Tim Atseff is a native of Syracuse, N.Y. and a 1970 graduate of the School of Art at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale majoring painting. While at Southern, Atseff began his sandbox cartooning and illustration years at the school’s newspaper, The Daily Egyptian.
After graduation, Atseff returned to Syracuse to work for the afternoon newspaper, the Syracuse Herald-Journal. There he served as an artist, the Art and Design Director, Editorial Cartoonist, Deputy Managing Editor and Managing Editor. As an Editorial Cartoonist, Atseff jabbed the powerful and bloated from the Nixon through the Reagan years.
During that period, Atseff penned over 1500 local, national and international cartoons. Some appearing in the New York Times, Washington Post, Boston Globe as well as several political cartoon anthologies and other books. A large collection of his Carter cartoons are housed at the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library in Atlanta, GA.
Atseff retired from The Post-Standard, Syracuse’s morning newspaper, in 2011 after 46 years of service. His responsibilities at The Post-Standard were as Marketing and New Product Development Manager and finally as the creator and editor of Central New York Magazine, CNY Business Exchange Magazine and Central New York Sports Magazine.
During Atseff’s professional career, he served as president of the New York State Managing Editor’s Association, and on the national board of directors of the Associated Press Managing Editors Association where he chaired the committees of Foreign News, Ethics, Photo and Graphics, Sports, Innovation as well as chair of the group’s national convention in Atlanta.
Atseff was also a member of the American Association of Editorial Cartoonists well as The Society for Newspaper Design where he had won over twenty national awards for newspaper design. In 2006, Atseff was inducted into the Syracuse Press Club Wall of Fame.
Atseff’s community service includes the boards of the Boys and Girls Club, the Crouse Health Foundation where he served as board chair, and the Onondaga Historical Association, where he redesigned the Historical Association’s History Highlight magazine in his role as a board member.
In the recent past, Atseff was named the "Community Trustee of the Year" by the civic and business group, Leadership Greater Syracuse, for the positive impact the magazines he created had on the image of the Central New York region. He was also received the Onondaga Citizens League 2012 Civic Beautification Award for defining and creating a public space and sculpture for Susan Atseff Memorial Park, also known as Salt Springs Park. The pocket-park was established in memory of his late wife Susan and the caregivers who devote themselves to comforting others.
Since his “rewirement” Atseff has designed and edited six table-top books- An Artist’s Life, Frank Townsend Hutchens, The Art of a Life, Dorothy Riester— A Memoir, Kokum Lena of the First Nation Algonquin, The Hunt, A Lifetime of Pursing Big Game, Syracuse’s Grand Hotel and Dancing in Two Realms.
Throughout his professional career, Atseff worked in spurts on building a body of paintings. Previous shows of his paintings were held at the Everson Museum of Art in Syracuse, N.Y. and Xerox Center in Rochester, N.Y., ArtRage Gallery in Syracuse, N,Y., and the Art Car Museum in Houston, TX. He also had a show of his editorial cartoons at the Onondaga Historical Society.
Atseff’s lastest work yielded a series of paintings called the Seven Deadly Sins— A Trump Dystopian Heptology. They were exhibited at the Center for Contemporary Political Art in Washington, DC in 2019. The series is scheduled to be shown in the fall of 2020 at ArtRage Gallery and as part of a survey exhibit of Atseff’s work at the University Museum at Southern Illinois University.
I look at the clouds like everyone else looking for an answer. There was a cartoon that has been stuck in my head for most of my life of a man climbing the steep mountain and finally getting to the top to ask the Grand Philosopher, “What is the meaning of life?" Not the R.Crumb version, but closer to Calvin and Hobbes. There was silence. Well, I’m still stuck on the romance and grandeur of cosmic questions: Why are we here? Where do we go? Is there something or is there nothing? Why is anything here—or anything anywhere? Why is there something rather than nothing? Why not just nothing?
I cannot allow myself the luxury to admit the disappointingly stark truth; ‘Nothing rather than something’. It simply doesn't add up. Is life just a reflection in a mirror? Then what happens the instant we die? Nothing? Poof!
It's the absence of possibility, that is the struggle. It’s literally nothing, and placing nothing in opposition to something, as an alternative to something, that's saying, there is no alternative to something.
Through my art., by being both additive and at the same time subtractive and through suffering and the darkness of life and death, I have been trying to bring myself closer to the ”Truth”. Looking not for a rational religious faith, but a reasonable faith. Hope of something of value here and on the other side. Keeping the mystery alive. It is that clarion call of my own mortality that is getting louder as time marches on illuminating the contrast of life and death that makes life more alive.
As a painter, it's to make a mark on the canvas and answer with another and another until I have exposed something of myself. Creating a new reality. Something unconscious that deepens and exposes that dark mystery. Something within me that is instinctive in the human soul. Mine. Maybe even within the viewer. What I try to do in my work is explore and expose myself by presenting something in terms of my own sensibilities. Whether it is shared with anyone else, is not my business. I’ve learned art, in all of its forms, is meant to be evocative, provocative. Its power is in the response—good, bad, beautiful, ugly.
My professional career was spent in journalism. Several of those years as and editorial cartoonist exposing hypocrisy and corruption with a stroke of a pen. The art of caricature and political cartooning has a long and rich history. We are all artistic animals. From Cro-Magnon man scratching images on cave walls to Bosch, Daumier, Goya, Thomas Nast, Bacon and contemporaries like the Washington Post’s Herblock and Oliphant, artists have been exploiting the faces of political and public figures in satire. Enlarge a nose or jowl here and droop an ear-lobe or tiny hands there. The idea is to take an imperfection and apply a magnifying glass while still capturing the subject’s likeness and exposing them for who they really are.
It was only natural for me to merge the disciplines of existential and editorial work and into one hybrid presentation of political art. Ergo, The Seven Deadly Sins. A Trump Dystopian Heptology. When I get an itch, I have to scratch it. It makes me feel alive. The darker the work, the more alive I feel.
President Trump has been my itch. For the last two years, I have felt like I’ve had a bad case of poison ivy.
Trump’s scorched democracy policy and his feckless lemmings, have been assaulting objective truth, civility and the free press on a daily, if not a minute-by-minute basis. Destroying and desensitizing the difference between right and wrong. White hats and black hats. They are complicit, corrupt, immoral and indecent.The result was the series of the Seven Deadly Sins. Trump embodies each as narcissistic, full-throated and butt-naked for all to see. Perhaps this “Art of Deal” President never read Goethe’s Faust, another deal maker. His Faustian bargain didn’t turn out so well for him either.
In the end, art is meant to make you think and the power is in your response.