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Their work lives on: Carol Luce’ Lighten Up.

In Memoriam
By David Brickman

They say bad things happen in threes. Of course, that can’t be true—but we do tend to think of things in threes (examples abound) so, when I learned recently that Scott Asbury had lost his battle with cancer late last year, being the third area artist I know to have suddenly left us within a span of a few months, I felt it was time to comment on the losses. Asbury’s death at 39 followed quickly on the heels of Frank Broderick’s untimely demise, of an aneurism at the age of 29, around Thanksgiving; Carol Luce was similarly struck down out of the blue in early April—she was 46.

What did these three have in common other than the coincidence of their too-early deaths? All three were particularly talented painters, in greatly diverse styles: Broderick made exuberant, Zen-like works on paper with an almost automatic feel; Luce labored intensely to produce color-saturated amalgamations of built-up patterns; and Asbury worked in almost total obscurity on meticulously crafted combines inspired by popular culture and his particular muses, the beat poets.

These three artists also shared the fact of being underappreciated, mainly because they had shown rather little, and of having fairly recently emerged somewhat more into the spotlight of the Capital Region art scene. Asbury was the most reclusive of the three, working as a picture framer at Hill’s Stationery in Troy and showing his work to favored clients there, some of whom were in a position to support his work and/or help expose it to a broader audience.

One such follower of Asbury’s art was Michael Oatman, a Troy-based artist and professor who was instrumental in getting him a showcase at the Arts Center of the Capital Region about a year ago. Some of the work in that show had been part of the ACCR’s 2002 Fence Show.

In a review of the Fence Show, I wrote about Asbury’s piece titled Homeless-Man Art Gallery: “Expertly deploying a compendium of styles and techniques, from pop-ish cartooning to Michelangelesque rendering, Asbury has created an homage to ’80s art star Jean-Michel Basquiat that simultaneously sends up the museum system, collectors’ vanity, outsider-artist posturing and the New York City hustle in general.”

R.S. Asbury’s Charles Bukowski.

Asbury’s stepdaughter, Cara Cerone, has catalogued his work for the possibility of a show in the near future in Troy; a memorial scholarship for young artists is also being discussed.

Broderick earned a bachelor’s degree in painting from SUNY at New Paltz and an MFA from the University at Albany; he taught classes at the Arts Center of the Capital Region and Columbia-Greene Community College. A couple of years ago, he had a show sponsored by Albany Center Galleries of his remarkable calligraphic pieces in black ink on cream-colored paper at the Lark Street BID office. I saw the show, but was unable to write about it—still, it made a lasting impression.

During his last year, Broderick spent several months as a visiting artist in the Dominican Republic; born in Barbados, he greatly enjoyed the return to paradise, and had been making plans to go back when he died.

A work by Frank Broderick.

At the same time, he was expected to be curator of a new gallery that was slated to open this year upstairs from Ruby’s Hotel restaurant in Freehold, where he had once tended bar. Instead, the gallery now bears his name: The Broderick Fine Art Gallery opened Saturday (June 5). Its debut exhibition, Frank Broderick: A Memorial View, will hang through late July. Another exhibition of his work is set for the Fulton Street Gallery this fall.

Luce was the best known of the three, perhaps as much for her other activities as for her painting. A Skidmore alumna with an MFA from UAlbany, Luce had not long ago received tenure as an art professor at Siena College, where she also ran the Yates Gallery. Her colleague at Siena, John Caputo, has carried on running the gallery and will pick up her course load next year while the college runs a national search to fill the position.

Despite a streak of self-deprecation, Luce was noticed and collected by important institutions, including the Albany Institute of History and Art. In a group exhibition at the Chapel + Cultural Center at Rensselaer in 2003, her work inspired me to write this description: “Luce manipulates patterns and colors like a conductor controls an orchestra—dashingly, defiantly, brilliantly. Her painterly meditations can bristle with energy or soothe the weary spirit, depending on palette, size and complexity.”

The legacy of Luce’s work will be continued with a show next spring at the Yates Gallery.

There is a scene in the film The Razor’s Edge where a brutal but beloved sergeant is cut down in battle. The hapless soldier nearby, played by Bill Murray, doesn’t want to show his grief at the loss of such a curmudgeon, so he eulogizes him simply by saying, “He will not be missed.” While the artwork of Scott Asbury, Frank Broderick and Carol Luce remains to reminds us of what they lived for, it is not enough. The truth is, they will be very much missed.

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