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Casey Croucher/Recorder staff Amsterdam Mayor Ann Thane shows her wood burning artwork on a tabletop at her home Friday.

Casey Croucher/Recorder staff Mayor Ann Thane poses next to her tiger mural in Sirchia Park in Amsterdam Friday.


Burning love: Mayor's artistry includes wood burning technique

Saturday, May 31, 2014 - Updated: 4:08 AM


Mayor by day, artist by night.

From acting as chief executive of the city to painting murals in parks, Amsterdam Mayor Ann Thane lives a double life.

"I've just always had a passion for art and I can't let it go," Thane said.

Thane, who studied fine art and art history in college, spent many years in the artistic field before being elected mayor. She was a graphic artist for many years, and then the director of the Walter Elwood Museum for a time before becoming mayor.

"Art is an outlet for me because this business of government can get pretty serious and nonsensical and very stressful, so I've got to have other avenues to explore.

"If you don't have any outlets your soul will get sucked dry and artwork is the perfect outlet," Thane said.

Thane said she's done many different types of artwork, including portraits, writing, mosaics, pottery and jewelry-making.

Her favorite piece she's currently working on is a tabletop of wood burning designs. Wood burning, or pyrography, is the decoration of wooden surfaces with burn marks from a special pyrography pen.

Thane's table is decorated with swirling images of flowers, birds, butterflies, feathers and inspiring words, with every inch of the table covered in designs.

"I do the wood burning to relax," she said. "That's how I unwind; I sit down and start designing on the table. A lot of people knit, but I'm just not very good at it, it's not for me."

The mayor said she also makes beaded jewelry of every color, shape and size in her spare time.

"Any time you see me wearing a matching set of beaded jewelry, I probably made it," she said. "I use the time making bracelets, necklaces and earrings to unwind after a long day working."

Thane said her passion for art is fueled even more when her children Ian and Sarah help her with projects.

"A few years ago my kids did a funky geometric mural in Sirchia Park while I did my own mural of a tiger on the other side," she said. "It makes me proud when they help me out. I think art is really important for young people to express themselves in ways other than sports or anything else. I was never good at sports, I wanted to be, but I just wasn't, and I know other kids are the same way."

Thane said she's also influenced by her husband Peter, who is a practicing artist.

"He creates very photo-realistic artwork, and my work is much more expressive," she said. "It's amazing how realistic his drawings are; it takes a lot of patience and time to do them. I'm more of a multi-media artist, I layer different types of work to reveal colors and shapes."

She said she doesn't have enough time to devote herself to painting, so she's taken up different types of art.

One of her favorite projects she's ever done was help put together the mosaic wall in front of the city's Creative Connections Art Center.

"I originally wanted to do a mosaic really bad," she said. "I brought up the idea at the art center, and my friend, Tammy Merendo, said she was interested too. We've got a really good friendship now just through art because our interests are so similar, and our way of working is so similar. When we did the mosaic we didn't even have to speak, we just knew what would work and it turned out beautifully."

The mayor said she's also very proud of the tiger mural she painted in Sirchia Park a few years ago. The mural features a 25-foot long orange and black tiger surrounded by grass.

"I was honestly surprised with myself when I saw the outcome of my tiger," she said. "I free-handed that painting after looking at a Japanese print of it. I'm glad it hasn't been tagged with graffiti, unlike the geometric mural my kids made."

Thane said she's always had a passion for art from the time she was a small child.

"When I was a kid I asked myself, 'what will I be when I grow up?' and everybody was like 'you're an artist,'" she said. "And I was like, 'yeah, but what will I be when I grow up?' and now I'm asking myself the same question."

She said she thinks she'd like to take her artwork more seriously when she gets older, like her grandmother did.

"I think I'd eventually like to do more art and be an artist when I have the time," she said. "My grandmother, Marion Tigue, took up painting when she was in her late 60s and she did beautiful work for 20 years. So, she's an inspiration. I look like her, and I act like her so I think I'm walking in her shoes to a certain extent."

She said she sees art everywhere she goes, and that's what makes life more enjoyable.

"I'm always looking for art; I'm always conscious of what the artwork is, what the architecture is, what patterns are going on," she said. "I see art wherever I am, whether it's furniture, what's on the wall, what's down the street, what's downtown NYC. When you can find the artistic nature in something, it makes it more appealing, it makes life more enjoyable."

Thane said she hopes young, aspiring artists will view the world similarly and create artwork instead of defacing it.

"I think as an artist there's no way you can fight channeling your creativity, it just has to come out," she said. "For young people, they need to just do it. They need to seek out avenues in the community where they can express their artistic sides, because if I were to have kids in the community reach out to me and say they wanted to paint a wall, instead of spray painting on someone else's private property, I'd give them the wall and I'd give them the paint. So, stop tagging and start doing something great."


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