River muse

The Art Garden

Posted 8/31/22

Art has always been a part of my life, from early childhood to today. My mother wanted to live her life as an artist, but was dissuaded vigorously by her mother and by circumstance. She was a single …

This item is available in full to subscribers.

Please log in to continue

Log in
River muse

The Art Garden


Art has always been a part of my life, from early childhood to today. My mother wanted to live her life as an artist, but was dissuaded vigorously by her mother and by circumstance. She was a single mother of two by age 27, without a college degree. She found a living wage in advertising in the Mad Men era, and rose to be creative director at a multinational firm by the time I was in college.

Her loft in SoHo was modern and colorful with artistic touches she applied herself. She painted the utility pipes that crossed the ceilings in primary colors, and fashioned her dining table out of a huge slab of plexiglass, purchased on Canal Street, that was supported by two old iron sewing machine bases painted a shiny black. A small wood sculpture she had made in 1947 at the School of Design in Chicago graced the living room in all our homes over the years, a small but insistent reminder of the life she didn’t live.

For my mother, these things may have had a bittersweet element. For me, they were just the things we surrounded ourselves with. Like the butterfly chair I adopted for my teenage bedroom and still have.

When she finally had time to make art, she had a show of her photography at Leslie/Lohman Gallery in SoHo. She loved the textures of early SoHo walls and documented them in black and white.

A boyfriend of mine was an artist who was never constrained by the need to support a family, let alone by himself. He contributed a large painting of my mother’s black cat Sydney to her loft as a thank-you for her hospitality over the years. It hangs in my house in Narrowsburg now, along with many of his works. (He was the recipient of a lot of hospitality.)

As a young working woman, I always made sure to keep a budget for art. Never much, it represented my commitment to art as a necessary element of adult life. As a wedding present to my husband, I commissioned a local Tribeca artist, who painted his vision of our union. Over the years, we amassed a small gallery of art for our own loft and for the home we made in Narrowsburg. When we consolidated our homes, a lot of art went into hiding in a storage closet. There is hardly space for any more.

That’s when I started to put art outside. A bronze casting, “The King of Imagination,” by the old boyfriend, Michael Lawrence, hangs from a tree, its arms outstretched like an angel. A sculpture by Naomi Teppich, “Red Shrooms” is planted on the stump of a fallen white pine. In the same area, I constructed an obelisk out of painted wood.

While attempting to make a garden on our land, I am continuously thwarted by the herd of deer that patrol every day and night. Anything worth planting must be surrounded by wire fencing, and even then must be reinforced against squirrels and woodchucks. The solution to my desire to have beautiful spaces became clear. I needed an art garden.

I approached Naomi Teppich, knowing she has made and exhibited public sculpture, about putting a piece of hers on our adjacent property in Narrowsburg, as a loan. She liked the idea. After completing a contract for the loan, she and her husband Martin Springhetti, himself an artist, delivered “Cactus Cocoon” in their pickup truck and constructed it on-site. Naomi installed the plaque that had accompanied the piece when it was exhibited at Beacon 3D. With almost a full acre of land to spare, we conceived the idea of a juried art garden on the property that would be open to the public for viewing.

On Monday, September 5, from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m., all are welcome to 52 2nd Ave. in Narrowsburg to welcome the “Cactus Cocoon” as the first installation at The Art Garden. Inquiries and submissions are welcome at cassvcollins@gmail.com  Please put Art Garden in the subject line.

art, art garden, sculpture


No comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here