Monday, October 18, 2010

Remembering a Friend and Artist

Artist, Tony Lordi
I came to the studio Friday to hear the sad news of the passing of Tony Lordi. As I wrote this I was still in a state of shock and sadness. It is my hope through writing this to honor and remember a person who has meant a great deal to me both personally and artistically.

In 2005 I moved with my husband to Sussex County, a place where we knew no one, had no roots. I had just started my business as an artist and immediately got myself involved in the county's fledgling art scene. After becoming a member and getting involved in the Sussex County Arts & Heritage Council, the director of the council then, Linda Hirsch, introduced me to Tony Lordi. He was this artist and gallery owner in Lafayette. She thought he might be able to use my help to gallery sit.

We met, he signed me up to sit, and I was indoctrinated into the world of Tony Lordi. I was excited at the prospect, even more so after learning that one of his well-known "Empires" was featured in my college art history text, "Varieties of Visual Experience". But, I was intimidated, too. Tony was smart, had what seemed more energy at his age than I've ever seemed to possess. He lived, breathed, and loved art and music. But he loved life, too.
I sat at Art at the Mill, learned about running a gallery, and got to know Tony. He was hands-on, always stopping in to say hello, chat, and was always inquiring about my artwork. I eventually showed him some of my stuff, and he loved it. Within no time I was exhibiting my artwork at the gallery. I attribute Tony with being the one who really jump-started my exhibition career. He encouraged me, supported me, and made me want to make work. Tony in the past even offered to drive my entries into NYC for an annual show at NYU that he encouraged me to participate in (I got acceptances 2 of the 3 years I entered).

Chrome Boy with Big Ears, this was part of the promo materials from Kitchen Kitsch, a joint show between Tony and Me in 2008 at TraillWorks. When I saw the Chrome Boy, I thought there was a fun likeness to Tony an used it as a portrait of him to represent his work for the show. Tony thought it was great, and encouraged me to use it.

When I eventually made the decision to rent my own studio, he was gung-ho for it. I enjoyed his almost-weekly visits, chats, and criticism at my new place. I began inviting a few artists to exhibit with me on occasion and I had the honor of showing his work beside mine in 2008 for a Tour of Art in Newton. His agreement to do the show with me was flattering and cemented for me that he viewed me as an equal. We titled the show Kitchen Kitsch; featuring my Appliance Portraits and his Vintage Chrome Appliance sculptures. Our work together drew so much attention to the gallery!

Installation of Vintage Chrome Appliances at TraillWorks in 2008, all sculptures © Tony Lordi

Steam Heat, vintage irons and ironing board, © Tony Lordi

My last, fondest memory of Tony is when I relocated my studio earlier this year. I was still getting my new place ready and he stopped by for a visit, while driving his red Empire around town to take pictures for a book project he was working on. I jumped on the opportunity, learning from Tony, and invited him to bring it in and take pictures of it at TraillWorks. We had an impromptu studio shoot, Ringo on hand and in photos. He was so full of life, excitement. I don't recall what we talked about but I will cherish that day as it was one of the last great memories of Tony; breezing in and out with his art.

Red Empire, ©2010 Tony Lordi
I think what I loved best about Tony was his joie de vivre, and his ability to embrace you, teach you, and all the while never look down on you. In the five years that I knew Tony Lordi, I have probably grown ten years, in large part to his influence. Tony, you will be deeply missed, but I know that you will not leave the hearts and fortunately, the eyes, of many.


Lana Cohen Dorsey said...

My name is Lana Cohen Dorsey, and I too will miss Tony in more ways than one can imagine.
I learned so much from Tony. He was just an old soul. From his work in his studio in Dover, to the Mill, and on to his wonderful studio in his home, he was a talented, sensitive, honest, and really good friend.
I think of him every day, when I walk into my home and behold my Empire State Building (Cira 1985).
My other Empire was too big to take to Florida, so it has found a new home in Andover, Ma. at my daughter's home.
I can't tell you, how much I miss TONY..

Jennie Traill Schaeffer said...

Hi Lana,

Thank you for your very powerful comment and ready my tribute to Tony! It would be nice to have his work here at TraillWorks again. I think of him often and so deeply miss his visits to my studio and his wonderful criticism.

I wish you a wonderful New Year and great memories of Tony; especially through his work!


Anonymous said...

Hi Jennie,
I was a student of Tony's at CCM, and you have described him perfectly: what energy!

I was able to visit his Empire when it was at Macy's amidst all the stands of clothes: the guy is so creative.

Well, I did not know he passed, though, until the other day, when I was looking him up to invite him to our gallery: My husband and I use our lr for a gallery, since we have the room and love art.

I am in shock, just as you mentioned, yet consider him the wind on this windy day, saying "hello and keep creating."

I would like to send you and invitation to our next show (9/10 June). I love your paintings and everything kitchen.

Thank you for this tribute to Tony, I am sorry for your loss. And so glad you had the chance to know him.


Jennie Traill Schaeffer said...

Hi Marian,

I'm so sorry you didn't know about the loss of Tony, but am glad that you were finally able to learn of it. I can't say more about him, than what poured out in the blog post. Just a real loss. I'm glad you had a chance to know him as well.

Can we connect on email? My email is I would love to learn more about your gallery. Unfortunately I will be on vacation during your next show.


Anonymous said...

Hello Marian, my name is Roman Shapiro. I too love Tony's work, even though I did not have the pleasure of meeting him. I actually own 7 of his pieces including an Empire piece and a NYC skyline piece as well as several large "instrument" pieces. I'd be interested in possibly displaying them in your gallery. Please call me @ 917-415-5334 to discuss. Thank you!!