Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Fragility of Life: I Mourn the Loss of Artist Sylvia Moss

In the Gion Rain 30"x22" monotype on paper 2011
Gregg Chadwick
A Gion Rain
22"x30" monotype on paper 2011

I came home from a memorial service for a great artist and a great friend, Sylvia Moss, on Sunday night. In times of loss and uncertainty, I tend to turn to the arts - books, music, film, theater and museums - for solace. But when an artist is severely ill or dies I find that I have to create. I have been in my studio for the past two weeks creating monotypes. A monotype is a singular impression made from an image which has been drawn or painted on to a printing plate.

My monotype process is technically straightforward but pushes my artistic subconscious in both image and mark. When I painted "A Gion Rain" onto a copper plate, thoughts of Sylvia fell like rain across my mind. Sylvia Moss died in Zurich, Switzerland on May 9, 2011. Sylvia had long suffered from the challenges of multiple sclerosis.

Sylvia Moss grew up in Piedmont, California and then moved east to a beckoning New York City to pursue her love of theater, fashion, and art. Over the years, Sylvia studied at The California College of Arts and Crafts, The Art Student’s League of New York, Columbia University, and The California Art Institute.

Sylvia eventually returned to California and was Professor of Costume Design at the University of California Los Angeles in the Theater Department where she taught from 1973 until 1994.

Sylvia authored numerous magazine articles as well as a groundbreaking book about alternative materials used in costume design, Costumes & Chemistry, published by Costumes and Fashion Press.

I had the fortune to meet Sylvia Moss when the Santa Monica Art Studios opened in an old hangar at the Santa Monica Airport in 2004. She was a continual inspiration as she determinedly fought the ravages of multiple sclerosis to create her visual art.

Sylvia's experimentation with alternative techniques in costume design fueled her explorations in the visual arts. Her paintings are as much archaeological digs as two dimensional creations. Layers of grit, gloss, glitter and color marked her artistic path as Sylvia's paintings seemed to grow of their own accord in her laboratory/altelier.

Sylvia Moss
Meditation 8
22"x30" oil and mixed media on paper

As my fellow artists in the Santa Monica Art Studios will attest I approach brush cleaning as a form of meditation. Each day, I carefully clean the detritus of each brush's passing in a bath of cool water. Just before her final trip to Switzerland, Sylvia wheeled up to me in her motorized wheelchair as I bathed my brushes. She began to speak as if she wanted to tell me the meaning of life but then stopped and just smiled her remarkable, unforgettable grin. And with that smile, Sylvia said "Goodbye" to me. I will hold that smile in my heart each day as I create.

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Sylvia Moss


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