Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Remembering Louis Tedesco-1947-2007


Mixed Fruit in a Blue Bowl, oil on linen

The very first time that I saw Louis Tedesco I was surprised. He didn’t look at all like what I’d expected he’d look like. I suppose I expected a dignified, orderly-looking man in long creased trousers and a white button-down shirt because Tedesco’s still life paintings were so orderly and majestically dignified. They were also incredibly beautiful, with a mysterious luminous quality to them that is very difficult to describe, unless you have seen them for yourself. It was one of Louis’s still life paintings displayed at Art Center Sarasota that caught my eye one day, and filled me with a fervent desire to learn to paint just like that!-although I’d never painted a still life in my entire life before that moment. So I signed up for a 3 day workshop with Louis last spring, and the small, soft-spoken man that I was introduced to as I walked into the class was not at all as I’d imagined he’d be. His arms were covered with the most intrinsically patterned tattoos I’d ever seen, a little chaotic in my mind’s eye but nevertheless orderly in artistic design. His smile saddened me a little, for it was obvious that he certainly needed some costly dental work, but it was his beautiful deep, dark luminous eyes that matched that same mesmerizing quality I’d noticed in his paintings, and captured the viewer’s attention almost immediately.

Louis Tedesco died just a few months after that workshop, and although I only had the honor of learning from him for 3 short days, I still see his influence in many of my still life paintings today. Louis is a classic example of everything that is sad about talent that goes unrewarded financially during the artist’s life time. I called the art center in late August to schedule myself for Louis’s fall workshop, and it was then that I was told that he had just died unexpectedly. I was also told that when he finally went for medical attention, he was told that the hospital could really not help him because he was not covered with the health insurance required. He died soon afterwards, and an artistic community is left saddened by that sudden loss, and wondering if anything could have changed the outcome. I’ll never forget that during my workshop with Louis, someone in class mentioned that they were stopping at Whole Foods on the way home to pick up some groceries. Louis only smiled and remarked that he’d need to mortgage his house (if he had one) in order to shop there.

When I think about Louis and his beautiful still life paintings, I can only wonder why the term "Starving Artist" should immediately come to mind and be associated with someone of such talent.In my opinion, although this gentle, talented man painted his dramatic chiaroscuro still lifes as competently and majestically as his teachers David Leffel and Sherri McGraw, he died practically penniless, unable to afford any medical treatments that might have prolonged his life, and never receiving the financial reward for a talent that was richly deserving. So goes the starving artist syndrome, and alas it is unfortunate that in America people will pay enormous amounts of money tickets to sporting events, big screen TVs and electronic equipment, the amount of money that most people are willing to shell out for original art is usually a tragedy.

One of the piece’s I did in Louis workshop is on exhibit at Sarasota’s City Hall, another has sold, but the piece above that I did recently is a good example of the unique way in which Louis has influenced my own painting. I’ll never forget some of his words to me spoken with a twinkle in his eye as he watched me paint, “You didn’t really just put pink on that table cloth did you? This is North Light! You don’t need to slavishly copy every detail, but you must approach every single brushstroke with reverence and make it meaningful!” Then as he watched me struggling to mix the color of one of his favorite still life bottles he said to me, “What in the world are you doing?” When I explained that I was trying to mix the color of that bottle he just smiled, went over to his own paint box, and handed me a tube of Rembrandt phthalo turquoise blue. “My dear,” he said, “there are some colors that you simply cannot mix! Help yourself!”

Although I’ll never truly be a competent realism painter in the style of Louis Tedesco, I definitely know that I need to make every single brushstroke a work of art in and of itself.

If only for Louis.

If you ever knew or studied with Louis, there will be a posthumous exhibit at Imperial Fine Art, in Sarasota Florida during the month of December. The exhibit opens this Friday and if you would like more information about this exhibit, please contact Imperial Fine Art here.

In addition to the piece by Louis below, if you would like to see more examples of Louis Tedesco’s work and read more about him, please go here.


MelissaLeffel said...

I, too had the honor of knowing Louis. I moved to Taos when i was pregnant with my daughter. I stayed with my father but spent most of my time with Louis, who studied with my dad--they were friends. AFter Emma was born, Louis took on the role of surrogate father to her (her own birth father chose not to be involved. We spent every day together, the three of us. Emma, now 13, remembers him clearly and lovingly. Rest in peace, Louis. I miss you sorely.

Paintdancer said...

Thank you for your kind comments, Melissa. Although I hardly knew him, I could tell that Louis was a very special man. By the way, I am scheduled to take a workshop with your father next week in Sarasota. I can't wait! It was the fact that I had taken that short workshop with Louis, that made me want to learn more about Chiasoscuro- hence my desire to study with your dad.

MelissaLeffel said...

Hey, how was the workshop with my dad?

Paintdancer said...

I absolutely loved it! Your dad is a genius- watching him paint was like watching a master magician, only he used pieces of paint rather than rabbits to create his magic! I feel that the workshop definitely took me to a higher level in my painting journey. I'll be posting more about the workshop sometime next week, when the CD of pictures arrives.

melissaLeffel said...

I think he's pretty cool, too.

Big Don said...

My Heart is heave this week as I just found out my dear friend Louis Tedesco passed away. Louis and I were very close in Taos, NM. Every Thanksgiving there was a small gathering of people who had no Family in the area and we would celebrate together. I was Louis's personal Tattoo Artist. He was a very Spiritual and generous man, who would give you the shirt off his back. We would often sit and share about our lifes experiences and how they had affected our place in the world today. I used to love when Louis would take me into His Studio and show me his latest canvas He was working on. Louis' use of light was spectacular. He could see things in His paintings that only an Artist would see as He worked. When I first met Louis He came into my Tattoo Studio and was amazed at how Real Art could be placed on the skin. I remember Louis looking at some of my Japanese original Dragons and knew that is what He was sure He wanted. The design was not large, but very intricate in detail. We discussed color, placement, shadowing etc. I did his first tattoo in 1995. Louis was close to 50 years of age and I remember asking Him, why now did He decide to get tattooed and He replied "I never saw anything that I could live with the rest of my life". I took that as a compliment. Louis, like most became very intriqued with this new art form and began borrowing books and reading about Japanese Art History and I knew right then He was no where finished getting Body Art. I ended up doing well over 100 hours of Japanese inspired Tattoos. He loved the way that movement could be translated into a tattoo with an economy of means. I remember also when He came to me for what I did not know at the time would be His last Tattoo. Louis told me it came to Him in a Dream. It was an Octopus lying on the oceans floor with a naked Geisha leaning against it with its tentacles in Soft Erotic positions. I drew a few sketches to see exactly what He had visualized in His dream, and one in particular, gave him that dark sparkle (that only people who knew Louis) would recognize. I then did the line drawing and background - and when I showed it to Him He just said "Don, that it it". I had even fully tattooed the naked woman in the tattoo and Louis Loved it. Of course with Louis' art background there were certain boundaries in which I had to stay in. Although the two mediums are worlds apart, I managed to fullfill his every wish. Louis sat motionless for 14 hours while I did my work. Louis was so proud of that Tattoo and the bonding that had taken place during our times together, He would show off His tattoos at all of His Gallery open Houses and introduced me to people and other Artists that could probably care less of my idea of Art. I went to all of Louis' open Houses and am proud to have Him as a friend. I only wish that whoever is running the Show would have givin us more time together on this Earth. Louis, I love and will miss you and nobody can take my memories away of the good times , laughter and crying we shared. You will always be in my heart.