Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Tish Corbett's Been Great Model for How to See, Paint, Live

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Tish Corbett's Been Great Model for How to See, Paint, Live

Article excerpt

On a visit to the South Side Slopes in 1999, I met Tish Corbett, an artist who had bought and renovated a former grocery store on Mission Street. I was awed by the scale and joy of her paintings, which covered and leaned against every wall surface.

A tiny woman who worked on 8-foot horizontal canvases at the height of her ambition, she is now almost 90 and preparing to leave Pittsburgh for California, where two of her four children live. She will leave a staggering collection of paintings, artifacts and furniture for auction; she already has systematically been giving paintings away.

She also will leave the last class of her Thursday morning South Side Studio School, a somewhat haphazard collection of six artists who brought her out of retirement and now are casting about for a place to keep painting together -- with her as their guiding spirit.

"We're beginning to think through how that might happen," said Cheryl Towers, a painter who lives in Shadyside.

"We want to get a show for her, too," said sculptor and ceramist Dennis Bergevin of Allegheny West. "I remember the first day when I came to her class, I asked how much the classes were. I'd have paid $100, $500, but she said there is no pay. What a gift. She sees the unexpected and draws the unexpected and has no inhibitions, and she brings that out in me. When I am in her class I am invincible, free."

Holly VanDine, a ceramist who lives in Squirrel Hill, introduced herself to Ms. Corbett in the locker room at the Jewish Community Center several years ago. "We hit it off. I told her that I'd never taken painting classes. She had stopped teaching. One day she said, 'I really miss teaching. If you would like to come I would be glad to teach you.'

"I mentioned it to two friends, Dennis and Cheryl, and both said 'Oh my God, can I come?' "

"These are the people who are going to be hard to leave," Ms. Corbett said of her students one day recently when I revisited the uncurated gallery she calls home. …

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