 1920's, the Holodomor, transliterated as "Extermination by starvation", reached its brutal peak between 1932 and 1933 in the nation commonly known as the "bread basket of Europe." Although the Stalinist regime that had seized control of Ukraine's politics and government failed to keep accurate statistics on the numbers of Ukrainians killed during the fake famine it had created, historians estimate that between 5 and 12.5 million Ukrainian men, women and children were starved to death, murdered trying to escape Ukraine, or evacuated and sent to their ultimate deaths in prison camps outside the country, in places like Kazakhstan and Siberia.

Holodomor X-1932 (approx. 24X72).

My process for creating art is never deliberate: I don't start with a preconceived notion of what to paint or draw. I just react to surfaces after energetically drawing or painting into them. But the anniversary weighed heavily on my mind last week, influenced by my reading (like The Holodomor Reader by Bohdan Klid and Alexander J. Motyl,  and A Candle In Remembrance by Valentyna Borysenko) and a documentary (Genocide Revealed, directed by Yurij Luhovy).

Holdomor XI-1932 (50X60)

And that influence crept back into my work as I went along, incorporating elements like dirt and grass from the landscape. I marveled at the persistence of an ancient race that, despite every odd and centuries-old forces hell-bent on its total annihilation, has stubbornly clung to its national identity since ancient times. The Ukrainian people, like many others on this planet, are a testament to the concepts of resilience and constancy. 

After a short break, I resumed painting for another week with a different group of talented artists. I put aside my thoughts about Ukrainian history and revisited the concept of flux, this time with a lighter, playful heart.

Flux II-16-1

Flux II-15-1 (approx. 24X72)

©2013 - Patricia H. Zalisko - All rights reserved

Sunday, January 13, 2013


An old friend, who was a lawyer, relayed an event many years ago that upset her. She was a government attorney and once had dealings with a lay boss who implicitly referred to her as a "scribe." Years later, I still think about why she was offended and completely understand. However, now, as an artist, I've been reminded by another good friend that my process and the evidence of that work is quite narrative. Being a scribe, documenting and attesting to our experiences and powerful emotions in my art, is natural and not at all pejorative. The longish horizontal format that I often favor lends to that feeling. 

Noting my frustration with keeping work 'untitled', this friend, artist and scholar Fran Gardner, reminded me about the titling of a modern artist's work and suggested that I incorporate significant dates in titles of paintings in which I was documenting certain events or emotions. Doing so is consistent with my process, which usually springs from the strong memories and emotions that come from life's experiences. I'm putting them down in art, evidencing these shared events, creating a timeline. 

Copyright 2012 - patricia h.k. zalisko

With that in mind, I created Sandy X-28-II, above, evidencing my personal experience with Hurricane Sandy in the NYC metropolitan area. Channeling the brutal destructive force of that storm in a low lying and heavily populated area ill-equipped for tropical storms, I resurrected the sense of helpless as the Hudson River and New York Harbor flooded city streets like a tidal wave, carrying tons of raw sewage, gasoline and diesel oil, cars, animals, debris along with it.

Copyright 2012 - patricia h.k. zalisko

I completed Sandy Hook XII-14, above, in response to the mass shootings and murders in CT. Specifically, I channeled the incomprehensible horror of innocent first graders facing their killer. I was affected by the murders here for many reasons. My sibling lives nearby, worked and now consults in the county's school system, has children who attended the school where the slaughter occurred, has neighbors and friends who were killed there. I have family and friends who have run into the killer and his family. And these brutal slayings stirred vivid memories from the presumptively dead ashes of my former profession as a child abuse and homicide prosecutor. As such, I spent many a year investigating in excruciating detail the killings of too many children. 

(Pat at work at Atlantic Center for the Arts in December, creating what will become Sandy Hook XII-18 - photo by Audrey Phillips)

I couldn't express then the depths of my grief for fear of committing prosecutorial misconduct. There's no hugging a child who recounts to you the anguish of chronic abuse and maltreatment. My job was to dispassionately advocate for the interests of dead or injured children and, hopefully, I did so professionally, compassionately, respectfully and thoroughly. But nothing can limit my abject sorrow or restrain my ability to express it when I paint. 

This is my personal language, and it is rooted firmly in my life and our shared history.