In Albany Center Gallery exhibit, the artwork of a life cut short | #schoolshooting


Duane Todman was a painter of still lifes, an artist influenced by masters old and new, and an endlessly striving work in progress when he died on May 23, the victim of a shooting in Schenectady’s Hamilton Hill.

Among the creations he left behind were dozens now on display at Albany Center Gallery — including his most recent works reflecting classical aesthetics meshed with street art.

“He was starting to find his groove or his stride with those pieces — trying to bring those worlds together,” said Tony Iadicicco, executive director of the gallery. Todman’s art is filled with emotion, he said, and marked with the sense that he was always pushing forward. “There’s definitely like a rawness to the work itself, which I find very intriguing.”

“Shining Light: Duane Ivan Todman” will run through Saturday, July 18, at ACG, which will be open by appointment from 12 p.m. and 5 p.m. each day. In addition, ACG will host a “celebration of life” honoring Todman at 11 a.m. Saturday, July 11, outside the gallery at 488 Broadway. Masks and social distancing will be required; attendees will be allowed to view the exhibit inside  in groups of 10, maximum. Tickets are $10 and available via eventbrite.

Included in the show are 51 pieces spanning the last five years of Todman’s life, maybe a little longer.  “They’re still lives, portrait works that are here,” Iadicicco said. “Notebooks. Sketches. And then paintings and different mediums — some are on recycled wood, some are on scrap paper, some are on the backs of other paintings.”

Todman, 27, was shot in the neck on the steps of a church after intervening in a dispute between a man and a woman. (Marlone Oinda, 21, of Middletown, has been charged with second-degree murder and criminal possession and use of a firearm.) The killing cut short the life and creative aspirations of an artist who’d worked on his craft at the Electric City Barn and its sister hub, the Albany Barn, where he previously lived.

Many of the works he left behind have the unfinished quality of an artist on a constant quest to improve, Iadicicco said. “There are a few that come across as finished because they’re either framed or matted, but a lot of them just seem like there’s more to the story — and there’s more work to be done to the pieces,” he said. “But I think that’s kind of a common thread through all the pieces: that there’s kind of an incomplete, and process of journey, throughout all the works.”

Todman’s mother, Michelle Hightower, and sister, Essence Todman, are among the organizers of the July 11 event, which will benefit the newly established Duane X Foundation. Members of the Academy of Realist Art Boston will offer a presentation honoring Todman, who had just received a scholarship to attend. 

“Please wish me luck,” he told his mentor, the artist Len Tantillo, who quoted Todman’s email in a column paying tribute to the gifted and driven young painter. “I believe this would work wonders for my career, especially if I am able to figure out a way to go to school for the entire 3 years.”

In his column, Tantillo called Todman “a fine young man. The world has missed out on the wonderful art within his soul. All he wanted out of life was to paint and be accepted as the artist he was.”


Iadicicco agreed. “That’s 100 percent on the mark,” he said.

Mounting the exhibit, he feels “the energy” that Todman would have brought, he said. “And working with his family and close friends to bring the show to the space — it really is a group effort to make it happen. . . . I just wish it was while he was here to appreciate it.”

Iadicicco first met Todman five or six years ago, when he visited the gallery at its old location on Columbia Street and asked questions about getting involved. He became a member. And while his work had been displayed in Art on Lark and ACG’s Black Arts & Cultural Festival, he had long hoped for, and worked toward, a more focused exhibit of his art.

In a text conversation with the gallery director shortly before he died, Todman said “his goal was to have a show at the gallery within the next year or two,” Iadicicco said, “and that was very, very powerful to me.”

He told the determined  young artist to keep at it. He was getting there, he assured him.

“That makes it very sad for me,” Iadicicco said. “I wish this show was here while he was still around, because I think it’d be something that he’d be proud of.”


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