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.