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2010 Creative Careers Interviews : Tina Verduzco Interview

Art by Tina Verduzco

Creative Careers in the Arts Interviews

An Interview with Folk Artist Tina Verduzco

By Molly Anderson-Childers

Artist Tina Verduzco's ( life changed in 2006 when her husband developed lung cancer. This courageous woman became an artist through a true "trial by fire." Here's the story, in her own words…

Tina Verduzco & Her MomIn 2006 my husband developed a backache that wouldn't go away. He owned a silkscreen company at the time so we assumed it was the constant repetitive motion that was causing the pain. First, we tried acupuncture and massage. When that didn't work we turned to an orthopedic surgeon who recommended physical therapy and pain killers. When those things still did not give Paul relief, they suggested a CT scan. In March of 2006, we were told Paul had stage 4 lung cancer. My world stopped! My vibrant talented husband had a backache — NOT cancer! He was 56, had just sold the business and was ready to embark on a life of travel and doing shows. He just got accepted into the House of Blues Outsider Art show and was getting some serious attention as an "outsider artist".

My first thought was "I am going to fix you." I devised a plan that included vitamins, nutrition, and massage, to supplement the chemo and radiation. My husband lasted almost a year and a half after he was first diagnosed. I realized that this was one time in my life that I could not "fix it". I lost him after 20 amazing years in June of 2007.

So what happened next? I spent a year or so in a state of grief... I had an amazing support system of friends. Still at the end of the day...I found myself alone. A solo artist in a world full of couples. I was 45. There was NO WAY I could be a widow! Paul was the man I was going to grow old with!

I continued to work but at some point I started questioning what was important to me. It was not the never ending emails and crazy hours. It was not about budgets or about the paperwork. It wasn't even about the security of a corporate job. It was about living! Not just existing, but truly living a life with passion!

I was at a crossroads. I could continue to be the grieving widow or I could choose to honor Paul by following my heart and my passion. What was important now? I decided to take a leap of faith and… discover the ARTIST that was always inside of me!

So after a time I began to reclaim space. I turned Paul's workshop into my studio — it took me a year and a half to just be able to go out there! I was cautious at first. I made purses out of recycled materials. I began to write again and rediscovered my muse. I made my first Water Fairy inspired by a short story I wrote. I began to play!

My work was accepted by local galleries Simple Gestures and Butter Fields 2. I started experimenting, never limiting myself to a specific style or type of art. I made my first shrine box, which I dedicated to Paul. Things just took off from there! I started burning things in the fire pit and it became known as "torched art"! I made Wine Fairies out of wine labels and they hang in the Gifted Cork, a local wine shop! Art builds on itself. The more you experiment the more ideas are given to you.

Today I write, I make art and I have CLAIMED the title of "artist"! When you claim it you give yourself permission to become it! I will never have the luxury of later. My husband's death taught me how to live. Through his death I found a voice. I can tell you it's NOT easy! It takes courage and people may think you are crazy! But it is fulfilling and although I miss Paul, I am truly happy living a life that is filled with art, music, family and friends.

If I can share one thing I would like to tell people NOT to wait for the tragic death of a loved one to make you realize that you have the power to live a life full of creativity, grace and passion!


Q: Tina, thanks for sharing your amazing story with our readers. When did you first decide you wanted to become an artist?

A: I was always creative, but never considered myself an artist. I dabbled. I made jewelry and hand painted clothing in the 80's. My husband was an artist; we owned several galleries over the years. I use to joke that my husband made art and I made "stuff!" He'd yell at me and tell me that I would never be an artist if I continued to refer to my work as "stuff." Because I couldn't draw or paint I somehow felt that I wasn't an artist! I know now that is so far from the truth!

Q: Who were the earliest influences on your work? How has that changed over the course of your career?

A: My earliest influences were my parents. My dad built lamps out of metallic string and dish soap bottles! He also made furniture. My mom sewed and made dolls. She also drew coloring pages for me. They built Barbie houses out of cardboard boxes. A hairspray lid became a chair with a little help from a pair of sharp scissors and a bit of scrap material! We didn't have a lot of money, so they taught me how to work with my imagination.

I was told by my 7th grade art teacher that I'd never be an artist because I couldn't draw a straight line! It wasn't until I met Paul that I started rediscovering my suppressed inner artist. He encouraged me to play, and today I make a living by not drawing a straight line!

Q: What originally inspired you to create your Water and Wine Fairies?

A: The Water Fairies are inspired by a short story I wrote several years ago called "Remembering Water Fairies". It's about a woman that confided a wish to a Water Fairy! The Wine Fairies are the same concept, but I make them out of wine labels.

Q: Can you explain how you create these whimsical creatures?

A: The Water Fairies are made with clay faces, copper and tin bodies and butterfly wings! Each one is given a name and that name is retired! No two are ever named the same and each one has a secret. What the secret is depends on the owner of the Fairy!

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