I am fighting the technology again tonight. Those of you who follow the blog closely know I have replaced mu old, dead laptop, with an HP unit, it lasted about two weeks before the keyboard stopped working. I took it back to Best Buy, they didn't have another like it, so they gave me a new Toshiba. It is running really badly too. I must take it back on Monday. I have been going around and around with this for about three weeks. How it matters tonight is that I can't load photoshop. So instead of a crit I will do another installment of my personal history. That has been pretty colorful, and there are several installments that precede tonight's. They are here in the archives headed not autobiography,that includes a lot of things, but my chronological history.
When I left off the story I was living in the old Fenway studios and studying with R. H. Ives Gammell.
Studying in the Fenway studios was endless work, not much social life and no amenities, bathroom down the hall and no heat at night. After about two years, it really started to get old. But I was learning a lot from Gammell and it seemed worth the trade off. We students drew lots of figures copied drawings at the Fogg museum and paintings at the Boston museum. We painted along the Charles river and in the Fenway, a large city park.
I sublet my studio from an artist who had long since moved out of the building but still kept his studio. He rented it to me and I never saw him. I just sent him a check every month. The studio was sparsely furnished with a foldout sofa on which I slept, a dresser and a small table and a couple of chairs. One day I came home from painting and all of the furniture was gone. My clothes were on the floor where the dresser had been, and my sheets were on the floor where the foldout sofa had been. After a period of puzzlement and distress, I called the artist landlord, and sure enough, he had come into the studio with no notice and taken all of the furniture for some friend of his. Although I had rented the studio furnished, he felt that it was OK to take the furniture. Without leaving a note. I know its not polite to speak ill of the dead (which he now is) so I will only say that evidentally he was a decent fellow if you caught him sober, and I simply had the misfortune of never having done so.
I no longer felt like I wanted to sublet the studio and I was real tired of living that hard. So a friend of mine, a student of another painter named Robert Cormier, and I rented an apartment a few blocks away on Commonwealth ave. It is a tony address now, but then it was the student ghetto. The building into which we moved was full of music students from Berkleee school of music which was nearby. Now we had a refrigerator and a bathroom and all the comforts of modern life except maybe an elevator. It was a 5th floor walkup. Since the building had high ceilings it was more like a 7th floor walkup. It kept you in good shape anyways.
I was mostly painting landscape by this point, which must have been about 1975. David, my roommate, and I copied paintings at the Boston museum, he was copying Jan Van Goyen and I was copying a head of Isabella Brandt by Rubens. We talked a lot about art theories as art students that age do, and we had both developed a love for painting of the Dutch and of Rubens. As we admired those paintings it gradually became obvious to us that something was missing from the training we were receiving . We were being told that we should paint as much as we could like nature, and we already made paintings that looked more like nature than the baroque art we were admiring so much. That was a real philosophical problem. If the point of art was to paint like nature and we painted, or at least had friends who painted more like nature than the old masters, weren't we better artists than the old masters. We knew that wasn't so........
That realization started me on a road that diverged from the Boston school and to a different destination. It was during this period that Robert Douglas Hunter, who I guess could be called the dean of the contemporary Boston school, spent so much time mentoring me. He would come out to where I was working around the city of Boston and critique my efforts. There didn't seem to be a lot of conflict between what I was doing outside and his teaching, but the link between me and the Boston school method was weakening.
I was driving cabs several nights a week and now had friends who were musicians, mostly guitar players. I began to have a little more of a social life and I was emerging from the cloistered life of the Fenway milieu. I was working one day a week at the Guild of Boston Artists, an organization of which I am now a member. That was also bringing me into contact with older professional landscape painters like Bernard Corey and Paul Strisik. At that point neither of those guys knew I was alive, but I was admiring their work and would later know them both much better. Working at the Guilds classy Newbury street gallery was a real education for me. I am sure I walked away with far more than I gave them in my work there.
One day Robert Douglas Hunter asked if I would meet him there on a Sunday and help him out for an afternoon. At the appointed time I met Hunter,(driving a nice Mercury Bobcat wagon) in front of the Guild. He had one of the Vose brothers in the car with him. We drove across the BU bridge to Cambridge and there, across the street from MIT was an old brick warehouse. It was the sort that they used to letter FIREPROOF on the side in big block letters. We went up the elevator and down the hallway, through an arched brick doorway into a room filled with paintings. It was the estate of William Paxton, the American impressionist. Although he had died long before, his widow had lived on for many years. She had been close to Hunter and in her last years,and when she died, entrusted the estate to him. This was the first time anyone had gone through these paintings in many years. There must have been a hundred of them there. My job was to hold up the paintings one by one, so Hunter and Vose could examine each of them, and know the quality of what was there. Many of the great Paxtons in the museums and books were in that room on that day. Paxton was forgotten then. I had the good fortune to be a fly on the wall for a tiny bit of art history. It wasn't to be the last time either.
more another time...........
Remember to sign up for the September workshop in Jaffrey New Hampshire here.