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Collier painter is looking to burn some of her colorful inventory

| Thursday, June 26, 2014, 9:10 p.m.
Some of artist Kathleen Zimbicki's artwork in her Collier Township home.
Heidi Murrin | Tribune-Review
Some of artist Kathleen Zimbicki's artwork in her Collier Township home.
Artist Kathleen Zimbicki has hundreds of pieces of her artwork in her Rennerdale, Collier Township home.
Heidi Murrin | Tribune-Review
Artist Kathleen Zimbicki has hundreds of pieces of her artwork in her Rennerdale, Collier Township home.
Artist Kathleen Zimbicki with her piece 'Opaque' that was acquired by the South Alleghenies Museum of Art last year.
Heidi Murrin | Tribune-Review
Artist Kathleen Zimbicki with her piece 'Opaque' that was acquired by the South Alleghenies Museum of Art last year.

The initial thought of an artist burning her work might sound unbelievable.

But once watercolorist Kathleen Cochran Zimbicki lit the flame of the idea, she knew it was the right thing to do.

“A photographer friend of mine, Mark Perrott, was talking about burning his photos because there were so many, and he didn't want to leave the job of going through all the pictures to his family after he died,” says Zimbicki of Collier, who practiced burning a few of her creations. She plans to put more to the fire this weekend at Pittsburgh Center for the Arts in Shadyside.

“The more I thought about it, the more it became a really good idea,” she says. “I have so many paintings that I don't know what to do with them. And I don't want my family to have to worry about what to do with them when I die.”

Those who don't want to see Zimbicki's paintings sizzle will have an opportunity to save them. She is one of 70 artists participating in the sixth annual “Yart” sale — a creative spin on the traditional yard sale — from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. June 29 on the lawn outside the Center for the Arts.

At 1 p.m., certain pieces will be subject to the match if they aren't sold. Zimbicki calls her sale — quite simply — “Burn.” Pieces that typically sell for $160 to $1,200 will be discounted to $40, $80 and $160. A selection of paintings priced at $8, if not sold, will be burned in the Gordon Raku Pavilion. The ashes will be used to create more art.

“ ‘Burn' is a festive way to share Kathleen's work and support her,” says Laura Domencic, director of the center. “It's another avenue to present and sell an artist's work respectfully and joyously. The works range from smaller landscape paintings done during her extensive travels, to figurative works, to what she is most known for — her whimsical narratives with animals and vibrant colors.”

Zimbicki plans to donate half of her profits to the center, where she has taught and sold her paintings over the years.

“Kathleen is so much fun,” says Tiffany Whitfield, the center's shop manager. “And she has fun with art. She brings fun to everything she does.”

The timing for this sale is perfect, says Zimbicki, 80, a mother of four children, grandmother of eight and great-grandmother of one.

She says there is no time like the present to begin taking inventory of all the paintings she has created over the years.

Her family background includes many musicians, but that genre wasn't for her, so she started painting at age 14. She owned Studio Z Gallery on the South Side for many years.

“Kathleen's work is quite unique,” Domencic says. “She loves color. You can spot a Zimbicki from a mile away. You can tell she loves what she does when you see her paintings and talk to her about them.”

People have tried to stop her from burning her art, she says, but she has a reason.

“I am not disrespecting art,” says Zimbicki, surrounded by stacks of paintings in her home. “Look at this treadmill. It can only hold 50 or so paintings. I have thousands of paintings. I have so many pieces of art in my house that I can't find one, and it's 60 by 40 (inches) … and it's framed. So, see what I mean when I say I have too many?”

Mike Zimbicki, her husband of 59 years, doesn't want to see the paintings go.

“I don't want her to burn them because I like her work,” he says. “They are so nice that we should keep them all. She is really talented.”

It takes time to burn one of Zimbicki's paintings because she uses archival paper, which is acid-free and keeps the painting from rotting.

Not all of the art in the house is created by her.

“I love to buy art,” she says. “I appreciate other artists and their work. I love all colors. I especially love bright colors. They are pleasant. I would say my work is funky and humorous. I hope it makes people happy.”

Zimbicki credits a lot of what she learned to the late teacher Henry Koerner.

“I still hear his voice when I am painting,” she says. “He was a big influence on me. He was a real character.”

The Southern Alleghenies Museum of Art in Loretto will host an exhibit by Zimbicki in 2015, as well as house a few permanent pieces. She enjoys that honor, she says, but having her pieces sold at the Yart Sale is special, too.

“The Yart Sale is a great event because it is a way for people to get artwork at a discounted rate,” Zimbicki says. “It is fantastic to have a piece of my artwork in someone's house or office.

“This is not an easy business, but I have such great support from my husband, children, other family members and friends,” she says. “I am now realizing what can happen after watching friends pass away, seeing that their families don't know what to do with all of their art. It's a problem. It can be a burden. I don't want that.”

JoAnne Klimovich Harrop is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at or 412-320-7889.

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