Hayward Ellis King 1928 – 1990
Hayward Ellis King, held a unique position in Bay Area Art circles. He was the first Black artist here to be appointed as both Director and Curator of a major art facility. He held the dual position from 1966 to 1970 at the then brand-new Richmond Art Center.
Hayward was born in Little Rock Arkansas on March 28, 1928 to Patience and Jerimiah King. The family immigrated to Pasadena and Hayward attended the local schools through Junior College. In January 1949 he attended the California school of fine Arts (now the San Francisco Art Institute.) He studied under such well know artists as Jean Varda, David Parks, Richard Deibenkorn James Budd Dixon, Elmer Bischoff and teacher-poet Jack Spicer. He was a founding member of the multi-media “6 Gallery.” He received his Fullbright Scholarship in 1955 to Sorbonne in Paris France. He was both registrar at the Art Institute and the Museum of Art in San Francisco, The Curator of the John Bolles Gallery, He was a respected teacher and lecter and was assistant teacher of art at the San Francisco State University from 1973 – 1978.
In January 1949, he came to the California School of Fine Arts (now San Francisco Art Institute) along with a number of other Pasadena art students. He studied under such well-known artists as Jean Varda, David Park, Richard Diebenkorn, James Budd Dixon, and Elmer Bischoff, and with poet teacher Jack Spicer. He was drafted during the Korean War, serving as a Company Clerk in Alaska. Back at CSFA, in 1954, he was a Founding Member of the multi-media, avant-garde “6 Gallery” (with Deborah Remington, David Simpson, Wally Bill Hedrick, John Allen Ryan and Spicer, all from Southern California). His acceptance as a peer was without question, long before desegregation and Civil Rights. At “The 6”, a Co-Op, such artists as Joan Brown and Manuel Neri had their first shows.
After receiving his BFA in 1955, he received a Fulbright Scholarship to the Sorbonne in Paris. Mr. King was well known as an administrator and curator, being Registrar at both the S.F. Art Institute and the Museum of Art (now MDMA) and working as Curator at many galleries, notably the John Bolles Gallery (1970-74.) He served in Africa with the Peace Corps. In 1968-70 he was 2nd Vice President, Western Association of Art Museums. He was a respected teacher and lecturer, being Assistant Professor of Art at S.F. State University from 1973 to 1978. During 1976-77 he was a panelist for the National Endowment for the Arts. He served on many, boards as a consultant, and held guest curatorships at Grace Cathedral, the Stuart Gallery and SFSU. He was a juror for innumerable Exhibitions and Art festivals.
His own art was well received. He worked primarily with an idiosyncratic collage; usually in black and white, inked and drawn-on cutouts incorporating xerography, paste-up and clippings. He also .did many abstract oils.
Hayward King was gracious, yet shy, a meticulously dressed man who charmed all those he met. He was fluent in French, and had a Continental courtesy which was unmatched. As a friend recently said of Hayward, “He was the gentlest man; he never harmed another person in his life.”
An Article on Hayward and his times.
Introduction to the catalog for “Lyrical Vision: The 6 Gallery, 1954 – 1957,” Exhibition at the Natsoulas/Novelozo Gallery,
Davis, CA, 12 Jan – 28 Feb 1990.
The “6” Gallery: Roots & Branches
by John Allen Ryan
The “6” Gallery opened in San Francisco in 1954, but the roots of its founders are in Southern California. Jack Spicer, a poet and a teacher at the California School of Fine Arts, had come up from Los Angeles, butt he rest of us-Wally Bill Hedrick, Hayward Ellis King, Deborah Remington, David W. Simpson and I did not know Spicer then. At the time, we belonged to a group of students at Pasadena junior College who, during this time in the mid- and late-’40s, called ourselves, “The Progressive Art Workers.” The name referred both to the Wobblies, the old WWI labor movement that had spread among the working people in the American West during the ’20s and ’30s, and to Spanish Civil War songs, and these were things that reflected the way we felt about what we were doing then. We wore black Navy sweaters and Irish wool caps, and Calder-inspired bent-wire pendants on black silk cords around our necks. Like young art students everywhere, we were rebellious, but harmlessly so. We were simply high-spirited and deeply engaged in what we were doing. To have found each other, in this particular place and at this particular time, seems remarkable in retrospect.
What brought us together was mutual interest in art, and in traditional jazz and opera (Puccini & Wagner, oddly enough). Initially, we began finding each other at parties given by Robert Basset Jones & myself, although we eventually made our nest in Sierra Madre Canyon, at the home of sculptor Howard Whalen and his wife, Jo, a particularly vivacious woman. She had been in the antique business with my mother, but was particularly close to Hayward. The Whalens had a “‘ hi-fi” as they were known then, and a grand collection of jazz & new classical 78s. It was a place to gather and hear the latest music and talk.
In 1947, though, Wally Hedrick traveled to San Francisco with John Stanley, a potter, to see the California School of Fine Arts. We had heard a great deal about the school in San Francisco, and were curious to know more. The re was nothing comparable to CSFA in Pasadena or Los Angeles, and we wanted more than the city had to offer us at that time. Wally was introduced to Clyfford Still by Douglas McAgy, the director, and from that visit came the germ of the idea to move up to San Francisco.
In time, we did move, and, in February 1949, King, Remington, Simpson and I all entered CSFA. We were happy to be there, and all gung-ho about it. Other people that we knew from Pasadena were in the Bay Area during that first year, too: Jones; Bill Erickson (who played trumpet & piano with jack Sheedy’s Band at the Chinese Cellar, later known as the Purple Onion); John Stanley & Rudolph Jenkins, another potter, at CSFA; and Nancy Coover, who would marry Bill Morehouse in 1953. This was an exciting time to be in the city, and to be in school there. During the first three semesters, we studied under Jean Varda, Zigmund Sazevich, David Park, Elmer Bischoff, Ernest Mundt (who placed before us the Bauhaus version of Dada, Surrealism& Existentialism, and made it part of our thinking), james Budd Dixon, Richard Diebenkorn, & many others. Clay Spohn and Ansel Adams were still there, and even if we didn’t study with them, we were aware of their presence and their work. But none of us were in school for the first time; we all had studied at other institutions in Southern California before we came up to CSFA.
I heard a great deal about jack Spicer during that time, too, although we didn’t meet until later. He previously had taught at the University of Illinois, and in 1949 was at the University of California, Berkeley, where he and a number of other teachers would be suspended for not signing a “loyalty oath.” Eventually, Spicer came to teach English & other subjects at CSFA, where we finally became acquainted in 1953, alter I had left school and then returned again. We always marveled at not having met before then, because we had many mutual friends-especially Robert Duncan.
But other things were happening around the city, too, that had an affect on our thinking and the art we were making. Henri Lenoir, an interesting Swiss gentleman with an English accent, opened the Vesuvio Cafe, an artists’ hangout that was across from 12 Adler Place on Columbus. 12 Adler Place was another bohemian hangout. We went to all these places, and, at that time, California bars were also restaurants, and served food. Something was always going on in North Beach, and paintings by both younger artists and the older WPA painters were shown in most of the North Beach spots, and at the Black Cat and the Iron Pot. This often was the best Way to see the newest work.
Then, after three semesters at CSFA, Hedrick, King & I were called up for military service during the Korean Conflict. David Simpson had been in the Navy during the late ’40s, which is why he wasn’t drafted at the time. But we served from October, 1950, to October, 1952, approximately, and by some quirk of fate, I was stationed at the Presidio in San Francisco during 1951, before being shipped to Korea. During that period I lived in an apartment over the ARK Press on Broadway with Knute Stiles, another writer and artist who was at CSFA at the time and setting type for ARK. Stiles introduced me to Robert Duncan in the Vesuvio one evening during that year, and Duncan became a kind of poetic mentor to me. He later sent a draft of his play Faust Foutu to me while I was in Korea. Duncan, of course, was close to Jess, who had been at CSFA with me in ’49 and ’50. During 1951, though, I also was able to continue my association with CSFA faculty & student friends. Deborah Remington and I often went to jazz clubs, to hear music or dance, and we came to be close friends during this period. All of these events and relationships, along with some of those made by other of the Pasadena group, would come to establish the basis on which the “6” was founded-or, in a way, inherited.
After leaving the Army in the Fall of’52, Hedrick& King lived in the famous “Ghost House” on Fillmore, where Duncan, Jess, Harry Jacobus, Philip Lamantia, Chris Md::laine & others had lived or were living. I moved in with Donald Pippin (of later “Pocket-Opera” fame) on Davis Street. Then, on December 20, 1952, Jess, Duncan and Harry Jacobus opened the King Ubu Gallery in an old stable and carriage-house turned garage at 3119 Fillmore, a part of the city known as Cow Hollow. The Ubu had shows that featured many CSFA faculty & students, including Remington.
The next year, 1953, proved to be particularly significant for us, however. In February, Hedrick and I, along with William Morehouse, a former student of Still’s at CSFA, rented a large house in Oakland and entered the degree program at the California School of Arts and Crafts on the G.I. Bill. We couldn’t keep our benefits unless we were enrolled in an accredited degree program, and CSFA didn’t have one at that time. But what else went on that year? We all went to the King Ubu. Morehouse married Nancy Coover. Hedrick was also very active. An artist, sculptor & mechanical whiz-kid, he was also an accomplished banjoist, and played frequently with the Studio 13 band at CSFA, along with David Park on piano, Doug McAgy on drums, and Elmer Bischoff on trumpet. Under Ernest Mundt, CSFA began its first-degree program in the fall, and hired Jack Spicer to head the English Department there. That’s what we were waiting for. Hedrick and I left CCAC to return to CSFA as more advanced students. King, Remington, Morehouse & others soon joined us, and we began studying under Kenneth Nack, who was one of the younger teachers at the school. Wally and I rented an attic together for the first month or so. Wally got together with Jay at that time, so I lived on the couch in Jack Spicer’s office for a few weeks, and then got a small place for another month. I was relieved, finally, to find a small fisherman’s cottage on Bay Street for $25 a month. I stayed there for a long time after that, about five years.
A number of other events during this period seem relevant to the eventual founding of the “6,” as well. Spicer and I knew such ARK and Black Mountain College people as Robert Creeley and Kenneth Rexroth, and Ruth Witt-Diamant, who established the San Francisco Poetry Center. Meanwhile, Stiles & Leo Krikorian, who had been together at Black Mountain College, the New School and CSFA, opened The Place, a North Beach bar catering to & showing artists and poets. Peter Martin & Larry Ferling (Ferlinghetti) opened the City Lights Bookstore on Columbus. Wally Hedrick married Jay DeFeo. But most important for the “6,” we knew Duncan and Jess, who closed the King Ubu, with many sighs & regrets, in December, 1953.
Between 1953 and ’54, DeFeo, Hedrick. Jess and I were among the artists who had one-person shows at The Place, but Stiles showed many artists there during that time. It had a reputation, and when out-of-towners came to San Francisco that was where they went first-Allen Ginsberg, Wally Berman, Jack Kerouac & Neal Cassady had passed through by then. Something was building; we could feel it coming. Then, in June, 1954, the five of us-Hedrick, King, Simpson, Remington and I were awarded scholarships for the following year at CSFA, and we began to think about opening a gallery in the space vacated by the King Ubu.
The “6” Gallery was now alive, if only as an idea. We rented a booth at the San Francisco Art Festival in Aquatic Park, in order to raise money for the new venture. It was, as Herb Caen reported in the San Francisco Sunday Examiner on September 26, 1954, “sponsored by six people interested in art, music, poetry, integrity and other worthwhile things.” Spicer played a reel-to-reel tape of his “California Poems” continuously for all three days, irritating many nearby who did not “dig” our idea of a “total art performance.” A lot of the people in the booths around us were furious, but it was a great deal of fun. We had another fund raising party at the Opus One, a club run by Wynn Astin in the basement of the Sentinel Building on Columbus where the hungry i club began. Wally Bill & I operated (or played, actually) a souped-up version of Hedrick’s light organ, an instrument-machine he’d been working on for many years, accompanied by jazz & other improvisational music. A lot of people came out for this, and it was a big success. We raised $30 or $40.
The “6” Gallery opened in the old King Ubu space at 3119 Fillmore in October. Harry Jacobus supplied the lights from the Ubu. Hedrick& I installed wall panels and a large, matte-black plywood “6” over the garage doors along the street. He had cut it in the shop at school. We also had a combination lock, which Wally Bill set to “6666.” It was exactly what we wanted. Anything that we wanted to have happen could happen. We had no set schedule, and we could do anything, as long as we met the costs. I liked seeing poetry on the walls, because I was very interested at that time in how poetry looked on paper, in its visual effects.
The “6” Gallery was a part of a network of focal points in San Francisco for poets, artists, musicians & hangers-on. A lot was going on, and people went to The Place, Vesuvio, 12 Adler Place, the Blackhawk (cool, modern, progressive) in the Tenderloin, Jackson’s Nook (jazz in the Negro part of the Fillmore district), CSFA, and the “6.” The Place was an old storefront- I put a toilet bowl in the window and hung a draft notice mobile over it, but the police soon appeared, and Leo & I had to remove it. In essence, North Beach, the “6” Gallery and the school were one, it was a social scene, and we all knew people in every field of the arts-the ballet school, the conducting school, all the models, the people at the museums, the Dixieland players and the progressive jazz people. There wasn’t a place we could go where we didn’t run into people we knew, and San Francisco seemed like a mighty small town then. But interplay existed between all of these places, and led eventually to such collaborations as Rexroth’s “Poetry With Jazz” readings at the Cellar, on Green Street. People were always getting together to talk. Sometimes I think that I learned more talking to Clay Spohn in bars than I did in the painting classes. The classes were often large; at The Place or the Vesuvio, things were always smaller, and functioned on a far more intimate scale.
From the very beginning, the “6” had everything, but operated on nothing: we had painting, poetry, sculpture, 3-D movies by Hy Hirsch and others, jazz (traditional & progressive), & Dada “happenings,” but no money. The gallery became a co-op, and membership soon grew to forty or more. As f recall, the seventh member was photographer Bill Eichel. The eighth was Knute Stiles. We had financial problems, of course, but there were “contributing members” to put up the extra money, and, somehow, it was always worked out. We talked things over. We were all pacificist-anarchistic individualists and so we had our disagreements, but those were always resolved. One night, we went so far as to fire Jack Spicer from our the board of directors, which is what we called ourselves informally, but then we tearfully took him back, and he remained with us. We seldom sold anything during a show, either. Most of the artist-members were poor, and they also made what sales they could away from the gallery; in fact, contributing members often bought artwork at a lower price that way. Following the precedent set by the Kmg Ubu, we exhibited work by both students & faculty, and the directors never had one-person shows. That was a policy.
In January, 1955, to start the new year, King & I had a joint graduate show at CSFA-as did all the out-going seniors-Duncan staged his Faust Foutu at the gallery, and Leo Valledor, Sandra D. Carlson & I did a three-person show there. Fred Martin had his first large, one-man show soon afterwards, and there were movies & readings. Fred had included a large painting done in drab military surplus paint that he could buy very cheaply. I had written a poem called “Golden Frog,” and, Lloyd Davis, a drummer with Dave Brubeck’s Oberlin trio and a friend of Remington’s, composed a setting for it: we recorded this at the “6,” featuring celeste and voice, sometime in February. But the tape has been lost.
In June, the five of us-King, Simpson, Remington, Hedrick & I received our B.F.A. degrees from CSFA. That marked the end of my active involvement there. Everything continued to evolve, but that had been our intent from the start. We simply passed it on to another generation of artists, and we felt that it was in good hands. Hedrick probably was the last of the old bunch to hang on there, working with Manuel Neri. In 1957, Joan Brown and Neri were among the artists who had their first one-person shows at the “6,” and Neri became the last director that year, of course, but the times were moving ahead, and things were changing. Other avant-garde galleries were opening. Duncan & Spicer led the “Poetry As Magic” seminar at the San Francisco State College Poetry Center, and I became involved with that. And so the “6” Gallery closed, shortly after a group show and poetry reading, on November 30, 1957. I was there for the reading, but don’t remember much about it. The gallery had been open for three years, a charged and productive period for all of us, but a new era was upon us, and we felt the change: Sputnik III was launched; Herb Caen had coined the word “beatnik,” which became a dread term for us; the Beats had been “on the road,” and were bohemians no more.
We were either artists with a capital “A.” or we were Beats. The F1ower Children were at hand.
These arc my recollections. I can speak only for myself-not for any of the others-and some forty years have passed since we left Sierra Madre for the Great Adventure that was San Francisco, and the art world we were so excited to discover. Much has happened, and to tell all of it would be impossible. At the beginning of our first class with Jack Spicer at CSFA, he began by saying, “I intend to be the best student in this class.” -and he was, irascible, irreverent, the best of all teachers-and my only regret is that Spicer will be unable to witness for himself after all these years this gathering together of the remnants of those wonderful, crazy times. This is the first effort to recreate a sense of what went on at the “6” Gallery, and the work here brings back a great many memories. jack died when he was 40, in August, 1%5, and it never would have occurred to me that I might be writing about him at a time when I am twenty-one years older than he was then. But he still speaks to me on occasion, in that private language known only to poets, and perhaps he will know what has come to pass. As much as we argued and dickered with him, Jack Spicer always pushed the “6” to become a place of productive arts, all of them. for all of us, and for those of you that came afterwards. I really do have an idea that he is off chortling somewhere about all of this.
San Francisco, September, 1989
John Allen Ryan (Passed Apr 27, 1994)
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American (b. 1940)
Leland Rice studied at Arizona State University and California State University, receiving an M.A. in 1969. He immediately began his teaching career, founding the photography department at the California College of Arts and Crafts at Oakland, where he was a great influence for many young photographers. In the early seventies, Rice began making portraits, intentionally stripping them of their relationship to external events and attempting to realize them as pure objects. He then started to focus on environments, including many images of chairs; in these works, the artist attempted to allude to the human presence without including it.
Rice began the Wall Site series in 1973, first in black and white and then in color. They are all set in his studio and feature simple arrangements of objects against the studio wall. Light radiates from the wall, giving the prosaic scenes almost a spiritual weight. In 1983, Rice began to document the soon-to-be-demolished Berlin Wall, and continued to do so until 1991; his photographs are a complete record of paintings, graffiti, and other accretia on the Wall.
A respected curator and collector, as well as artist and teacher, Rice curated Photographs of Moholy-Nagy, the first major American exhibition of Laszlo Moholy-Nagy’s photographs and photograms, which traveled to museums from 1975 through 1979 and was accompanied by his catalogue. Rice has also curated major museum exhibitions with publications of photography by Herbert Bayer, Frederick Sommer and Frances Benjamin Johnston. He taught photography at the College of Arts and Crafts, Oakland (where he founded the photography department); in Southern California at Pomona College, UCLA and USC; and Philadelphia’s Tyler School of Art.
Los Angeles Times May 12, 1985
Leland Rice Goes To The Wall—in Berlin by Suzzanne Muchnic
Los Angeles photographer Leland Rice has had his face to the wall for years, turning ordinary barriers or walls of an artist’s studio into painterly abstractions of striking subtlety and lyrical beauty. In the four years since he last showed his work at Rosamund Felsen’s gallery in West Hollywood, he has trained his camera on other subjects, but his interest in walls–”my obsession,” he calls it–hasn’t faded.
Now he’s back at the gallery with a show of new work (through June 1), based on a wall that is not only the 20th Century’s most loathed structure but–so far as I know–the world’s largest publicly produced painting. Covered with layers of pictographic art, symbols, poetry and slogans, the west side of the wall that divides Berlin has become a 99-mile-long canvas that receives communications from all who arrive there with spray cans, pencils, marking pens and a passion to express themselves.
Photographing the Berlin Wall might seem an obvious move for Rice, but it’s also a significant departure. While working in Germany, he shifted his focus from the benignly anonymous to a hateful symbol of humankind’s divisiveness. Instead of producing soft-colored Ektachrome abstractions with strong ties to color field painting, he has made relatively hard Cibachrome images with strong graphic qualities. Quiet formal abstractions have given way to pictures reverberating with social context. And the inaudible suggestion of human presence in his earlier work has become a clamorous–if still unseen–reality.
If going to a wall so loaded with social implications allowed Rice to continue finding art in manmade fortresses, it also satisfied a self-confessed longing. “I’ve not felt a deep commitment to subject matter for four years,” he said in an interview in the gallery. “Something was missing in the early ’80s. I wanted to get closer to something that would deal with human life–something that would be more engaging and penetrate what’s on our minds. Without disengaging myself from my formal background, I wanted something deeper.”
Looking around the gallery at pictures of multilingual writings and wall paintings depicting everything from Felix the Cat to an upside-down, Georg Baselitz-style man, Rice continued, “This work wasn’t planned and it isn’t related to the German Neo-Expressionists. That connection is just a coincidence.”
Or a case of serendipity, as Rice tells it. “I went to Hamburg in November of 1983 to produce a dye transfer portfolio of my earlier work. Because I was there specifically for that, I didn’t even take a camera. After a month, I got frustrated (with complications of working with a German studio), so I borrowed a camera and jumped on an airplane to Berlin.
“Being the dumb American that I was, I didn’t even know that the city wasn’t on the border between East and West Germany. I had heard that there was a lot of interesting action at the wall, but I went there just like every other visitor goes there. When I saw it, I was totally magnetized. It’s just incomprehensible for anyone from a free society.”
Friends had directed Rice to a heavily painted area of the the wall where Turkish immigrants have gathered. Among writings ordering “Turks Out” (in German), he found a boggling array of visual material waiting to be photographed. But Rice works slowly and on that visit he only got three or four of the pictures in his current exhibition.
Another year passed before he could return to Germany. It was November again and the weather was miserable, but each day he took a bus, hiked through the Turkish settlement and took pictures along a roughly three-mile length of the wall. What he found was a constantly fluxuating scene. Unusual light conditions provided some decisive moments that would not return on later visits and new paintings obliterated previous ones.
“I never felt threatened. I was never accosted, and although I don’t speak German, language was never a barrier,” he said. He has been surprised and often delighted to discover the meanings of the words he photographed, but that wasn’t his reason for taking particular pictures. “I wanted to be free to respond to pictorial relationships. I didn’t want language to become an issue in composing. I can only account for some of the meanings as logical happenstances.”
Though references to German artists Baselitz and Joseph Beuys appear in two of his pictures, Rice says he also tried to avoid photographing conscious art-making, such as murals that have been painted on the wall by artists. He also steered clear of heavily political sloganeering. What appealed to him was a kind of “folk art” and “a kinetic activity” that he thought had the character of music. “The wall seemed to be a sort of street theater performance,” he said.
Rice found comedy and pathos painted on the wall, even as he observed people who would drive their cars to the barrier on weekends to stroll along it and exercise their dogs. Ironically, he sees his journey to the Berlin wall as a freeing influence. “When you travel, you get the feeling that there are no barriers or restrictions. You can just respond and you think there’s a whole new world out there.”
Alma Ruth Lavenson (20 May 1897, San Francisco – 19 September 1989, Piedmont, California) was a leading American photographer of the first half of the 20th century. She worked with and was close friends with Ansel Adams, Imogen Cunningham, Edward Weston and other photographic masters of the period.
The daughter of a dry-goods businessman, Lavenson apparently decided to become a photographer on her own after enrolling at the University of California, Berkeley, in 1915. Her first photos were snapshots of family and friends taken with a small Kodak camera. She learned to develop and print her negatives by watching a technician at an Oakland drugstore in the early 1920s. Her first published photograph, an image of Zion Canyon entitled “The Light Beyond,” appeared on the cover of Photo-Era magazine in December 1927. In her early work she concentrated the geometric forms of structures and their placement in the landscape. She frequently exhibited in photographic salons and became a member of the influential Pictorial Photographers of America.
In 1930 she was introduced to Adams, Cunningham and Weston by art collector Albert Bender. Two years later she was invited to participate in the famous Group f/64 show at the M.H. de Young Memorial Museum, although there is some uncertainty about whether she should actually be called a “member” of Group f/64. The announcement for the show at the de Young Museum listed seven photographers in Group f/64 and said “From time to time various other photographers will be asked to display their work with Group f/64. Those invited for the first showing are: Preston Holder, Consuelo Kanaga, Alma Lavenson, Brett Weston.” However, in 1934 the group posted a notice in Camera Craft magazine that said “The F:64 group includes in its membership such well known names as Edward Weston, Ansel Adams, Willard Van Dyke, John Paul Edwards, Imogene [sic] Cunningham, Consuela [sic] Kanaga and several others.” Lavenson was not mentioned by name in that notice, but her name is always listed as being associated with the group because of her place in the first exhibition.
In 1933 Lavenson began taking a series of photographs of abandoned buildings in the Mother Lode region of California. She continued documenting the remains of the Gold Rush period for more than two decades, and her images are now noted both for their artistic beauty and as a record of a vanishing piece of the California landscape.
Lavenson’s “Self-Portrait (with Hands) was one of the most admired images of the 20th century. In 1996-1997, this photograph was fashioned into a huge banner and adorned the entrance to the New York Public Library’s exhibition on the history of women photographers. In 1999, the University of California hosted a major retrospective on the photography of Lavenson and Imogen Cunningham., which used the self-portrait as a central image. The self-portrait is used as a cover photograph for the book 101 Years of California Photography (1992). Recently a print of Lavenson’s self-portrait was sold at auction for more than $110,000.
Alma Lavenson remained mostly an amateur photographer, but her inspiration has been a continuing influence on generations of women photographers.
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Jack Allen was raised in Southern California and attended the world renowned Art Center College of Design. His first job was for Young & Rubicam Advertising in New York City, followed by Foote, Cone & Belding in San Francisco and others before returning to Young & Rubicam also in San Francisco. Jack then spent 12 years as an advertising photographer in that beautiful city.
From there, he moved to Oregon as a Creative Director for Gerber Advertising and retired in 1990 to paint. Concentrating on acrylic as his medium, Jack painted with acrylics for 10 years before exploring watercolor. The excitement of watercolor as a spontaneous medium appealed to Jack and after attending a workshop by the nationally recognized Frank Webb, he decided to intensify his efforts in watercolor.
Following the admonishment of Webb to paint “acres of paper,” Jack has started on his third acre. Taking inspiration from harbors and lighthouses in Oregon, he has indeed painted up a watercolor storm. Jack lives in Tigard, Oregon with his wife Marge and when he’s not painting, he loves to play golf on the course behind his home.
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Ben Langton was born as Stephen Bennet Langton in Berkeley, California, to Dr. John Langton and Constance Langton on November 23, 1935. He attended school there, but did not graduate from high school. He left home at age 16, worked in a Nevada gold mine for a summer, and was drafted into the army. After a short stint he was discharged before completing boot camp.
During the years around his early twenties, Ben wrote poetry which contains many unusual and vivid visual images, quite evocative of some of his later painting. With the G.I. Bill, Ben was able to attend the San Francisco School of Fine Arts (now the San Francisco Art Institute) which he did off and on until 1960. In 1962 he moved to Mill Valley with his wife and children. He supported the family by working as a carpenter locally and on the waterfront as a shipwright.
His early work was abstract expressionistic oils, which later evolved into fanciful figurative and mythological representation. He taught himself printmaking and learned to do sensitive line drawings in the difficult medium, engraving directly on the metal plate. His subject was the nude female form.
From 1964 until his last show in San Francisco in 1974, Ben was associated with the John Bolles Gallery and had several shows there. The Denver Art Museum purchased one of his paintings. From 1970 to 1979 he lived and painted in an old one-room school in Killaloe Station, Ontario, Canada. At that time he was showing in Toronto and at the Avanti Gallery in New York. His last years were spent in Willits, California.
During the early years of the Beat Generation in the 1950’s, Ben was a friend of Hayward King, Wally Hedrick, Jay DeFeo, Wallace Berman, Knute Stiles, and Fred Martin.
His most ambitious work was a huge Möbius curve painting. The Möbius band or curve is one continuous plane with no beginning or end, a difficult structure to achieve with canvas. It was shown in 1980 at A Space in Toronto, Canada.
Beside being a poet, painter, and printmaker, Ben studied many other diverse subjects.
Ben died on February 23, 2008 at the age of 72
The Six Gallery, San Francisco, CA. 1956
Bolles Gallery, San Francisco, CA. 1964
Picture Loan, Toronto, Canada. 1972
Diogenes International Galleries, Athens, Greece. 1972
Lenox gallery, New York, NY. 1973
Bolles Gallery, San Francisco, CA. 1966
Bolles Gallery, San Francisco, CA. 1969
Avanti Gallery, New York, NY. 1970
Pennell Gallery, Toronto, Canada. 1972
Avanti Gallery, New York, NY. 1972
Bolles Gallery, San Francisco, CA. 1974
A Space, Toronto, Canada, Ben Langton: A Message From the Afterworld. 1980
Member: San Francisco Art Institute Art Bank. 1960-1965.
© Janet F. Langton 2012
William “Bill” Kirsch
William W. Kirsch
Bill Kirsch is a Sausalito eclectic abstract painter an Architect and one of the founders of the modern Sausalito Art Festival. He designed, coordinated and organized the festival in 1965 and 1966 with artists Al Garvey and Michael Bry.
Bill’s work is “visually exciting and provocative, he does marvelous things with colors and his paintings exhibit thought, control and personal attention to detail”.. Subtly delineated nudes float through rich, and at times vaporous, colors while a recurring theme of figures diffused into space lend a sensuousness and mystery to his work”.
He was drawing and painting with pastels and water colors at young age and became passionate about painting with oils at the University of Cincinnati. While he was in the Marines stationed in Japan, Okinawa and the Philippines his drawings came alive. He travelled extensively and drew the people he saw, the ambiance of his surroundings and people he met in the bars and geisha houses.
In addition to painting and raising a family Bill has been working full time as an architect since 1958. He designed over 400 structures that include art galleries, custom and market homes, ranches, restaurants, floating homes, bed & breakfasts and commercial buildings. Many of his projects have won awards and been published in more than 30 books, magazines and newspapers as well as featured in two films.
Bill recently semi retired from architecture and now has more time to devote to his painting. He is currently living on a houseboat in Sausalito and in addition to living on the water he recently completed a floating studio where he paints.
The change in lifestyle has given him the time to organize his vast body of work and limited edition, museum quality, signed, giclee prints are now available for purchase in addition to his original work.
His body of work expresses his wide variety of interests, mediums and styles. His paintings have been exhibited in galleries and private collections throughout the United States.
I paint and draw in a variety of mediums including watercolor and oils. My large oil paintings are abstractions of the real world, containing symbolic and figurative references. I work from my subconscious and often begin a painting by cleaning my palette then layering in new vibrant colors on the canvas. The surfaces are worked, textured, and layered until figures and worlds emerge.
My work is allegorical and reflects a taste of nonsense, chaos, madness and dreams. With a layer of alpha and an occasional theta wave thrown in, every painting has a frequency of its own – colorful vibrations are visible, usable, soft, natural and giving off prana.
I am inspired by the natural world around me, the human form, the light on water outside my studio and the work of other artists; Gorky, Nolde, Chagall, de Kooning, Matisse and Gauguin.
I have spent my life as an architect and in my painting I combine realistic and imaginary elements. I find that I can marry my desire to give form with my love of drawing. Although I paint from the subconscious finding appealing images and composition mostly by accident is exciting. A breakthrough in my painting occurs when it switches from what I am looking for to what I have found.
Bill Kirsch, Sausalito, 2010
Background and Training
B.S. Architecture, University of Cincinnati, Ohio
Academic training college art classes
in connection with architectural curriculum.
Exhibitions and Festivals
Museum of Modern Arts, Paris
Allied Arts Guild, New York
Knickerbocker Artists, New York
Pacific Festival, San Francisco, CA
Ed Lesser Gallery, San Francisco, CA
Laas – George Gallery, San Francisco, CA
Corwith Gallery, San Francisco, CA
Ruthermore Galleries, San Francisco, CA
Hardman & Kopp, San Francisco, Ca
Parks Gallery, San Jose, CA
Harry Z Lawrence Gallery, Dallas, Texas
Sausalito Art Festival, Sausalito, CA
Horizons Gallery, Sausalito, CA
Mill Valley Art Festival, Mill Valley, CA
Walnut Creek Arts Pageant, Walnut Creek, CA
Marin County Art & Garden Show, Ross, CA
Studio Gallery, Chicago, Illinois
Brill Gallery, Cleveland, Ohio
Awards, Honors, Commissions
Sausalito Art Festival, 1st Place Award, 3 years, 1960, 1961 & 1962
Sausalito Arts Commission
Designed Sausalito Art Festival with Al Garvey and Michael Bry, 1965, 1966
Carson Perrie Scott International Architectural Competition, Chicago
Golden Gateway International Architectural Competition, San Francisco
Sunset Magazine, Architectural Western Home Award
Environmental Enrichment Award, Santa Rosa, CA
Elbo Lamp: By Tepper & Steinhilber Associates Inc., Gene Tepper and Roger. Fleck designed an entire series of products utilizing the simple stove pipe form, in high colors as well s black and white. Above is the clock. The lamp unit had a low watt incandescent bulb. Manufactured by Elbo Products.
Gene Tepper Industrial Designer/Artist
Creative activities are selfish pleasures, inspired by curiosity, the need for discovery and essentially for my personal gratification. It is the process of exploration and the prospect of producing work, leading to further investigation, which motivates me. Because I can not conceive of any work totally devoid of context, most of my work is “idea driven”. Frequently the concept is consciously introduced as a challenge, other times the idea is discovered as the work evolves. It is the act of making which I find most satisfying. The completed work is material evidence of the memory of the act. I studied painting and sculpture in New York City at The Art Students League and the New School for Social Research from 1937 to 1940. During that period my teachers included: John Sloan, Morris Kantor, Vaclav Vytlacil, and Jose de Creeft. During five years of military service in World War II, I continued drawing and painting and showing in various exhibitions in New York and New Orleans. In 1948 I moved to San Francisco and started an industrial design practice. I continued painting and exhibiting until 1954 when the attention and commitment required to run a design office precluded allocating the time necessary to produce any serious work. In the mid ’90s, 40 years later, with reduced design consulting activity, I began printmaking and started painting again. Since 1998 I have been devoting full time to art-related projects. In the summer of 2001 I made a 55-day round trip voyage on a freighter from Savannah, Georgia to the Mediterranean. I had the time, and a comfortable place to work, and produced a series of small gouache paintings about this very nostalgic voyage. Currently I am painting and printmaking in my studio in Sausalito and working on several pieces of wood sculpture in my shop in Bolinas.
Gene Tepper 2007
Partial List of Clients Served
Alcoa Corporation, Pittsburg, Pennsylvania
Ampex Corporation, Redwood City, California
Atomic Energy Commission, San Francisco, California
Burroughs Corporation, San Diego, California
California Canners & Growers, San Francisco, California
Ceremony Brandy, California
Charmwick, Inc., Burlingame, California
City of Fresno Municipal Center, Fresno, California
Crown-Zellerbach, San Francisco, California
Diablo Supplies (a Xerox Company)
Diamond International Corporation, San Francisco, California
First Federal Savings & Loan Association, Fresno, California
Fidelity Savings & Loan Association, Oakland, California
F & P Foods, San Francisco, California
Freemark Abbey Winery, St. Helena, California
Fresno Air Terminal, Fresno, California
General Electric, Phoenix, Arizona
Gray Lines, San Francisco, California
Guild Wine Company, San Francisco, California
Hewlett-Packard, Palo Alto, California
IBM, Washington, D.C.
Industrial Indemnity Company, San Francisco, California
Interface Mechanisms (Intermec), Seattle, Washington
International Paper Company, Burlingame, California
Lockheed Space & Missile Division, Sunnyvale, California
Marcona Corporation, San Francisco, California
Memorex, Santa Clara, California
Mid-West Research Institute, Kansas City, Missouri
Murison Label Company, San Jose, California
Novar Division, General Telephone & Electronics, Palo Alto, California
Omark Industries, Portland, Oregon
Radiation, Inc., Melbourne, Florida
Ralph’s Markets, Los Angeles, California
Simpson Forest Products, Seattle, Washington
Solar Energy Research Institute, Golden, Colorado
Standard Oil Company of California, San Francisco, California
Stanford Research Institute, Palo Alto, California
Sylvania Electric Products, Sunnyvale, California
Treasure Valley, Idaho
Ultek Division, Perkin-Elmer Corporation, Palo Alto, California
Unicorn Systems, Inc., Cupertino, California
Unimark Corporation, San Ramon, Californi
United States Steel Corporation, Pittsburg, California
Victor Calculator Company, Chicago,
Illinois Watkins-Johnson Company, Palo Alto, California
Awards & Exhibits
Good Design Award, Museum of Modern Art, New York City 1951
Society of Artists & Art Directors, Award of Excellence 1955
Undicesmia Triennale di Milano, Diploma di Collaborazione 1957
Society of Artists & Art Directors, Award of Excellence 1957
Society of Artists & Art Directors, Award of Excellence 1958
Art Directors Club of Los Angeles, Certificate of Merit 1959
Decima Triennale di Milano, Diploma di Collaborazione 1960
Wescon Award of Herit 1962
20th Exhibition of Advertising & Editorial Art in the West, Certificate of Merit
Wescon Award of Merit 1964
Wescon Award of Excellence 1966
Wescon Award of Excellence 1967
Bio 3, selected exhibition, 3rd Biennial of Design, Ljublijana, Yugoslavia 1968
Wescon Award of Merit 1968
Design Review (3) Excellence of Design 1969
Creativity ’70, Certificate of Distinction 1970
Wescon Award of Merit 1970
Wescon Award of Excellence 1970
Communications 20, Certificate of Distinction 1970
The Institute of Groundsmanship, International Exhibition 1970
San Francisco Communications 1971
Communications Arts Annual 1972
San Francisco Communicating Arts (5) Certificates of Excellence 1972
Package Design Magazine 1972
Communications Arts Magazine, Award of Excellence 1972
American Institute of Graphic Arts (packaging) 1973
San Francisco Communicating Arts (3) Certificate of Merit 1973
California Design, Pasadena Museum 1973
Publications: Work illustrated in:
A Handbook of California Design 1930 – 1965, 2013
California Design, 1930–1965: “Living in a Modern Way” 2012
Living for Young Homemakers
Arrendemento Moderno (Milan)
Design Quarterly Etc.
1941 Delgado Museum* (41st Annual), New Orleans
1942 Independent Artists Gallery (New York), Sculpture
1944 National Academy, NY, United Seamen’s Service
1945 3rd Annual Exhibit, United Seamen’s Service
1946 4th Annual Exhibit, United Seamen’s Service
1949 68th Annual Painting Exhibition, SF AA * *, SFMA * * *
1949 13th Annual Watercolor Exhibition SF AA, SFMA
1950 14th Annual Watercolor Exhibition SFAA, SFMA
1950 14th Annual Drawing and Print Exhibition SFMA
1950 S.F. Art Festival
1951 M.H. de Young, Group Show
1954 Annual Watercolor Exhibition SF AA, SFMA
1994-2003 Various Open Studio Exhibits
Furniture ,and Product Design, Exhibits and Awards include the following:
1954 Museum of Modem Art, NY “Good Design Exhibit”
1956 Decima Triennale di Milano, Milan Italy ”
1957 Undicesima Triennale di Milano, Milan Italy
1972 USIA Exhibit, Poznan, Poland
1955-1990-Various Trade & Technical Exhibits
2012 LACMA California Design, 1930–1965: “Living in a Modern Way”
1941 Delgado Museum, New Orleans * Water Color Prize
1944 International United Seamen’s Service Prize
1945 International United Seamen’s Service Prize
1946 International United Seamen’s Service Prize
1950 S.F. Art Festival, City of San Francisco, Purchase Prize
* Now, New Orleans Museum of Art
* * San Francisco Art Association
*** Now, San Francisco Museum of Modem Art (MOMA)
Art Students League of New York
U. S. Maritime Academy, Kings Point, L.I., New York New School for Social Research, New York
Robert Kayton Displays, 1939 Military Service: U.S. Army, U.S. Navy,
U.S. Maritime Service, 1940-1945
The Displayers, Inc., New York, 1945-1947
Walter Landor Associates, San Francisco, 1949
Gene Tepper Associates, 1951-1963
Tepper + Steinhilber Associates, Inc., 1963-1974
Gene Tepper/Design, 1974-1980
Tortilla Machine, Inc. (Restaurant Development) ,
President, 1979-1981 Gene Tepper/Design, 1981-Present
Advisory Board, Industrial Design Department,
San Jose State California School of Fine Arts
Patri School of Art Fundamentals
Rudolph Schaeffer School of Design
Adult Education Program, San Francisco State University Academy of Art, San Francisco
Industrial Designers Society of America Member, Board of Directors, 1971-1972
Industrial Designers Society of America, Vice President, 1973-1974
San Francisco Society of Communicating Arts
Chairman, Transportation Seminar, National IDSA Annual Meeting, Washington, D.C., October 1969
Panel Member, National Endowment for the Arts,
Washington, D.C., 1970 Speaker, USIA Design Seminar, Poznan, Poland, 1972
Speaker, USIA Design Seminar, Frankfurt, Germany, 1972
Speaker, USIA Design Seminar, Stuttgart, Germany, 1972
Speaker, National Human Factors Annual Meeting, Los Angeles, 1972
Designers Advisory Committee, State of California Product Design & Marketing Council, 1973-1974
Participant, Alternative Energy Seminar, New York Botanical Garden, 1974
Juror, California Design ’76, Los Angeles, 1976
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Dorr Bothwell was born in San Francisco where, in the mid 1920s, she had a studio and art gallery at the Montgomery Block, heart of the bohemian intellectual life of the city. In 1928, Bothwell traveled alone to American Samoa where she lived for two years doing work which she always considered her very best and which influenced all her later art. She also drew inspiration from her travels in Europe, Southeast Asia and Africa.
An innovator in the use of serigraphy as a fine art medium, Dorr Bothwell also produced major work in painting and collage. Her work is in collections worldwide, both private and public; a partial list includes the Bibliotheque Nationale, Paris, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., the Museum of Modern Art, New York, the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, the Library of Congress, and the Boston Museum of Fine Arts.
At Bill Zacha’s invitation, in 1960 Bothwell came to Mendocino to teach at the Mendocino Art Center. So intent was Zacha on keeping Dorr Bothwell in Mendocino that he built her a combination home and studio space at the corner of Kasten and Albion Streets and later built her a larger place by his rose garden behind the Bay Window Gallery.
Although Bothwell often escaped rainy Mendocino winters at her studio in Joshua Tree, Mendocino became her home and, as with so many who came to Mendocino, her work changed. A brief biography on the website of her longtime dealer, the Tobey C. Moss Gallery, alludes to her change of focus: “A thread of surreality and abstraction is observed in her paintings of the late 1920s through the 1950s, overtaken by her irrepressible gusto for life and nature.” That “irrepressible gusto” produced the vibrant collages, the images of Mendocino cats and fences in her painting and serigraphy, the large format canvases on metaphysical themes of Dorr Bothwell’s last forty years.
At the Mendocino Art Center Bothwell mentored generations of younger artists with insight and generosity. In addition to her work in painting, serigraphy and collage, Dorr Bothwell was a gifted teacher of serigraphy, collage, color theory and design, including notan.
First published in 1968, “Notan, the Light-Dark Principle of Design” by Dorr Bothwell and Marlys Mayfield, ISBN 048626856X, Dover Publications, 1991, $7.95, is available from Gallery Bookshop in Mendocino.
A partial list of Dorr Bothwell’s teaching credits includes the Parsons School of Design, New York, the California School of Fine Arts and the San Francisco Art Institute.
– Carol Goodwin Blick (2008)
Zacha’s Bay Window Gallery offers a selection of Dorr Bothwell’s works for sale as well as a growing archive for art lovers and scholars.
The Dorr Bothwell Archives, 1921-2001
In 2005, the Archives of American Art’s West Coast office, previously located in the Huntington Library’s Virginia Steele Scott Gallery of American Art, was closed due to budget constraints. Fortunately, the microfilm of unrestricted material, including the Dorr Bothwell papers, 1921-2001, officially held by the Archives in Washington, D.C., remains at the Huntington Library Art Collections, 1151 Oxford Road, San Marino, CA 91108; telephone 626-405-2100. The Huntington Art Collections staff will continue to provide access to the unrestricted microfilm by appointment only. To schedule an appointment to view Dorr Bothwell’s archives, call 626-405-2234.
Dorr Bothwell papers, 1921-2001
Dorr Bothwell interview, February 27, 1965
Dorr Bothwell Chronology, Tobey C. Moss Gallery
Doris (Dorr) Hodgson Bothwell, personal history, The Journal of San Diego History, Summer 1986
Dorr Bothwell, biography with links to images of early work, The Tobey C. Moss Gallery, 2000
Dorr Bothwell Memorial page, The Tobey C. Moss Gallery, 2000
Dorr Bothwell, The Mendocino Art Center
Dorr Bothwell, Wikipedia
Bothwell, Dorr. Dorr Bothwell’s African Sketchbook. Monica Hannasch, editor. Arti Grafiche Ambrosini – Roma, 2000. Print.
Bothwell, Dorr and Mayfield, Marlys. Notan: The Dark-Light Principle of Design. ISBN: 048626856X. Dover Publications, 1991. Print.
Bowers, Karen. “Dorr Bothwell: Original Prints from Three Decades”, Arts & Entertainment Magazine, March/April 1999. Mendocino Art Center, Mendocino, California. Print.
Oliver, Myrna. “Dorr Bothwell; Painter Lived Nomadic Life.” Los Angeles Times, 21 September 2000: B-8. Print.
Richard, Valliere T. “Dorr Bothwell: Edited Biography.” Arts & Entertainment Magazine, March/April 1999. Mendocino Art Center, Mendocino, California.
Trenton, Patricia. Independent Spirits: Women Painters of the American West, 1890-1945.” ISBN: 9780520202030. University of California Press, 1995. Print.
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1915 – 1995
American artist, Clayton Lewis, is primarily known for his work as an envelope artist and jewelry designer. Yet he was also a distinguished painter, sculptor, architect, and furniture designer. His work has been shown in one-man and group shows throughout North America and France, and can be found in the permanent collections of the Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco; Metropolitan Museum, New York; Los Angeles County Art Museum; California Historical Society, San Francisco; French Postal Museum, Paris; among others. In addition, there are individuals throughout the United States, Europe, and Japan who have collected his work.
Clayton Lewis began his professional life as a furniture designer in the late 1940’s with his firm, Claywood Designs, which won distinguished awards and led to coverage in magazines such as Progressive Architecture and Interiors. After a rare bone decease put him in the hospital, and with a young family to support, in 1950, he was hired as general manager of the Herman Miller Furniture Company’s Venice, California office. There he helped implement designs by Charles and Ray Eames, Isamu Noguchi, and George Nelson.
After a successful tenure at Herman Miller, increasing production tenfold, he left his position and moved his family to Northern California, in 1953, to open up his own art studio. After various shows and the subsequent breakup of his marriage in 1962, he moved first to Nevada City in 1963, and then to the Point Reyes Peninsula in 1964, where he designed a large collection of distinguished and unique sculpture jewelry with Judy Perlman. After they disbanded their partnership of Perlman-Lewis in 1973, he continued working on his own as a sculptor, painter, and water colorist.
The following years produced some of his most significant work. Between 1980 and 1985, he produced over 1000 pieces of envelope art, mostly sent to his mother in the final years of her life. These compositions are highly original in that they reflect his spontaneous and intuitive vision of life. The envelopes have been shown in one-man and group shows in San Francisco, Pasadena, and Paris, among other locations.
In addition to being an artist, Clayton Lewis was a true renaissance man. For the last 31 years of his life he lived in a group of Coastal Miwok Indian cottages at Laird’s Landing, on Tomales Bay, fifty miles north of San Francisco. There he built a spacious sculpting and painting studio with a substantial foundry to work in. In order to help sustain himself, he worked as a carpenter, fisherman, and boat builder, as well as an artist. He was also a respected town elder, entertaining story teller, and counter-culture philosopher.
Clayton Scott Lewis was born in Snoqualmie, Washington on March 15, 1915, and died on September 15, 1995, at his home at Laird’s Landing, Point Reyes National Seashore, California. He was raised in Snoqualmie before moving to Seattle in 1936 to study at the Cornish School for the Arts (later Cornish Institute). Between 1937 and 1940 he lived in San Francisco, where he studied at the California School of Fine Arts (later the San Francisco Art Institute).
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Homer Page was born in Oakland, California and studied art and social psychology at the University of California from 1936 – 1940. His neighbor and mentor, Dorothea Lange, encouraged him to take up photography in 1944. By ’47 he was featured in a major show at the Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art in New York.
Page received a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1949 and he took the opportunity to document his interest in modern culture primarily by photographing people on the streets of New York City. He was easy and sly in his craft. Mostly his subjects seem unaware of his presence, but the tension of the ’40’s is clearly visible.
The fellowship allowed Page to focus on his photography for a year. While he was widely recognized for this work, he transitioned into a professional career as a magazine photographer. Few of his photographs were in private hands and his work was largely forgotten by the time of his death in 1985.
A brilliant but overlooked photographer active in the late 1940s and 50s. It focuses on his previously unpublished photographs of New York taken while a Guggenheim Fellow from 1949 to 1950. First recognized by Ansel Adams in 1944, California-born Page exhibited in a major show of young artists at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, in 1946. Four years later, he was invited to participate in MoMA’s seminal photography symposium, alongside 10 other prominent photographers, including Walker Evans, Irving Penn, and Aaron Siskind.
In photographs that echo those of Walker Evans, Dorothea Lange, and Robert Frank, Page uniquely synthesized documentary and artistic concerns. His work as a Guggenheim Fellow––which depicts pedestrians in motion, friends and family members conversing, commuters, children playing, political rallies and protests, and isolated figures resting and watching––offers a fascinating look at New York during the late 1940s and represents the culmination of Page’s most important work.
“We are not sure of war or peace, prosperity or recession; not sure what balance to strike between our freedom and our security, either as a nation or as individuals. The fundamental issues are clouded and almost certainly in transition. This makes any attempt to record conditions extremely difficult.” – Homer Page
with Greg Fallis
Homer Page How does one measure a successful life? Is the proper metric a rewarding career? A loving relationship? Contentment with the choices one has made? More joy than regrets? What if you lived a long, fulfilling life doing important and interesting work, a life replete with friendship and love, a life lived on your own terms–what if you had all that, but the one thing that you wanted to succeed at the most,the project closest to your heart during your most productive years, what if that turned out to be a failure?
Homer Page worked as a photojournalist for a good part of his life, covering stories around the world. In the early 1950s he was associated with the Magnum Agency. He worked stories in Africa, India, Laos, Indonesia; he worked in the Caribbean and in Latin America. In 1957 he produced possibly the first major photojournalism feature on a nun working with the poor of Calcutta, a woman who later became known as Mother Teresa. He did stories on juvenile delinquency and cancer research and the civil rights movement in the American South; he did stories on the Peace Corps and the beginnings of the environmental movement.
Gradually over time he became more journalist than photographer. As he became more intrigued and impassioned by the back-to-nature movement in the mid-to-late 1960s, Page and his wife moved to a five acre parcel of woodland in Connecticut, part of a 750 acre nature cooperative. He made furniture and split his own rails for fencing, he hand-crafted iron tools– everything from shovels to scissors. He died in 1985 at the age of 87, in a house he’d designed and built himself.
Like anybody who lived a long and active life, Homer Page surely had his share of regrets as well as successes. It would be presumptuous of me to try to classify those regrets. But surely near the top of the list would be the failure of his Guggenheim Fellowship.
Page was born in Oakland, California in 1918. His interest in photography grew out of a promotional stunt by the Kodak company. In 1930 Kodak gave free Brownie cameras to school children across the nation. Page, 12 years old at the time, was one of the lucky recipients. He learned to use the camera and by the time he was in high school (which he attended in Los Angeles) he’d bought a 35mm camera and had set up his own darkroom. During his high school years Page began shooting what he called “candid” photos of people in and around L.A.’s Pershing Square, which was a fairly rough neighborhood at the Time.
He attended the University of California, initially studying business administration before switching to social psychology, which he later abandoned for a major in Art. He met and fell in love with and married a fellow student, Christina Gardner, also an enthusiastic photographer. After graduation in 1940, Page took a job at glass company while Christina completed her studies. Their lives were interrupted by World War II. Page was rejected for military service because of a punctured eardrum, so he found employment in the shipyards–his way of contributing to the war effort. With the money he earned from his first real job, Page bought a twin-lens reflex Rollieflex camera. In his free time, he use the sturdy TLR to shoot “candid” photographs of the men and women who worked in and around the shipyards. Christina, in the meantime, accepted a position as an assistant for Dorothea Lange, already recognized as one of the nation’s best photographers.
Lange encouraged both Page and his wife. At her suggestion he sent some of his photos to the Museum of Modern Art. Although MoMA didn’t purchase any of the photographs, the acting director was very encouraging and asked that he periodically send in more of his work. Around the same time, Page started a personal project photographing delinquent and troubled juveniles. Many of the resulting images were published as an article (The Question of the Kids) in a camera magazine; others were shown at MoMA as part of an exhibit on rising photographers.
His success with the delinquent children project had two significant results. First, it sealed Page’s desire to become a professional photographer documenting social issues. Second, it sparked an internal debate in his mind. What was he trying to do–create art or document social situations? How did he want the images to be received–as striking and memorable photographs or as vivid illustrations of life circumstances? What was his target audience–magazines or galleries? Was he primarily an objective recorder of reality or was he expressing his own singular perspective through art?
In 1944 Page quit his job at the shipyard and began to devote all his energy to photography. He accepted freelance work, he spent a year as the official photographer for a University of California organization, he began to teach photography part time at the California School of Fine Arts. His work was garnering more attention, especially in the art world. He even found support from the new curator of photography at MoMA–Edward Steichen. In 1948 Page moved to New York City to work part-time for Steichen; his wife followed a few months later.
Earlier, Dorothea Lange had encouraged Page apply for a Guggenheim Fellowship (she’d been a recipient herself in 1941). photograph the “relationship between urban people and the cultural forces which surround them.” He also wanted to With Steichen’s support, he finally sent in an application in 1948. In the application letter, Page stated he wanted to “organize these pictures into a dramatic form that has a flow of development.” In other words, a book.
This may sound similar to a Guggenheim application by another photographer, Robert Frank, who went on to create the seminal photographic series in modern American photography. It’s important to remember, though, that Homer Page made his application seven years before Frank.
Page’s application was accepted and in April of 1949 he began his year as a Guggenheim Fellow. Armed with a new 35mm Leica camera bought with his grant money and his trusty old twin-lens reflex Rolleiflex he began to photograph New York City using the style he’d developed around the shipyards of Los Angeles and Oakland–a style that would eventually develop into what is now called ‘street’ photography.
Almost immediately Page realized his original plan was wildly over-ambitious and vague. In a letter, he wrote: Some days everything I see seems to be important; other days, nothing. He also found it nearly impossible to shoot the photographs and take reliable notes regarding what was being photographed, which was a serious concern if he wanted to document the “cultural forces which surround” urban people.
Part of the problem was that post-war culture in the U.S. (and, indeed, throughout the entire industrialized world) was changing rapidly. The U.S. had , in the preceding two decades, survived the Great Depression and a war that spanned the globe, and were now facing what the government was calling the “Red Menace” of communism and the possibility of atomic warfare. Art was changing, music was changing, modes of transportation were changing, television was becoming ubiquitous. The existentialist movement was taking hold of creative minds, while at the same time there was a drive toward conformity and conventionality based on a powerful desire for normalcy after the war.
In a lecture Page gave shortly after accepting the Guggenheim Fellowship, he said: “We are not sure of war or peace, prosperity or recession; not sure what balance to strike between our freedom and our security, either as a nation or as conditions extremely difficult.” Later, he said, “If confusion of values is an important part of our life today, we must analyze individuals. The fundamental issues are clouded and almost certainly in transition. This makes any attempt to record and record this confusion.”
And that’s what Page ended up doing. The photographs from his Guggenheim year are precariously poised between the balance and order of an earlier era and the embrace of diversity and chaos of the coming era. His work isn’t entirely documentary, nor is it unabashedly street photography. It’s transitional photography made during a transitional period; uncertain imagery of uncertain times. But one consistent aspect of those photographs is Page’s attention to detail and to the individuality of his subjects. These are compassionate photographs. At some point along the way, Page essentially abandoned his Rolleiflex and relied almost exclusively on the light and agile Leica. He recognized that his work wasn’t what it had been at the beginning of the fellowship year, and he wasn’t entirely sure where it was going to end up. He wrote to Dorothea Lange, You will notice that my seeing is changing, and though I have no alternative but to follow my eye, I wonder what you think about it…. The newer images more suit my ambivalent and confused state of mind.
In early 1950, as his Guggenheim year approached its end, Page requested a second year of support. That request was denied. The stress of that year–which included a move from California to New York City, inhabiting a tiny tenement apartment in a questionable neighborhood, the high cost of living in New York, and Page’s intense focus on his work–shattered the Pages marriage. Christina moved back to California with their daughter. Although Page shopped the photographs around to various publishers in the hope of getting a book contract, nobody showed any real interest in his work.
Page eventually gave up. He put his Guggenheim prints and negatives into storage boxes, put them away, and ignored them. He went on to other photographic pursuits, then to journalism, then to living a simple life on a small plot of land. The world of photography moved on without him and he was essentially forgotten. A search of the Magnum Photos website reveals only two photos relating to Homer Page–and they’re portraits of Page taken by another Magnum photographer.
Homer Page was a pivotal figure in a pivotal moment in the history of photography, but his work failed to take root. Was it the fault of Page or the times he lived in? Were the photographs inherently flawed, or had the public’s visual awareness not yet evolved enough to appreciate them?
How does one measure a successful life? Perhaps one measure is that sixty-odd years after Homer Page’s year as a Guggenheim Fellow and twenty-some years after his death, those photographs were removed from their storage boxes by his third wife and again presented to publishers. Perhaps one measure of success is that, at long last, the Guggenheim photographs were made into a book (all of the photographs above were shot during Page’s Guggenheim year). Maybe one measure of a successful life is that his photos have finally found the right audience.
And maybe the ultimate measure of a photographer’s life is the courage to follow his or her eye wherever it leads, even if it appears to lead to obscurity.