Those who know me know of my generous support of the greeting card industry. I love purchasing what catches my attention, mailing them off to the folks I care about. So, I’m wondering Turi, what’s wrong with the Hallmark variety – apart from their ever escalating cost? Yes, yes – I agree that some of the artwork is quite twee, or to use her word – sentimental; so much so they border on being kitsch. And those are not my cup of tea either. But there’s variety with Hallmark – and many of them carry art or photographic work that is tasteful; pleasantly engaging the finer of our senses.
But Turi was worried that her response to the difficult months of her annus horribilis skirted the very fine line between Hallmarkish sentimentality and something that was acceptable to the more discerning buying public. Would they appreciate her ravens circling various beasts?
The worst year in Turi’s longish life saw the death of her husband as well as her forty year old daughter. Even more shattering, perhaps, was the decision of her son-in-law to take her beloved grandchild away from her locality. With all this – her past, present and future, in a short span, had been impacted on, leaving her reeling.
Turi did the sensible thing and sought guidance from a shock that would have sent many spiralling to a dark place. A counsellor put to her that she needed to take on a task that would offer a challenge, that would take her mind off her woes. Something, in other words, that would also have real meaning for her.
And thus she came up with ravens – angry ravens. Ravens attacking, or at least worrying at, various beasts. The latter, admittedly, seemed to be just bemused by all the attention. It helped. As time passed her canvases for this series morphed into a more benign tone as her mind settled. And, despite her doubts about them, these large scale paintings – their majesty so difficult to pick up just with an on-line perusal – did strike a chord with many. So the death of loved ones did have an up in the end. It gave her artistic pursuits a new lease of life.
And what makes her offerings to us in this series so special? It’s the lack of sky – or, conversely, the large amount of blank whiteness. Turi MacCombie is the first to admit she has issues with sky – therefore much simpler to leave it out completely. Doing so tends to give the works more immediacy, the critics opined. Perhaps sky would have made them more generic, perhaps even sentimental.
It was the gift of a book on birds, illustrated, that gave Turi the impetus for a life long infatuation – and this occurred around age ten. When she attempted to draw the avians for herself, to her eyes she didn’t make such a bad fist of it. She began to think that maybe some sort of artistic pursuit could be her vocation. It was a while before her dream was fully realised.
In school she displayed talent and later on, during her painterly education at Syracuse University School of Art, New York State, she came under the influence of a mentor in Douglas Unger. He showed her how to instil more depth in her work with a defter use of watercolours, fast becoming her favoured medium. She started gaining some success as an illustrator of children’s books, her work on display in an edition of Margery Williams’ classic ‘The Velveteen Rabbit’, as well as other co-productions with writers and some put together solely under her own name. And then she fell in love, marrying her Bruce, a composer and academic. Much later, when he was promoted to dean, she was at last free to pursue her dream. She now had the financial security to move from illustrating to the big canvas.
Today Turi lives in Amherst Massachusetts and thanks to that sage advice from her counsellor, she continues to work on the aforementioned series she terms ‘Confrontations’. And if Hallmark ever decide to commission her skills for a series of their own, then I’d reckon they’d be onto a good thing. I’d buy them, for to me they’re not at all .
On-line galleries of Turi’s work = http://www.rmichelson.com/artists/turi-maccombie/