The last entry on my website was two years ago, Thanksgiving 2008; time for an update………
Our summer 2010 on Shelter Island may have been the best ever; lots of fun with family and grandchildren. I did some painting; Agnes gardening; lovely walks and beautiful boating. Also went into Manhattan and visited museums with some great exhibits, particularly MOMA. Ironically, our summer ended on hurricane watch but Earl passed by with no harm, just rain.
The family got together in June for a week on the farm with our three children, spouses and four grandchildren. Daughter Annie & husband Randy and girls Olivia & Catherine arrived from Southern California. Son John flew back from a business trip in China with tales of the World Fair at Shanghai. His wife, Margo was already on the farm with Charles & Clara. Our eldest Chuck was the 'host' on his farm; his girl friend is Leslie who took photographs of my paintings. Magnificent meals were cooked by John and Chuck on the grill with different dinners of steak, deer, duck and freshly caught bluefish. Walks and wine and talks and beach and horseshoes; family fun!
Olivia and Catherine are grown up and lovely girls, 15 and 10 years old. Lots of conversations on art as they both draw well, so we discussed Chinese Art and perspective and Monet and so on! The young ones Charles and Clara, 5 and 2, are a delight. At dawn, they come to the corn crib, our cottage, for cereals and cartoons; mostly 'Sponge Bob'! At the end of the day, after Margo bathes her, Clara loves to be a ghost and scare her Grandpa Roy; she is adorable. All the girls help Grandma Agnes pick blue berries. In the barn, Charles and Clara painted stones that they collected on the beach, colorful and cute!
Summer started with an unusual occurrence at the barn. In my studio, on top of a large red abstract painting, barn swallows had built a nest. There was a swallow sitting on eggs that soon hatched; three baby chicks emerged. Not wanting to disturb the family, I decided that I would do some drawings elsewhere or paint outside. The nest, made of branches and mud, balanced on top of a stretcher only one and half inches wide. In itself, the nest was a work of art, most creative. Usually, the barn swallows nest in the upper eaves of the tall barn, away from humans and never venture this low. Lots of comments about swallow shit and how my painting will change. Pollock did paint in a barn nearby in the Hamptons, may be the swallows did his paintings? Poop Pollock? Ah well, art is for the birds! Unfortunately, the baby birds did not survive and, sadly, were found dead on the floor, victims of gravity or, more likely, the four farm cats.
So I did paint in my studio, working on four canvases 36" x 36". Two of the paintings were new and two were paintings from 2004 that I reworked with more color and linear gesture. The paintings are influenced by our surroundings which are rural and rustic. Life on the farm is very different from life on the Gulf of Mexico which is tropical with white sands and turquoise waters. On the farm, everything seems green with many hues from different trees, bushes, plants, grass, fields, woods and meadows. I have always been aware of this but was made more so this summer thru a series of photographs. Leslie took many photographs of the barn, my studio and paintings. Initially, we worked together but then Leslie went in the studio by herself with a camera. She has a good eye and studied at Parsons School; now Leslie is a model. Of particular interest are the photographs of paintings hanging on the studio wall with glimpses of the outside. The influence and abstraction of nature seems obvious.
In my e-mail correspondence, I have written about art; here are a few extracts that may give insights into my paintings…………
-Trevor Sowden studied, as I did, at Cardiff College of Art, a lifetime ago. In November 2009, I wrote to him:
"You continued along a figurative path while I wandered off into abstraction. Your drawings and prints are admirable and do reveal complex compositions with varied viewpoint; the nautical nature of the images obviously appeal to us, congratulations and ahoy matey! Actually, I consider my paintings to be abstractions of nature. Earth and water are always my inspiration: whether swirling clouds; glittering rock pools; light and shadow on swaying trees or the play of wind across the bay. Shapes and forms, with the colors of blue and green, seem to dominate and define my painting.......Once sold a painting for $5,000 years ago, but the gallery took a third and the rest barely covered my costs for paints and canvas of the other works that never sold. Luckily for me, as I may have told you, our three ‘kids’ take my paintings from the studio and hang in their homes and offices. They are the best patrons ever and whichever of the kids we visit, here on the island or in Manhattan or California, my works surround us; rather nice!.......Actually, I am painting at this moment, waiting for an initial layer of acrylic to dry. I work in fluid layers to start then more and more paint. Yesterday, the weather was too humid and drying took forever. I like the challenge as my paintings are unpredictable and problematic. Art is about solving problems and, in my endeavors, seeing the potential of paint; an ever elusive promise? " 11/22/09
-In October 2010, I heard from a former student from Leeds College of Art. Christine Abson now lives and works in Australia and wrote about her life there; I replied:
"Of course, to read about your art is of particular interest, especially as you work from the landscape. My work is about the ambiguity of abstraction as found in nature. My early work, after I got back from the Army, was of the Welsh coast, even as a student I found fascinating. Those rocks and rock pools that I played in as a young child, became abstractions of black rocks and white waves. The pouring, dripping, sponging and layering of acrylic are techniques that I use; plus pouring then partial drying and hosing with water, revealing and manipulating the paint. The difference is that I use lines and angles as I am intrigued by geometry and gesture. Nowadays, the paintings are influenced by trees, meadows and woods; my studio on Shelter Island New York is in a barn on the farm, our elder son has as his weekend retreat. As you will gather from my website, in my recent work everything is green and blue, nature's abstraction!" 10/2/20
-Tony Jones is a friend of many years; a fellow Welshman, educator, author and artist. Tony is Chancellor of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago; he travels and lectures extensively. The work of the late Geoff Olson was shown in a 2009 exhibition at the Frost Museum in Florida. Tony wrote the essay and sent me a copy. I responded:
"Many thanks for catalog "Geoffrey Olsen: The Miami Paintings"; appreciate. I was more than interested as his paintings echo many of my own interests and techniques. The pouring, dripping, sponging and layering of acrylic are techniques that I use; plus pouring then partial drying and hosing with water, revealing and manipulating the paint. The difference is that I use lines and angles as I am intrigued by geometry and gesture. Geoff's work seems to reflect the mist and mystery of nature with atmosphere thru abstraction. Indeed, the differences are many yet there are similarities?.......My work is about the ambiguity of abstraction as found in nature. My colors are stronger, more strident in comparison to the seductive subtlety of Geoff's paintings. As the catalog states, his paintings "oscillate between representation and abstraction"; that is true about my work and always has been. Also, Geoff and I come from Wales where the mysterious mountains and lyrical landscape dominate in the land of the Black Prince; seen in the paintings of Richard Wilson and others. My early work, after I got back from the Army, was of the Welsh coast, even as a student I found fascinating. Those rocks and rock pools that I played in as a young child became abstractions of black rocks and white waves.......Of course, the differences are many between Geoff and me, you know that. However, I feel that but there is a likeness in aspects of our work. When I look at… those blues and greens, I feel an affinity and admiration." 6/10/09
-Geoff Bray, Trevor Sowden and I were together as pupils in Cathays High School, Cardiff 1949-54. Trevor went on to Cardiff College of Art and Geoff became a sports administrator. Recently, we were in touch with one another after this many years with reminisces of high school. I wrote to Geoff about Florida:
"Our view over the Gulf has marvelous sunsets and we watch from our balcony with the window wide open; our condo is on the eighth floor. We get up early before dawn, then the light from the sunrise shades the early morning pink, again beautiful. The sunset last night turned into a dramatic dusk that seemed to last forever. The color of the sky was reflected on the calm waters in every hue: turquoise, cobalt, cerulean, Prussian and ultramarine blue with the horizon tinged with crimson, scarlet and purple. The lights from the causeway street and distant buildings sparkled orange and yellow in the water, like fireflies of fantasy. The clouds were like brush strokes and gestures on a canvas; amazing. I looked at my own paintings that were a pale echo of nature's wonderment." 11/10/09
Recently, I heard from a lady who purchased a painting of mine at auction in Cornwall. The title "Rehoboth" indicates that it was painted in America in the 70's when I was Director of the Corcoran. How the painting ended up in Cornwall is a puzzle. In recent years, I have had people contact me thru my website in regard to works that they acquired. The most distant was a professor in Australia! We decided that he had got work from an exhibition of mine in Birmingham University UK. Most personal was a portrait of my beloved mother that was found in an antique shop in Bath. I had done the work when a student and exhibited at the South Wales Art Society; must have been sold. Actually, I bought back that work and gave to my goddaughter as a wedding gift; Adele was a favorite niece of my mother 'Milla'.
I heard from a gentleman who had purchased another student work of mine. He sent a photo and I identified the work as being one that I did in preparation for my final exam in painting at Cardiff College of Art 1953. The scene was of a factory yard among the smoke stacks of the industrial docks of Cardiff. Other inquiries were from a government official in regard to a painting of mine in the Government Art Collection UK; from a lawyer in Washington DC about a work in a private collection; a couple in Leeds, Yorkshire; and someone in England who had seen a painting of mine on TV, up for auction!
Photographs of the studio, barn and paintings by Leslie Hubbard 2010.
As well as painting and enjoying life on the island, we did go in to Manhattan, what follows is an account of our visit to MOMA. New York Monday August 2 2010.
Our visit to MOMA was most meaningful with many memories. The exhibitions and installations were superb, particularly the presentation of Contemporary Art from the Collection. What was special for us was the gallery of ‘Fluxus Preview’ a celebration of the gift of Gilbert & Lila Silverman. As Gil always recalls, I was the first to show work from his Fluxus collection and did so at Cranbrook Art Museum in 1981, curated by John Hendricks, ‘Fluxus etc: The Gilbert & Lila Silverman Collection’. Yoko Ono is part of the Fluxus movement; in 1964 I saw her performance at Leeds College of Art. Gil arranged for me to meet her as I was interested in presenting her work at Cranbrook. Yoko agreed and was delighted to be recognized as an artist once more. At Cranbrook Art Museum, exhibitions again curated by John Hendricks, were presented; in 1989 ‘The Age of Bronze’ and in 1993 ‘Glimpse’. Nowadays, Yoko is a dear friend to us and to see her work in the Contemporary Collection was a delight, as was her Wish Tree in the sculpture courtyard of MOMA.
Also in that outdoor space was Broken Obelisk by Barnett Newman. I remember standing with him, dapper and with monocle, in 1967 as that obelisk was installed outside the Corcoran Gallery of Art; on the corner across from the White House. Another memory from my days in Leeds came back as I looked at Matisse: Radical Invention, 1913-1917. The exhibition was jointly organized by Chicago Art Institute and for MOMA by John Elderfield, Chief Curator Emeritus. I knew John as a student at Leeds University while I was Director of Post Graduate Studies at Leeds College of Art during the mid 60’s. At Guelph University in Canada, 1971, he and I showed our paintings together. The Matisse show is a wonderful opportunity to see masterworks by Matisse from many different museums of the world brought together to understand and appreciate this pivotal period in his career. Seeing these familiar paintings was, once more, like being with old friends
Another exhibition Picasso: Themes and Variations presented that artist’s creativity in printmaking. I have always thought that Picasso was far more innovative as a printmaker and sculptor than a painter. Indeed, that was the basis of my lecture that I gave many years ago at the Detroit institute of Arts for which I received a standing ovation. The MOMA prints confirm my belief that Picasso’s true artistic innovation is through printmaking. Other exhibitions included photography; architecture; design; abstraction and video. Artists and more memories; Louise Nevelson and flying in a private jet with her and Arnie Glimcher; Clyfford Still and visiting his home in Maryland; David Hockney and Leeds yet again.
As one gets older I suppose memories are like threads that weave and weft together endlessly; meaningless for others but happy moments of mine from yesteryear. In all this rambling, MOMA has never looked better and is appreciated; evident from the crowds. Art is for the masses? Most impressive is the MOMA website which gives information, images and interactive videos: www.moma.org
I shared this with the director, Glen Lowry; he commented "the substantial presence of Yoko whose work seems of increasing importance to any history of post war art.'. I agree!
ART BASEL MIAMI BEACH
December 1 through 5, 2010
From a letter to friends: We had a full, fun week at Miami Beach Art Basel with three days of art, friends, food, museums and madness! This year, the international art fair was elegant in every way with the jet set, beautiful women and spacious installations. The art was of the oldies and goodies of modern art from John Chamberlain to Kenneth Noland and, of course, the more experimental art of the moment. Less is more and art was well shown and the entire feeling of this year's Art Basel was of space and light for art and people.
As ever, Art Basel was in the Convention Center while the many other spin off fairs were everywhere in Miami Beach; also private collections of the latest contemporary art in huge warehouses, full of crowds and culture. Of particular interest this year was Design Miami, with furniture, experimental and eccentric, in an enormous white tent across from Art Basel. Each night, different art museums had openings, again with crowds of people. The most extraordinary was at the Wolfsonian Museum with, in person, Isabella Rossellini presenting her digital videos "Green Porn". The videos are mating rituals of animals with Isabella and cardboard cutout creatures, cute and colorful.
During our stay in South Beach, I was talking to friends and colleagues about possible candidates for the position of Director of Boca Raton Museum of Art. I have just signed a contract to act as advisor to the Trustees' Search Committee. I started spreading the word at Art Basel; saw many friends and colleagues. Agnes and I had our favorite Indian food with lots of walking from our art deco hotel on South Beach.
On Saturday, we drove up to Boca Raton and visited with the chairman of the committee and his wife, seeing their fine collection of contemporary art and having lunch. Roberta Stewart, my former assistant, was with us and we spent weekend at her new home, a lovely condo on the Intracoastal, fine views of water and boats! Sunday, Roberta drove us up to the Norton Museum of Art in West Palm Beach to see a spectacular exhibition "Nick Cave: Meet Me At The Center Of The Earth". Nick Cave is a Cranbrook graduate of my time. His huge, elaborate and wearable sculptures are called Soundsuits. The works are most colorful and extraordinary; costumes of ceremony and celebration. A few years ago, we saw his show in Chicago where he is Head of Fashion at School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Nick had four Soundsuits at Art Basel, the best work there we believe!
The next morning, Monday, December 6, I had my first meeting with Search Committee; that went well and the search is on! That evening we stayed in Palm Beach with Les Rose, former chair at Cranbrook, generous and hospitable as always. The sparkling Christmas tree on famed Worth Avenue, with expensive and exclusive shops, was a gift of Russ Limbaugh; only in Palm Beach?! On Tuesday, weather was sunny but cold in freezing Florida; a quick and enjoyable drive across the state. Now home with lots to do: work for Boca Raton Museum of Art; update my website; and do Christmas cards. Already cards are coming and parties too; 'tis the season to be jolly, Ho Ho! 12/10/10
As I have said, these writings are for our grandchildren and there is much more to write on art, travels and cruising. I conclude this update with the last paragraphs of my email to Chris Abson, my former Leeds student, now in Australia............
"You write of beach scenes; the beach and water has always been an inspiration of mine. Your fascination with the desert regions is most understandable; the desert is awesome! When we retired over 15 years ago, Agnes and I drove back and forth across the USA three times in our two seater car with the top down. Our drives across this vast continent were memorable, especially the endless deserts and mountains out West. Wish we could have seen more of the Australian landscape and its deserts. In 2002, we explored Sydney, walked and saw a lot, including the four hour walk from Manly to the Spit. Took ferries everywhere and walked the beaches & bridges! Did fly to Cairns with tourist stuff from Barrier Reef to Tjapukai; memorable trip 'Down Under'. You have seen much more of Australia and on your world trips......
"In retrospect, I have done my share of globetrotting; starting with my student days in Europe and then National Service in Malaya & Singapore with stops in India and Egypt. Of course, more trips to Europe including the one we all took from Leeds! After that around the world from Argentina to Australia to Alaska with endless trips and lectures in South American and Scandinavia and a wonderful time in Japan. Then Agnes & I cruised and lived aboard our 40' power boat for six years. Nowadays, I do not really like flying & travel and being too far from home! As we get older, Shelter Island with our grandkids is ideal for summer. We continue boating in our 17' boats, one in Florida and the other we share with our son in New York; ahoy! Enough rambling from me; at least for now....." 10/2/10
We are blessed with four wonderful grandchildren; all were together this summer on the farm. At Halloween, we flew to Southern California and spent time with Olivia and Catherine. Olivia is fifteen and our first grandchild; we held her the day she was born. Now she is taller than her grandmother and sees eye to eye with me, as can be seen in those family photographs on the farm. Olivia plays in her high school marching band; on our visit, we went to an evening football game and proudly watched her playing in the half time show. Forever texting, Olivia is articulate, knowledgeable, intelligent and a delight to be with; as are all our grandchildren.
Catherine is ten with a real interest and talent in art and fashion. She won first prize in San Diego's Cabrillo Festival with her painting of a pirate ship. In one of our conversations, Catherine turned to me and said, "Grandpa, that is a really intelligent question"! Ah, only if I had an intelligent answer? At home, she has birds as pets; this summer, Catherine rescued and cared for a baby fledgling..........
Of course, the young ones, Charles and Clara, are always a delight. On our visits to Manhattan, we take them to a park where they play endlessly at their favorite playground on Riverside. On the farm, they are happy to paint with Grandpa R and pick blueberries with Grandma A. At the beginning of this update, I wrote of early mornings at our cottage with cereal and cartoons; in the evening, scary ghost; and of painting stones in the barn........