TAL STREETER

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  • "I met Tal in the mid 1970's. He stayed with my wife and I..."
  • "Tal was my sculpture professor at SUNY Purchase in the..."
    - Gary Golio
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Obituary

Sculptor and writer TAL STREETER joined the beautiful skies of New Mexico on April 17, 2014, in Santa Fe. Born in Oklahoma City on August 1, 1934, Tal grew up in Manhattan, Kansas, a small college town surrounded by a landscape of sky, soaring radio towers, and waving tall grass. His art centered on the creation of large-scale steel sculptures, and large kites, both of which find their inspiration and home in the sky. Best known of his sculptures is Endless Column, first installed in New York City's Central Park next to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. It is now in the permanent collection of Storm King Art Center in Mountainville, New York, one of the worlds largest outdoor museums dedicated to monumental sculpture of the 20th century. Tal's writing also focused on the sky. Extensive travel in Asia and the Pacific resulted in essays and books, notably 'The Art of the Japanese Kite'. Joining Eastern and Western cultures in their common fascination with the sky and the dream of flight, this book on Japan and its kite making traditions and festivals was an immediate classic. The book was a powerful influence on many artists and kite makers around the world. It is still inspiration for many, including the current exhibition of Japanese kites at the Folk Art Museum. Tal moved to Santa Fe some 20 years ago reveling in the natural landscape and special community that makes up Santa Fe. He loved the combination of world class Legoretto sites and traditional architecture. His favorite friends included Santera and writer Marie Romero Cash, jeweler Chimney Butte, sculptor Mark Saxe, photographer Hall Acuff, pianist Gerri "Gigi" Egan. He also loved eating at his favorite haunts - Sweetwaters, cinnamon rolls from San Marco Caf‚ in Cerrillos, and the Sugar Nymphs in Penasco where he said he found the World's Best Meatloaf. Perhaps Tal's greatest satisfaction in the last years of his life was living near his godson Tiger Wong Wagner, son of David and Fiona. Present at Tiger's birth, watching him grow, learn to read, play the piano, hearing his fishing stories, make complicated paper airplanes, elaborate Lego objects, build a rock collection - these were all things that gave Tal immense pride. Tal considered Fiona a daughter, following her interests in everything from design to food to developing her ideas for what was to become Sweetwater Harvest Kitchen. He and David shared a love of books, meatloaf, flight, and the sky. David wrote of his friend: 'Tal was a true public artist who rose above the confines of gallery and museum. He had an eye for the big picture, a powerful understanding of the wonder of flight, and a deep appreciation of the tender and thoughtful response to kites and the sky evoked in a child.' His writing and photography projects were many. He finished final drafts of a magnificent book entitled "In The Rose Colored Light: Portrait of an Indian Circus" after having traveled with the Gupta family some 15 years, performing as a clown in the Emmett Kelly tradition. He was near completion of a book on one of America's great inventors in the field of flight: Domina Jalbert. In February 2011, Tal had a paralyzing stroke in Manhattan, Kansas where he was installing a show of his sculpture at the Beach Museum. His wife, Romig, came out to Kansas from their home in upstate New York to be with him. After six difficult months away from Santa Fe, he was returned home in a thrilling high speed flight through the mountains by Tom Odai in his Piper Aztec. Tal moved to El Castillo Health Center where he was lovingly cared for by all the nursing staff and aides. He loved the quality cooking and never missed a meal. He loved being close to Downtown Santa Fe, attending concerts on the Plaza and the Pet Parade. His hospice care nurses and massage therapist helped him leave with peace. The Friends of the Sky Foundation was established in Santa Fe in 2012 to preserve Tal's vision and collection of works. The 2000 sq ft headquarters for this nonprofit artist foundation will be completed in fall of 2014, and provide an exceptional work and living space for visiting artists, writers, and kitemakers, with intimate access to Tal's books, writings, artwork, and Japanese kite collection in a retreat environment under the enormous New Mexico sky that inspired much of his work and writing. "Rather than center himself in the American space as an Action Painter does, Streeter makes the surrounding lack of scale reveal itself; the endlessness is in the American sky" - Carter Ratcliff in Art International. He is survived by his wife, the potter Romig Streeter, daughter Lissa Streeter, brother Ronald J Streeter, collaborator Bruce George, and his Santa Fe family - David, Fiona and Tiger Wong-Wagner.
Published in Santa Fe New Mexican on May 23, 2014
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