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One Life is Not Enough

One Life is Not Enough

Carol Heft

 

When one looks at the body of work left by John Tuska, there are diverse influences from the modern epoch, but the overriding features that define his vision are vitality, gesture, and exploration. 

A practicing sculptor and graduate of Alfred University, Tuska studied and grew up during the time of the Abstract Expressionist movement in the United States, which produced such modern masters as Mark Rothko, Elaine and Willem DeKooning , Jackson Pollock, Lee Krasner,  Joan Mitchell, Franz Kline, and many others. New York became the center of the art world as post war refugees, including Max Ernst, Piet Mondrian, Josef Albers, and Marcel Duchamp came to escape Nazi occupation. While influenced by these major figures, Tuska maintained his own vision, which, in its richness, made him the kind of teacher who was able to help his students understand the nature of their own experience as reflected in their work.  This he did by both modeling that process in and out of the classroom, and with innate pedagogical expertise.

In reading his memoirs, listening to his lectures on tape and film, and looking at his work, one is struck by the humility with which he traveled across his artistic path.  A path that changed as needed, facilitated by a flexible and open mind.  One thing that is abundantly clear when you look at Tuska’s work is that he loved doing it.  The persistent desire to create objects that both reflect and generate spiritual engagement is satisfied.

Tuska reaches back and forth in time to master the means by which to express his vision. His work synthesizes a multitude of aesthetic impulses, creating a vibrant world that celebrates the human condition in concrete form.  In The Human Condition, 23, one is reminded of the Hildesheim bronze doors, or even Donatello’s low bronze reliefs, and at the same time, Rodin and Ernst Barlach

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His gesture drawings are expressive, symbolic, and descriptive all at once.  They exude energy in their swirling, Baroque movement, and earthy respect for the human body, both unidealized, and venerated .  His mastery of technique always is in the service of his expression, never for its own sake.  At the same time, he fearlessly used a wide range of materials, always keeping himself at the center, his gift to translate what he saw into something that could be communicated; shared.

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His gesture drawings are expressive, symbolic, and descriptive all at once.  They exude energy in their swirling, Baroque movement, and earthy respect for the human body, both unidealized, and venerated .  His mastery of technique always is in the service of his expression, never for its own sake.  At the same time, he fearlessly used a wide range of materials, always keeping himself at the center, his gift to translate what he saw into something that could be communicated; shared.

Tuska was an artist for whom the work itself was its own reward.  The rich aesthetic experiences reflected in his drawings, sculptures in the round, reliefs and paintings are living examples of how he approached his life as an artist and teacher, and as such, never die and always inspire.