Artist profile: Tasha Strigle

Ocala art teacher Tasha Strigle instructs by example, continuing the learning process required to evolve as an artist.

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Posted May 20, 2022 | By Julie Garisto

Tasha Strigle [Supplied]

Recognizing art in everyday minutiae is one of Tasha Strigle’s superpowers. Whether she’s gathering middle school students to create a masterpiece with milk caps or capturing an icon in the cherished pantheon of Florida roadside attractions, Strigle seeks out subjects and materials that tether us to one another either sentimentally, psychologically or culturally; things we’d otherwise take for granted. 

For the “Landmarks” show currently up at the Marion Cultural Alliance’s Brick City Center for the Arts, Strigle re-created a mixed-media tribute to a beloved shop on U.S. 301 in Citra, The Orange Shop. 

“I was gonna do like a space theme based on the (Kennedy) Space Center but had driven up to my friend’s house in Citra. She was really close to that orange shop, and I have always loved their sign and just the whole roadside orange shop-Florida tradition,” she said.

The Kennedy Space Center, coincidentally, is not too far from Strigle’s world, either. It’s where her father worked, and she lived on the Space Coast from age 10 until she attended college in Pennsylvania. 

Don’t ask her about dates, though. Time tends to be a little more abstract for Strigle.

She had to pause a moment when asked her age. “Oh, man, we were just talking about this the other day,” she said with a laugh. “I always forget. I think I am 42.”

When asked when she and her husband, Joshton Strigle, moved back to the Ocala area: “Around, maybe 2007-ish, 2008.”

Strigle always created art. As a child, she was really into animals.

“The second thing I might have become would’ve probably been a veterinarian, but I became a teacher instead,’’ she said. “I would draw my pets and animal cartoon characters. In middle school, I drew a lot of Looney Tunes and all the Disney movie characters.”

She studied art at Messiah University in Pennsylvania, with concentrations in photography and textiles. After college, she started teaching art at a public elementary school and has continued to teach at various levels, including summer art camps at The Appleton Museum of Art. Currently, she teaches 2D studio art at Vanguard High School.

This mixed media piece, Follow The Sign, was specifically inspired by The Orange Shop in Citra Florida. In my mind roadside orange shops have always been a quintessential piece of Florida history and travel. As the numbers of these shops dwindle, their nostalgic value increases. I pass this shop regularly when traveling or visiting my friend who lives in Citra. This landmark is etched in my mind as a local icon, especially the sign. Using re-purposed materials and acrylic media, I recreated my interpretation of the sign from a photo I took in passing. (below)

Teaching, like art, brings Strigle gratification despite its many challenges. “I like that they can have my class multiple years in a row so I can really get to know them more and kind of watch them develop,” she said of her students.

Also, the schedule and fewer challenges presented by high school-age artists (as opposed to pre-teens in middle school) has freed up Strigle’s time to create her own art.

“We always do FAFO (Fine Arts For Ocala) and then I have two students doing the emerging artist exhibit coming up,” Strigle shared. “I think I had like three students send stuff to the Congressional Art Competition and I have a student who has a piece going into a surrealism show at the Dali Museum. Plus, I have another student showing in the CF (College of Central Florida) senior show.”

When she was teaching North Marion Middle School around eight years ago, her students worked with Michelle Stitzlein, an artist known for creating stunning mixed media art with recycled materials, on landscape created from milk caps. The work, “Uncapped Beauty” is still hanging in The Appleton Museum of Art.

“It was the coolest experience,” Strigle said. “We got to meet this artist whose work I had seen and I was like, ‘Wow, I love her work!’ You think, ‘Oh, you’ll never get to meet the artist. They live far away or whatever. ‘And then the Appleton team called and asked, ‘Hey, do you wanna do this bottle cap thing with this lady?’ And I was like, ‘Oh, OK, sure. That sounds great.’ ‘Cause I would do recycle work with the kids and myself because a lot of my work involves cardboard and recycled things. I opened the artist’s webpage, and it turned out to be the artist who I really liked.”

When she’s not teaching, textile has been her favorite material to work with lately, but she also works in photography and other media.

“When the pandemic hit, I just started making art more often for myself,” Strigle explained. “It’s like really become more of a thing for me because before it was all more work-related or I would do visual journaling, not a lot of big art projects. So when I had a lot more time to just do it, I found it to be a kind of stress relief.” 

“I started going to art walks and things and meeting some of the artists,” she said. 

Her first show was the Monochromatic March exhibit last year at the Brick. She’s also created work with her mother. “I think I have always been the one wanting to make stuff and she does it with me,” Strigle said. 

And per her artist statement for “Landmarks”: “I also prefer to incorporate materials that would usually be discarded,’’ she said. “Resourcefulness has been part of my creative process since I was a child.”

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