‘2 Art Studio’ in Afton Is a Family Affair

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By Kathy Johnson

Milenko Katic'
Milenko Katic'

On Avon Road in Afton, near its southern intersection with Rt. 151, there is a small barn known to many locals for its connection to Critzer family barrel makers. The cooper’s shop has long been gone, but next to it is an old building recently redesigned, restored and painted bright white. This is the studio of two artists offering different, but similar, talents and sharing the space in creative (and matrimonial) harmony.

Milenko Katic’, from Serbia, is the creative talent behind metal sculptures and stunning oil paintings of horses that appear to have jumped from cave wall drawings to canvas. Nearby his wife, Virginia-born Tanya Tyree, creates abstract Raku sculptures that vary from useful trays and tiny bottles to large standing sculptures of women.

Starting his artwork while still in his teens in Serbia, Katic’ first made what he called “mistakes.”
“My first mistake was going to study medicine in school because of big demand in my family and my mother.  I tried to please my mother. I studied at the University of Belgrade and I tried to be a dentist.  But three years you go all to medical studies and exams and then in fourth and fifth year you specialize doing practical stuff. I was just so unhappy and I could not see myself doing that and I quit after three years. It was a really traumatic moment in my life. My parents were upset and it was really bad,” he said.

Tanya Tyree
Tanya Tyree

“So, I just decide and took different way.  And then to support myself, I took a job – nothing to do with art, but then I went to the drawing school. And I paint. Make pictures, paintings, drawings – then exhibition. It was time to grow up as artist. All the time sorry I didn’t go to art school – but I study myself.  I always look in books and I think I am pretty knowledgeable about art and history … but, I always think something missing.”  Even now, Katic’ admits to feeling that he missed out on the art education he should have had.  “My wife, she finished college – she is actually art teacher and sometimes she surprise me.

“So many times I see she is much more knowledgeable than even I am. Somebody said ‘you study art to know what you shouldn’t do,’ and I don’t know that. I don’t know what I shouldn’t do.  Maybe I’m repeating something what somebody already did, because I don’t know.”

By the time Katic’ arrived in America in 1989, he was able to support himself with his art. There were struggles here in the beginning. He was able to be ‘only’ an artist, but with some difficulties. “I had some friends and we made parties. Then in the parties I put on the table my sketchings, you know, guy came from Serbia and everybody interesting and all like, okay, $20 bucks, and usually I sold out. But not enough for living.  So, I find out talking to the other artists in Charlottesville, and the crafters. And then I learn basically the shows are a really good way to make money and support yourself.”

“I remember Crozet was the first one,” he said, referring to the Crozet Arts Festival.  “And I check there and say, hum, I can make all this stuff they are making. And I start making three dimensional small pieces, bone carvings, and put things together.  I still having people asking me about this work.” He pointed to some of his older sculptures, including some horses made from dog food cans.

Talking about his earlier bone carvings (which he no longer does, although there are a few pieces available at the shop), he said, “First bone is from the dog in the back yard. They chew so well the bone comes really white and you say ‘Oh, my God, that’s very interesting.  Good.’  And I started carving.”

2-studio-tanya-tyreeKatic’ said his work with the bones drew quick and positive responses. “People really like it, because of the intricate small work. I make jewelry. I make small sculpture and this kind of work.  And then I make production and that was years and years and slowly I stand on my feet.”  Now Katic’ is doing primarily oil paintings and some mixed media.  Katic’ starts his oil paintings as drawings.

“I do mixed media, sculptures,” he said. “I cut pieces from different things. Then on top of that I do my paintings and drawings.  Just a small part of my paintings are collage.”

The mixed media is “actually idea from recycling containers in the trash.  All this was in the finish – like old newspapers or what you throw away and then I pull back and give them new life in the artwork.  Then when I find something I really like, I talk to them and say ‘You are lucky one, you are going to art.’” As he explained it, his work is “image and design – not meaning.”

Katic’ partner in the shop and in life is the Raku artist Tanya Tyree.  Married  3½ years ago, they first met at an art show in Richmond.  They kept meeting at shows, a friendship developed and eventually they married. They moved to the Avon location a couple of years ago and began work on the property with the idea of a studio always in their plans.

2-studio-tyree-rakuFor Tyree, the artistic journey has been a little different.

“I’m from Louisa. I grew up there,” Tyree started.  “I went to Virginia Commonwealth University and graduated from there in ’94 with a degree in Art Education. I was mostly a painting major.  And afterwards I got my first job teaching in Danville as a clay teacher, so I’m self-taught on a potter’s wheel and I’m self-taught with all clay. I bring to it, I think, a painting background, which is very different from traditional pottery training. I don’t think about making form for function as much as for aesthetics.” The painting background is where the drawings and figures that adorn many of her pieces originate.

After six years of teaching at two different locations, Tyree quit in 2000 to pursue a career in Raku work full time.  “I had raised enough money from teaching to live for a year without making a huge amount of money—and I was guaranteed my old job back at the school. I loved teaching, but I had this really strong desire to see what I could create and teaching really requires that you give everything to the children in order to be a good teacher.

2-studio-milenko-katic“I really love the opportunity Milenko and I have to do this full time. We work really hard, but we enjoy every day.  At one point I was painting and doing the clay work and again it was needing to focus,” explained Tyree. “Raku really allows me to look at pottery as an art form—as far as doing something artistic instead of doing something functional. I’ve always done figures, drawing faces, and then in one moment I started manipulating these forms and seeing them as figures themselves. Then I began putting heads on the top of them, and that’s just opened up a whole new box for me.”

Most of Tyree’s clay works and Raku firings include a degree of painting that is not typically found in pottery. The pieces also become figures themselves with heads and faces incorporated.

Tyree must first fire her work in the bisque fire to harden the clay, then apply her unique glazes and fire them a second time in the Raku, a small outside kiln, to bring the glazes to life and create the final look for each piece. Tyree must take more care with Raku than other firing types because the risk of breaking pieces is much greater than with typical firing. Raku pieces must be removed with great care because they are brought out of the fire while still quite hot.

“I have lots of people who buy pieces, and because they are one of a kind, you know they want to get first dibs on seeing the new pieces.” Many of her pieces have such a copper look to them that at first glance people wonder if they are made of clay or metal.

With strong demand for her Raku pieces, Tyree no longer does paintings, although a few pieces are still available. “I do the Raku sculptures—they are sculptures—as well as some wall pieces and the more functional ceramic forms like the lamps and I’ve even started making Raku jewelry.”

To view some of the artwork available at 2 Art Studios, visit them on the web at www.2artstudios.com or milenkoartstudio.com.  Because of the number of shows they do, and to allow time for them to work, call ahead (540-456-6318) before dropping by.

2-studio-katic

1 COMMENT

  1. Hi Neighbor! We spend a few months every year down and across the road at 60 Avon road. Drop by sometime. I saw the article today in the Waynesboro paper and decided to google you and lo and behold, realized we are neighbors! I am hosting an Air Force Squadron reunion in April in Waynesboro and a couple of the guys are artists. Would it be possibe for them to visit your studio when theye are in town? soon.
    Hope to meet you soon.
    Jack and Tomi (Dawn) Freese.

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