Saturday, February 10, 2007

They Met in Paris

"If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast."- Ernest Hemingway

Ulla came to Paris from Germany in January, 1954 at the age of 22. She wanted to escape the constant reminders of World War II that surrounded her in her home land. She had been under bombardment since she was seven. moving constantly, and unable to attend school regularly.

Mika came to Paris from Yugoslavia to escape the new communist regime. In his home land, friends had disappeared after speaking out against the new government. He arrived in France on a student's visa and was given political asylum by the French government.

Ulla lived cheaply in Paris. She rented a "chambre de bonne" (formerly a maid's room), and ate at the student cafeteria at Sorbonne University. It was during one such inexpensive lunch that she met Mika. They fell in love and lived together in Paris for the next two years. Ulla edited and typed Mika's thesis, and in 1956 he got his PhD in Economics.

They had both already applied for visas to this country before they met, and his arrived before hers, so Mika set sail for America. Seven months later Ulla got her visa as well, and she arrived in the U.S. in December, 1956. That month, they were married in City Hall in Manhattan, They became naturalized US citizens, lived in New York City for the rest of their lives, and raised two children there.

More about this at: They Met in Paris

A tribute to my parent's adventures,Claudia

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Life and Death

"Time is life."
- William Bond

I got the quote above from William Bond's book "Home-Based Catalog Marketing, A Success Guide for Entrepreneurs" one of the many business books I read when I was starting my card company. In it, he stressed the importance of time management and of acting quickly on your plans.

Personally, I prefer to think: "time is the medium of life," because time and life are in no way interchangeable, yet life would not exist without time and change. Just as paint and canvas are the media of my paintings: my paintings would not exist without the canvas that supports them, and they would not be paintings without the paint I have applied to the canvas. Without the passage of time, we would never be born, grow into adults, or die.

Today is my mother's birthday. If she had lived, she would be 74 today. But she died in August, 2004. Although it was over a year ago, I still think of her often, and still miss her. The void her passing left in my life is still fresh. She always took the time to listen to me and be supportive, even if she could not understand what I was talking about. More about her at: Eulogy for Ursula Markovich.

As I write this, my father lies dying in a nursing home in Maryland, and the end of a long struggle with Parkinson's disease. I drove down to see him earlier this week, and was shocked at his appearance. He looks pale, frail and skinny, and much older than his 81 years. Now he is very different from the strong, healthy, intelligent man I depended on during my childhood and early adulthood. He no longer eats, drinks, or opens his eyes. The nurses told us that hearing and touch are the last senses to go, so my sister and I talked to him and rubbed his arms, hoping that would provide some comfort.

When I look at the lives of my parents, and the beginning of the life of my son, I have come to think of life as a bell curve in time. We start out helpless, completely dependent upon others, and with no idea about what's going on in the world around us. If we live long enough, many of us wind up helpless, completely dependent upon others, and with little idea of what's going on in the world around us. If we are lucky, in between we get several decades during which we are capable of not only taking care of ourselves, but also going beyond that to accomplish goals or take care of others. As I am now in that capable phase, I try to make sure to take time out to do those things that are important to me, like spending time with my son and working on my art. And I am thankful to have this time today, because I cannot count on tomorrow. In life, the only thing we can really count on is change.

- Claudia

P.S. My father died on December 14, 2005. He was married to my mother for over 48 years when she died, and they were very close. When he died on her birthday, I felt that they were somehow cosmically connected to the end.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Guess and Go Management

"Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it."
- Goethe

When I decided to start a card company, I had no experience running a business (unless you count renting out part of my house), and I knew nothing about the greeting card industry. I knew neither now to get my artwork printed as cards, nor how to sell them once they were printed. I had no proof even that they could be sold. I only had a vaguely remembered observation from an art fair a decade before that it was easier to sell lower priced things than higher priced things. That, and an intense desire to make a living from my artwork (hopefully), or at least get it out of the closet.

So I guessed, and I went forward. I comforted myself with my positive feedback loop theory: if I objectively evaluated the results, kept what worked, changed what didn't work, and tried again and again, eventually I could make it happen; assuming, of course, I had infinite time. The first card I printed featured the painting above, Mindscape II, a painting which has always received complements. It's still one of my best-selling cards. (More about this painting at

Guess and go management makes for many mistakes. The fact that time, and its' co-dependent: money, are not infinite, is a constant concern. I have learned the hard way about managing too much inventory and trying to break into a field populated by big established players. I've had to do more work than I could have imagined possible to accomplish the simplest thing, only to find out that it's not the right thing to do in the first place. But it's taken me places I never expected to go, and it's forced me to rely on myself instead of whatever corporation was currently employing me.

Now, I question everything. Perhaps I even question it too much, hence the green hair.

Along the way, I found that my positive feedback theory has yet another flaw in addition to the infinite time assumption - I can't ever really do an objective evaluation of anything I care about as much as my art. But I'm still ready to guess and go because it's much more interesting than staying.

- Claudia

Friday, December 02, 2005


"I had to get over my fear of running through the world naked and learn to say, 'Take me or leave me.'"
- Steven Spielberg

Creating and then exhibiting a painting makes me feel like that Spielberg quote. I use my paintings to explore and understand my feelings and the world around me. Whenever someone else views them, I wonder if they can see exactly what I was thinking when I created that painting. At times, I wonder if they can even see more that I can see, and can see something about me that I don't even know myself. Of course it's also possible that they interpret my imagery completely different than I had intended, and see something I never even thought of.

I have paintings in two separate exhibits at the moment: my painting, Joy At Any Size, is exhibited at part of the Art League of Long Island's Member exhibit in Huntington (above, more about this painting at And I have two paintings hanging in Northport Art Coalition's Village Hall Art Exhibit (my paintings are on the left and right: on the left is Confined ( and on the right is First Try ( Very different paintings - I guess that's why they separated them.

The first few exhibitions I did made me very nervous. I was as anxious for feedback (preferably positive) as anyone, and I felt I had something to prove as an artist. But exhibitions never give me as much feedback as I expect, so I am quite a bit calmer about it all now, and exhibiting regularly has become part of my everyday life. Now I am more surprised when I actually do get a comment, which inevitably brings me back to the moment when I created the painting in question. And luckily, most of the time when people make the effort to comment, it's because they have something good to say. The same is true for my green hair. People who don't like it pretend it doesn't exist.

- Claudia

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Why Green?

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage."
- Anais Nin

I get asked this question a lot, especially by people who knew me before I started coloring my hair green, about a year ago. The short answer is, "to look different." The long answer is at:

In 2001 I painted this painting called "Breaking Free." (More about this painting at: ) At the time, I had just decided to go against the advice of everyone around me and stop pursuing my engineering management career to pursue full time what I have always wanted to do - my art. I had been painting seriously all of my adult life, and twice before I took time off between jobs to pursue my art full time, but I had dropped all of the leads since the last time and I knew I would be starting cold. But by the time I painted this, I knew I was going to go for it, for as long as humanly possible.

I must admit, management paid better, but I love what I'm doing right now, and I know I will always have what I create this way. No one (except myself) can cancel a project mid-stream and throw my work away. And four years later, here I am, still at it, putting my art on cards:

These days, my advice to anyone who asks is, "pursue your dream" and/or "be yourself." Life's not long enough to do both that and what others prescribe. I feel lucky to know what my dream is, and even more so to be able to pursue it.

- Claudia

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Green Hair at the 9/11 Site

"Dissent is the highest form of patriotism."
- Thomas Jefferson

"To announce that there must be no criticism of the president, or that we are to stand by the president, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public."
- Theodore Roosevelt

I got those two quotes from an art exhibit in downtown Manhattan that I saw after visiting the 9/11 site with two friends. The exhibit, "A Knock at the Door," was on view at the South Street Seaport Museum from September 8th to October 1st, 2005, and was organized by the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council. It showed some artists' reactions to the post-9/11 world. It included a pile of rubbish left behind after the terrorist taskforce harassed an artist for several weeks for working with biological material (a large pile mostly of pizza boxes and gatorade bottles). But my favorite was a straight jacket made from an American flag called "The (Un)Patriot Act."

It was a welcome change of perspective after I got one very nasty look from a woman at the 9/11 site, which I can only attibute to my green hair. As if my hair somehow dishonored the tragedy. But in reality, my defiant hair color honors freedom. When I read about oppressive cultures, it make me appreciate the freedom I have here even more, including the freedom to adopt a totally unnatural hair color.

Here's a photo of me and my friend Brecht at the 9/11 site, photo by Eric Pivnik, my friend who suggested visiting this site in the first place.

Now does that look threatening to you?

- Claudia