Andrew Topolski (1952-2008 ), Untitled, 2006; mixed media on paper, 22 1/2 x 30 inches; Estate of Andrew Topolski

Andrew Topolski (1952-2008 ), Untitled, 2006; mixed media on paper, 22 1/2 x 30 inches; Estate of Andrew Topolski

Brian Duffy Remembers Andy Topolski

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

I met Andy in 1974 after I entered the undergraduate art program at the University of Buffalo. Andy was a teaching assistant for John McIver’s serigraphy course in the basement of Bethune Hall on Main Street in a dark, ill equipped printmaking studio. His low, booming voice and imposing presence held the students in my class in rapt attention. On many occasions I remember Andy ‘holding court’ during his critiques with his students on the floor ingesting his every word. A few years later I joined Andy on the faculty in the art department of Villa Maria College where he was employed after graduate school. He continued to influence young artists, many of whom led successful careers in the arts.

I believe much of Andy’s work can be traced to an exhibit from 1981 at the Alamo Gallery at the University of Buffalo titled ‘Neologisms’ where he began in earnest to combine graphic images from scientific data and musical notations as well as personal imagery to create work with complex meanings usually based on the potentially destructive nature of man. His inventive nature allowed him to explore and combine seemingly impossible materials and constructions in his work. If the true measure of mastery in any craft is to spend 10,000 hours in dedicated work or research, Andy surely surpassed this. I was constantly awestruck by the amount of work he could produce.

But while teaching at the Parson’s School of Design in New York City, he witnessed the first plane hit the towers on 9/11. As it did many others, this had a profound affect on him and his production of art dropped sharply if not completely. Prior to this he had been exhibiting widely in Europe. He married the painter Cindy Suffoletto whom he met years before at his Essex Street studio in Buffalo and together they purchased a house in Callicoon, NY. He fashioned a studio in his garage equipped with a wood burning stove and began the process of reinventing himself as an artist. In the last few years of his life he produced some of his most emotive artwork with rich narratives based on what he felt were the travesties of US involvement in current Middle East policies and conflicts. He was excited to return to Buffalo in 2008 with an exhibit of this work in the art gallery at Villa Maria College. Unfortunately his death precluded this possibility and the exhibit was modified to also include the work of John Toth, Lisa Toth and Robert Gulley, friends who moved to New York in the mid eighties. I think he would have been pleased.

I think of him often and wonder about the art he might have produced. I miss the late night conversations over several beers which ‘went nowhere,’ as another friend described. But we both knew what they meant.

- Brian Duffy


Duffy is an art professor at Villa Maria College in Buffalo, New York.