My Mother Claimed that…

tunnel-living-insideLast Monday, I had a revelation. I was standing in the middle of the gallery at the Kelly’s Writers House, nervously anticipating my XPN interview for “American Goulash” (podcast coming soon!) The cold from the winter storm was seeping into the front lobby, so everyone in the building gathered started to gather around a large table with food, drink, and most importantly, no drafty doors. I didn’t know anyone in the room except for my business partner, who I always drag to these things so he can network and with the cool artist-types in the neighborhood. He was off somewhere, grabbing a soda, so I decided to look at the wall of artwork rather than just stare awkwardly at a table full of half-empty pizza boxes. I always think that crap strewn all over the wall makes a perfect ice breaker when trying to make small talk, which is probably why all those Fridays/Applebees-type chain restaurants throw so many boat paddles and hockey masks permanently nailed to everything.

A square, neatly stitched embroidery hung in a simple frame. I did a double-take. This was no ordinary “crap on the wall”:

Lessons From My Mother: Kidney Cold

I laughed and turned to the person to my right, “Kidney cold? My mom always says that, too. Ha, this artist is probably Hungarian.”

The person mumbled a laugh awkwardly and walked away from me.

The failure to network didn’t even faze me as my eye moved down the wall, mesmerized by the intricate embroideries.

Lessons from My Mother: Herpes

I looked over at my business partner, who had returned with a large cup of something presumably caffeinated. I pointed at the art, “Wow, my mom always says that, too. Especially when you eat stuffed cabbage! She says that anyone that eats greasy stuffed cabbage without bread will get one cold sore per cabbage eaten.”

“Yeah, your mom’s pretty weird,” he replied.

I peered around a corner, and caught a glimpse of this:


I started to get a little weirded out; Nagymama always said that, which is why there was such an obsession over the kúp! I needed to see the artist’s name – if it has excessive “sz”s, “gy”s, or umlauts, I knew that she had to be Hungarian.

I called over to the hostess of the event, “Um, excuse me, do you know who made these embroideries?”

“Nope, I’m not sure, sorry, but I can find out for you.” She walked away, and I was compelled to find every last piece of art in the gallery. There were probably about a dozen total, covering topics like sex, bowel movements, disease, and general paranoid old wives tales. I got to the final piece on the wall, which stated, “My mother spoke about the vet in Romanian since she thought the cat spoke Hungarian.”

“Holy crap,” I said, “She’s not just Hungarian, but she’s probably Transylvanian if she spoke both languages! She was probably from the same damned VILLAGE as my Anyu and Nagymama. I mean, even doing these as embroideries is so APPROPRIATE because of the Hungarian Folk Art Tradition of embroidery!”

Just as I was probably boring my partner to tears, the hostess returned with a flyer. “Here is a list of all the artists on exhibit, I am not sure which one she is.”

I skimmed through the list and landed on Andrea Dezsö.  The umlaut tells it all – that girl is from the Eastern Bloc! I was shocked, proud, amused, and disturbed. How is it, that out of all the galleries in the world, I would happen to walk by this one right before taping an “American Goulash” with the exact same theme in an adjacent room through an unrelated company? Now that is just spooky.

I Googled her as soon as I got home and wrote her a crazy e-mail that probably made me sound like a stalker. Luckily, she didn’t call the cops on me and I heard from her the very next day! Turns out, she is a professor at Parsons New School For Design, as well artist, writer, and animator up in NYC that has had shows all over the world. She’s been reviewed inn ArtForum, The New York Times, The Village Voice, Print, MarieClaire and Metropolis.

This girl…Phew! She is one talented mo-fo. I am buying her the fanciest cup of coffee I can afford during the first chance I get. Honestly, I felt like a weight had been lifted off my chest. I just want to run outside and scream, “I’m not crazy!” There are other mothers just like mine, and though out it all, Andrea managed to become a talented, successful artist in one of the most competitive cities in the world. And she’s a bloody genius to boot!

I would like to invite you all to join me to support Andrea at her art opening this week. I am going to leave work a bit early just to make sure I don’t miss her:

That’s What She Said: Female Voices in Embroidery
work by Elaine Reichek and Andrea Dezsö, with presentation by Ilinca Iurascu
Thursday, February 26, 7:00 PM in the Kelly Writer’s House Arts Cafe
3805 Locust Walk
Philadelphia, PA 19104

The exhibition includes selections from Dezsö’s sampler series “Lessons from My Mother” and Elaine Reichek’s “As She Likes It.” For more information, visit The Kelly Writer’s House Calendar or

All artwork in this post © Copyright Andrea Dezsö.