Sometime around 2006, after my husband and I bought our first home in Sussex County, NJ, I met artist, Tony Lordi. I had been actively involved in the local art council while I was starting my professional career as an artist, and the gallery director wanted to introduce me to him. He and two other colleagues had started a gallery in the Lafayette Mill Antiques complex not far from Newton, where I would eventually operate my gallery. She thought he would be a good mentor for me, as well as open some doors.
Did he ever! I had the luck to know Tony from then until his passing in 2010. What began as me gallery sitting on weekends, evolved into mentor, and ended with a friendship. He opened my eyes to what could be possible as a working artist, and supported my work by exhibiting me at the gallery. Eventually, when I ran my own space, he would pop in every week and check out what I was doing, lend a critical eye, but most often encourage me, with some jokes along the way. One of his final exhibits was a show we did together at my gallery, Kitchen Kitsch, featuring both of our works across from one another (which I was so humbled to have the opportunity to do).
Tony was born in Newark, NJ, in 1940 and attended the Newark Arts High School. After graduation he studied at both the Arts Student League in NYC and the Newark State College where he earned a bachelors and a masters. He was a dedicated teacher as well as an artist, employed by the Bloomfield Public Schools and then earning his professorship at County College of Morris. He spent much of his adult life living in Caldwell before moving to Lafayette in Sussex County, NJ, where he and I met. Tony founded the Blackwell Street Gallery in Dover, NJ, which ran from 1981 - 1989. It was in 1988 that Jack Gallery in Soho took him on as an artist and exhibited 20 of his "Empires" which catapulted his career through local, national and international press, securing future exhibits which would include the Everhart Museum, Scranton, Pa.; The Eiffel Tower, Paris, France; Phyllis Rothman Gallery, Fairleigh Dickinson University; Michael Ingbar and Nahan Galleries, New York; Frederick Clement Gallery, Montclair and New York; The Noyes Museum, NJ; the Zhejiang Museum, China; Circle Gallery, San Francisco, Chicago and New York; as well as the Empire State Building. His work was inventive, ranging from sculpture to painting with a deep influence in Dada that developed into a kooky (one of Tony's own descriptors of his work), playful art using all sorts of found objects to convey a modern symbolism.
His loss affected me deeply, not only then, but still now. To process his passing at the time I reflected on our relationship and him in a blog post, where you can read more about our history together, albeit brief. Since writing that post, I have had collectors contact me to buy his work. Sadly I'm not in a position to purchase the amount of work available, nor do I have the space.
That being said, collector, Roman Shapiro, recently got in touch with me through that post, looking to sell the works he has of Tony's due to an impending relocation which involves diminished space. He wants the works to go to good homes. This is an interesting concern of each of the people who have contacted me and I think speaks to the person Tony was. I've agreed to help Roman try to reach out to potential buyers.
Without further adieu, the gallery below features 8 works that Roman is looking to sell, including one of his very popular "Empires". Roman is hoping to sell most of these works if the price is right, otherwise he plans on taking a few of the works with him to his new home. Email me or Roman with your interest or further questions. Additional photos of each work can be emailed to you.
Learn more about Tony's works and exhibitions in the following articles:
NYTimes: Our Towns; An Artist Sees Icon of the Age In Empire State, July 25, 1989
NYTimes: ART; Celebrating the New World, July 2, 1989
At Home in Sussex County: Let There Be Art, June 20, 2009
The Empire State Building: The Making of a Landmark, John Tauranac
One of Tony Lordi's iconic Empire sculptures, Stop Sign Empire, of which there are more than 85 in existence, begun with a set of 25 that were created for an exhibit at Jack Gallery in NYC in 1988. The series was inspired by a visit to the Empire State Building when the artist was 5, commemorated by a souvenir Empire that doubled as a pencil sharpener. That exhibit spawned local, national and international press which led to their exhibition at over 20 different galleries and museums including New York University’s Broadway Windows, the Eiffel Tower in Paris, the Phyllis Rothman Gallery at Fairly Dickinson University, other New York galleries, The Morris Museum, The Zhejiang Museum in China, Circle Gallery in San Francisco, Chicago and New York, as well as The Empire State Building itself.
Jennie Traill Schaeffer
Sometimes called the Kitchen God's Artist, I'm balancing mothering two energetic sons, a big mutt Ringo, making and teaching art. TraillWorks is the apron under which I create and teach. My own art develops mostly in my West Orange home studio, but is sometimes spurred through my teaching, which takes place at Oh! Canary Studio, located in Maplewood, NJ.
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