Legacies Unlimited is committed to preserving the past and present for future generations. In addition to sharing memories that might otherwise be forever lost, we document “history in the making” by celebrating contemporary lives that add strong and vibrant threads to the rich tapestry of our nation’s heritage.
 

Portrait of an artist

Behind-the-scenes with Phil Spaziani

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Artist Phil Spaziani in front of portrait of Phil Spaziani by former student Stephen Bennett as photographed by Leif ZurmuhlenBY ANN HAUPRICH

Mornings with Morley cover artist Phil Spaziani has faced more than his share of uphill battles since surviving a brush with death on a Stillwater, NY hilltop in 1991. Although the gliding accident left him wheelchair-bound, the mild-mannered gent who in September 2017 celebrated "the 44th anniversary of my 40th birthday” continues to make artistic leaps and bounds.

Indeed the latest in a series of drawings by the octogenarian promise to add even greater dimension to his legacy which has included exhibits in New York City and Washington DC galleries as well as works in collections private and public collections and a distinguished career as a high school art teacher.

Other credits include designing the historic markers displayed on historic homes in the Village of Ballston Spa, NY. Among them is the 1845 Federal townhouse on West High Street he and wife Lorraine meticulously restored in the 1980s.

Battling his way back from being “sidelined by life” many times over the past quarter of a century, (“I’ve had “more than my share of UTIs and kidney infections – a curse of paraplegia”), Phil credits recent drawing sessions at the Saratoga County Arts Center with helping him further improve his skills.

Phil also continues to venture out to snap photos of prospective subjects for his ever-expanding “Picturing A Village Series” using his iPhone. “I’m still out there looking for the right subjects, the right lighting and so on. I usually take three to six images to refer to while I’m painting.”

A sampling of the more than 40-piece collection was first shared with the public via a Strolling Village Artisans initiative in 2008. Other creations were showcased in “Views From the Saratoga Battlefield: Preserving Historic Lands.” Jointly sponsored by the Saratoga County Arts Center and the Saratoga National Historical Park, the invitational show debuted in Saratoga Springs where it received rave reviews before being moved to the Visitor Center at the battlefield.

Because so much of what the father of three and grandfather of four accomplishes takes place behind-the-scenes, many are not aware of his contributions to such educational institutions as Brookside Museum on Charlton Street and the National Bottle Museum on Milton Avenue.

In addition, Phil forged enduring bonds of friendship with many of the students he taught at Scotia-Glenville High School from the 1970s to the early 1990s.

As much as Phil enjoys painting and entertaining inside of his home, his favorite place to work and relax during the spring, summer and early autumn months is a spacious wheelchair-accessible back deck that affords beautiful bird’s eye views of surrounding scenery.

When the deck was completed in 2003 it was the first time Phil had been able to enjoy his backyard since the 1991 accident. In a bittersweet tale, he relates how the same year he became a paraplegic, his beloved brother Fred passed away from cancer.

“He was too sick to come and see me when I was recuperating from my accident and I was not in any condition at the time to travel to see him,” recalls Phil, but in a final act of caring, Fred Spaziani bequeathed a sum of money that was ultimately freed by his estate for the construction of the deck that today bears an engraved plague in the late sibling’s honor. It is here Phil is now putting the finishing touches on works-in-progress that he hopes will complete the portrait of his own life.

To learn more, please visit www.philspaziani.com.

Lorraine Spaziani began stringing
beaded necklaces as a newlywed

BY ANN HAUPRICH

Pottery and bead designs by Lorraine SpazianiLorraine Spaziani has been collecting beads for as long as she can remember. But only recently have the pierced cylinders of diverse organic origins, colors, textures, shapes and sizes been tenderly removed from vintage cigar boxes and cookie tins to assume places of honor on distinctive mixed media necklaces created by their artisan owner.

“The first beads I ever owned were pink pearls that had belonged to my Nana, Eva Barrile,” recalls Lorraine, who has been wed for six decades to artist Phil Spaziani. “I still remember Nana, who was born in the late 1800s, wearing the beautiful necklace, which became mine after the string was broken. It took me forever to take the necklace apart because each pearl was knotted at both ends.”

Another early beaded acquisition was a necklace crafted from antique ivory – which was in wide use among jewelry makers during Lorraine’s childhood. Many other beads were purchased at garage sales between the 1950s to the 1990s when discarded “junk jewelry” could be had for a song. Over the decades, Lorraine also picked up some interesting looking stones, shells, glass shards, pieces of wood – even nuts that struck her fancy.

What each find shared in common was that it resembled a bead.

But it took signing up for fused glass and ceramics classes at the senior center operated by the City of Saratoga Springs, NY in 2010 to inspire the dozens of necklaces Lorraine has since designed and strung together in her home in the neighboring Village of Ballston Spa.

Bead necklaces by Lorraine SpazianiEach necklace is a unique mixture of clay beads as well as old and new glass – the latter sometimes accented by whimsical nautical themes that celebrate Lorraine’s eastern seaboard roots. The fish, crabs and octopi are just a few of the aquatic shapes that serve as reminders of the years when Lorraine’s ocean-loving father gifted her with seasoned cod line for stringing her very first necklaces.

While Lorraine no longer owns even a single sample of her early jewelry making, both she and Phil share fond memories of how – and why – her very first beaded necklaces came to be.

As poor as church mice during their years as college art students in Massachusetts in the late 1950s and early 1960s, Lorraine and Phil came to depend on the sale of her single stringed necklaces to keep their financial boat afloat. Despite her studio talents, Lorraine insists she couldn’t roll a perfectly round ball out of clay so instead produced shallow cones — which had to be individually pierced with a fine straw prior to kiln firing.

“People loved Lorraine’s necklaces so much that it was often hard to keep up with the demand for them,” reflects Phil, who worked two jobs during the couple’s college years to supplement his income from the GI Bill. As he recalls, the clay used to fashion Lorraine’s hand-made beads darkened to a nice rich brown after kiln firing. She would then painstakingly string the beads with her father’s cod line.

“It was three-ply cord that had to go up, around and through each individual bead to securely hold them in place,” smiles Lorraine, who remembers creating “dozens and dozens” of the single string necklaces. “Looking back, I’m not sure how I managed to be so productive on top of my studies and a part-time job in the notions department at an F. W. Woolworths, but we were poverty-stricken so Phil and I both did whatever needed to be done to pay our bills.”

Stringing beads today is anything but stressful for Lorraine. Indeed she describes the process —which now takes place inside of a sunny home-based studio — as “very relaxing, almost therapeutic. If I’m worried about something when I start stringing beads, I usually can’t remember was it was by the time I finish,” muses Lorraine.

Newlyweds Phil and Lorraine SpazianiMemories of yesteryear prompt loving glances and nostalgic exchanges between her and the man who first caught her eye when he was Master of Ceremonies at an elementary school event at school in 1940s. “My mother has taken me to see the show because my older sister Nataline, who had a wonderful and powerful voice, was singing.”

Nataline was introduced by Phil, then in Grade 6 and five years Lorraine’s senior. “I can still see him standing there in his little yellow shirt and brown pants. He made a lasting impression.”

Because of their five-year age difference, Lorraine and Phil didn’t reconnect until after he (a Winthrop High School Class of 1953 graduate) saw a grown up version of her (a Winthrop High School Class of 1958 graduate) in a hometown business known as Freddie’s Barber Shop.

“I wanted a cap cut shaggy do like the one Marlo Brando had sported in the role of Caesar. None of the lady hairdressers would give me the style I wanted, so I went to see Freddie.” His saying “I do” to doing the cap cut shaggy do ultimately led to I dos. At the time of their marriage, Phil said he “had just turned 25, but looked 15, while Lorraine had just turned 20, but looked 12.”

Needing to share a breakfast teabag to stretch their grocery funds and using tin cans to repair the muffler and tail pipe on their maroon 1951 Dodge Sedan – which often ran on spare tires that had been tossed away as refuse at service stations — are but a few of the memories that bind them together.

Pottery design by Lorraine Spaziani“There’s no doubt that we’re more appreciative of the bounty we have today because of all we did without as newlyweds,” muses Phil, who can often be found drawing or painting in a downstairs studio while Lorraine is being creative upstairs.

In addition to creating necklaces and pottery, Lorraine also designs colorful fused glass pins and pendants, necklaces and earrings and decorative fused glass items for windows. “My degree is in ceramic design and my focus has been on hand built pottery. Beading, fused glass and felting are all recent forms my creative juices have embraced,” explains Lorraine.

Masterpieces by Phil Spaziani to be
part of exhibit at The Mansion Inn

Innkeeper says artist’s life has been an inspiration

Pamela Stendardi first met Phil Spaziani when they were attending a life drawing class at the Saratoga County Arts Council two decades ago.
Remembering Phil as an uplifting presence in the classroom, Pamela says he was “always helpful and encouraging.”

A mentoring relationship soon blossomed, with Phil offering Pamela what she terms “much needed guidance” on topics ranging from how to get museum-quality matting to how to promote her works of art. (Portfolio samples may be viewed on www.stendardiart.com.)

“My friendship with Phil has been a gift,” reflects Pamela. “His amazing talent as a successful artist, knowledge as a teacher, and strength in times of adversity have been an inspiration to me in my own life journey.”

Pamela, who is now also The Innkeeper at The Mansion near Saratoga Springs, NY (www.themansionsaratoga.com), says it was a special honor to invite Phil to participate in the June 2017 ART IN THE BARN exhibit at The Mansion.

Click on links below to view some works by fine artist Phil Spaziani.
1.) Abner Doubleday Birthplace -- By Phil Spaziani.
2.) The Old Iron Spring -- By Phil Spaziani
3.) The Old Chocolate Factory from Historic Horse Alley -- By Phil Spaziani
4.) Bridge from Fairground Hill -- By Phil Spaziani
5.) Hop City Road Brick -- By Phil Spaziani