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Art Is a Struggle With the Struggle Erased

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"Art is a struggle with the struggle erased" was the definition of art taught at Parsons School of Design, class of 1964. The teacher was painter Paul Brach (later dean of California Institute of the Arts) and the class was Art History. Mr. Brach also taught us that art affected everything. Brach was a minimalism married to the fabulous "Femmagist" figurative painter Miriam Schapiro. I can only imagine the "struggle "of these two artists of such diverse styles who married and shared the same house in East Hampton.

The word "struggle" stayed etched in my head. I would make a hundred sketches to find one great dress as a student, and I still do. Struggle is part of the fun for me as I recognize today after 48 years of designing and selling dresses that I love my job, and dresses are easy.

However, in my world of painting and writing the Struggle is there, but my work does not flow so easily. Fine Art is about communicating emotion, and humans are all so different that the boundaries of what is great art have become very wide and are very debatable. Writing and painting one's emotions are the ultimate struggle and the ultimate joy comes when you hear, I love your book, I love your painting.  It beats, "I look so hot in this dress."

I grew up with a mother-painter, Ethel Kipnes, who "lived to struggle." When she worked, her angst was so great that I went into happy sexy fashion design to escape repeating her deep dark moods, but life does go full circle. Today my mom and dad live on my Florida farm and she and I draw together and at last in her mid-90s she found peace and happiness among my chickens and rescued pets and she has agreed at last to show her work with me.

We both joined NAWA, the oldest National Association of Women's Artists, at 80 Fifth Avenue in New York, and we are at last part of the big art world. Founded by five women 123 years ago in a brownstone, where they remained until the 1920s, NAWA was a breakthrough, as women's art was rarely shown in galleries or in museums. NAWA was in many ways responsible for the birth of the women's art movement.

Our first show as "mother and daughter" opened in Manhattan this fall at the annual awards show, without mom in person. However she is the oldest painter to have been accepted  as a member of this prestigious  group of women. When I told her she was accepted, she smiled.

At the awards ceremony, President Susan Hammond spoke and proclaimed that  women are only 3.5 % of the current museum exhibits and that in a 2007 MOMA show, there were only 14 works of art by women out of 400 pieces exhibited.

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We chose to show mom's gift to my dad of his Russian Jewish Ghetto, a beautiful pen and ink done in 1943, with the bombs falling down on the village he left behind and was sadly destroyed.

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I tell the fashion students that I lecture, DO NOT DESPAIR! There is always a time to move on in the arts. In our Parsons class our best sketcher, Mary Alice Orito, is now showing her "torn art" mixed media in the NAWA show after a career in fashion on 7th Ave, TV and on Broadway. Joel Schumacher, our greatest Parson's fashion student of the '60s (the next Yves St. Laurent), after only a few years of fashion design, is now a successful movie director. I was the worst student of the same decade, and now as female fashion designer in Paris, I enjoy the most longevity of anyone.

Art is Art. It takes time and life is a long, long time. The only thing that matters at all in Art is to work harder than everyone else (Matisse), and this show has multitalented women who are proving him right as the average age of the women showing in NAWA is 55.

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Vicky Tiel began designing clothes forty years ago in Paris and still owns a boutique there. Her NEW Collection for HSN is available on TV and online, her couture at Bergdorf Goodman and Neiman Marcus, and her perfumes are carried in Perfumania. Her memoir, It's All About the Dress: What I Learned in 40 Years About Men, Women, Sex, and Fashion was published by St. Martin's Press in August 2011.