Early Recollections: The Artist in His Studio
Chautauqua Years 1959-86
One can say I was almost born at Chautauqua. This was the place of some of my earliest recollections as a child through adult. Where is Chautauqua?What is Chautauqua?
General Description of Chautauqua Institute from Wikipedia.
The Chautauqua Institution is a non-profit adult education center and summer resort located on 750 acres (3 km²) in Chautauqua, New York, 17 miles (27 km) northwest of Jamestown in the western part of New York State. The Chautauqua Institution Historic District is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and was further designated a National Historic Landmark.
It was founded in 1874 by inventor Lewis Miller and Methodist Bishop John Heyl Vincent as a teaching camp for Sunday school teachers.
The Institution has operated each summer since then, gradually expanding its season length and program offerings organized around the four pillars: arts, education, religion and recreation. It offers a wide range of educational activities to an average of 75,000 people, in residence on any particular day during the season, and another 145,000 during the season attend public events, including popular entertainment, theater, symphony, ballet and opera.
The Institution also includes school of Special Studies, and a residential music program of intensive study is offered to students on the verge of professional careers who audition for admittance into Chautauqua's schools of fine and performing arts.
The physical setting of the Institution defined its development as an assembly. The grounds are situated on the west shoreline of upper Chautauqua Lake. The early tent camp assembly gave way to cottages and rooming houses, and then hotels and eventually condominiums. But much of the pastoral summer retreat on the lake survives.
Summer admission to Chautauqua is by "gate ticket" which allows entrance into the grounds, use of Smith Memorial Library, use of public beaches and parks, and attendance at lectures and concerts. There is an additional charge for some courses, for films shown at the Chautauqua Cinema, for opera and theater tickets, and for use of the golf course and tennis courts.
Programs offered during the week at Chautauqua include a devotional service and a lecture on a social, political or academic issue in the morning, an afternoon lecture on a religious topic, and an evening program. This evening Amphitheater event may be a symphony concert by the Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra, a dance program by the Chautauqua Ballet Company, or a program by a special guest artist. During most weeks, there is at least one opportunity to catch an opera and a play, both put on by Chautauqua's resident summer companies. Operas are performed in English at Norton Hall, a 1930s era art deco structure. There are also regularly scheduled organ recitals on the Massey Memorial Organ, student recitals, master classes, forums, and seminars for the sophisticate.
A range of special studies courses in music, art, dance, drama and general topics are also offered. The Chautauqua Schools of Music offer extremely competitive programs on the basis of scholarship. George Gershwin visited Chautauqua as a summer refuge to compose parts of his Concerto in F as well as the Rapsody in Blue in a small wooden piano studio and give its first public performance at Sherwood Studios, as small musical studio at Chautauqua who was under the direction of Loyd Sherwood a noted pianist of the period. Many composers and artists descended to Chautauqua during the 1940's through the 1960's partially because of the soothing, low cost venue of a summers retreat
The 10:45 morning lecture program is one of the most distinctive features of the program at the Institution. The program for each week is built around a unifying theme, such as world events. Chautauqua has been visited by United States Presidents from Ulysses S. Grant to Bill Clinton, and by other prominent Americans including Booker T. Washington, Karl Menninger, Tom Ridge and, in 2006, Al Gore. Franklin D. Roosevelt's historic "I hate war" speech was delivered from the podium in the Chautauqua Amphitheater (1936).
The Institution's grounds, located between New York State Route 394 and Chautauqua Lake, include public buildings (such as the 6,000-seat Amphitheater), administrative offices, a library, a movie theater, a bookstore, hotels, condominiums, inns, rooming houses, and many private cottages. There are about 400 year-round residents, but in the summer the population swells as many as 10,000 at any one time. The Institution is largely a pedestrian community, with bikes and scooters seen everywhere and a 12 mph speed limit for cars. There are several parking lots located on the periphery of the grounds.
The Athenaeum Hotel on the grounds is the only hotel actually owned and operated by the Institution. The 156-room hotel, said to be the largest wooden building in the eastern United States, was built in the Second Empire style in 1881. It has a two story porch supported by narrow columns, with a central, mansard-covered tower. Athenaeum Hotel, Chautauqua Institution sample page in a coffee table book Although the number of hotel rooms has steadily declined on the grounds in the past thirty years.
The Chautauqua Literary and Scientific Circle (CLSC), founded in 1878 by Bishop Vincent, is America's oldest continuously operating book club. It was founded to promote self-learning and study, particularly among those unable to attend higher institutions of learning. Six to nine books are added to the reading list each year, with authors generally coming to Chautauqua to discuss their writing and to talk with readers.
The ideals of the Chautauqua Institution were spread throughout the United States through a number of Independent Chautauqua assemblies, and a series of traveling Circuit Chautauqua assemblies, incorporating many of the program components of the Institution, including lectures, music, nondenominational preaching, and a focus on current issues. Several Independent Chautauquas continue into the 21st century.
Continued Bio of Richard Ozanne Chautauqua Years
My parents were artists in residence (my father head of the piano department) at Chautauqua from the years 1956 till 1986. Each and every summer from the summer of my birth till 1986 (my fathers retirement) I have many memories of this small quaint and romantic setting from which many youthful memories spring forth with little effort, as well as the often strict conformance of the religious community which was around, and religiously faithful. It was a wholesome setting sometimes, if events didnt clash with troubles of the outside world. Since Chautauqua is a contained setting, surrounded by a fence and had three gates for entry/exit it was a secure setting, well patrolled, what was in Chautauqua generally stayed in Chautauqua. The surrounding towns and cities such as Jamestown to the south,smaller towns of Mayfield and Westfield to the north generally were set aside to many of the events happing on the "grounds" because of the general contrast. Chautauqua was an international setting that was generally "Purely American". It was once said that the main square on the grounds would be the ideal American setting-which could be a truism. It was a setting in which was All American, especially given the texture and climate of the buildings and structures, almost a natural "Hallmark" setting for a film on American life in a Norman Rockwell painting, all during a summer session. It was a place where one could contrast excellent examples of Symphonic music with the home spun, a great lecture by Pearl Buck in contrast with a little known author who lectures of his or her work in a very casual setting in a wooden floored late victorian college setting.
In all of this one could find very much convention as well as subtle contrast among part-time or permanent residents. The air was always very conservative as well as the conventions of a very tight knit setting. Among the residents were people with extraordinary backgrounds. Growing up I have many memories of being intoduced to various and people who had some great story to tell about the past. There was one german lady who used to come to Master Classes for two summers -of my father at Chautauqua-who actually remembered a Franz Liszt concert she had heard- Now that was very long ago, and she was quite aged, since Franz Liszt died in 1886 she must have been in her late 90's-and that was the mid 60's--Of course she had her recollections, and this was true of many other elderly people who recollected the young George Gershwin when he was working for a couple of summers at Chautauqua. (He had his Piano Concerto in F debut at Sherwood Studios where my father and mother taught--and he worked in "Room 6", [my mothers old studio] on the Rapsody in Blue and in a small wooden practice shack which still carries his name. There were many legendary tales of a young man with quick fingers and a nervous personality, legend known!) There were many legends here if one probed deep enough over the years at Chautauqua, only the names seem to have been passed by in history. There were people of affluence whos wealth towered over many in Chautauqua, as well as those who had 'great names' but little else. My memories recall musicians, writers and artists who were having their summer respits at the institution. These were many stories left to be told from the lectern to the park bench,many in passing inspirational and thought provoking if nothing else.
In the early 1960's Chautauqua was a haven for intelligentsia to descend. The word intelligencia may be a bit loaded, but the 50s and 60's were an age full of upward discovery and challenge especially at Chautauqua . It was a place that was not too expensive and still accessible by most, if not all of the artistic community making it a place where music and art could thrive in a summer session experience that was unparalleled. Now one might think this as a brain-camp, others may think of Chautauqua just as a religious community. At times it was both. The years of my youth I had the experience of many in passing. Later when I returned as an adult I had more memories, some interesting to communicate, others just echos and recollections.
Chautauqua as I remember it in the 1960's was predominately an older, retired community. The old hotels and pensions were just the right price for some to come and stay, take part in the religious, artistic community and then return the next summer for a vacation. I can say my childhood was unusually pleasant. As the wave of youth began to well, the Chautauqua experience grew to be more and more interesting. New programs and services were offered and expanded to this place that seemed almost a relic of the 19th century in the 1960's. It could be seen that there were signs of “hot-cold running water” on the outside of some of the small hotels and pensions. Some of the buildings still used gas lighting,most probably as for nostalgic purposes. The old and often run-down buildings began to look ancient sometimes before reconstruction. The roads were pit holed and telephone service was sometimes hard to come by, having to go through an operator. But it was Chautauqua and those early years I remember well. Droves of white haired people on Sunday, the band concerts, and the children playing in the town-square. It was almost an idyllic childhood.
Childhood memories go on seemingly forever, each place at Chautauqua seemed to have a story. As I grew older, every corner of the Chautauqua grounds had a memory, inspired both by music and art.
Growing up for the summers at Chautauqua Institute was indeed an experience. Over the summers recollections of noted and not so not-so-note people were met in passing..but moreover, Chautauqua was a deeply embracing experience. For my parents it meant work. Not a single reprieve was made for enjoyment during the summers at Chautauqua that I can remember, although some special weekends were taken off....but I could probably count them in memory because of the commanding schedule of my parents work teaching.
I was cared for by a lady from St Louis who watched out for me and tended the home or dwelling we had over the course of summers. Her name ironically was “Painter”. A retired lady with a streak of gray hair, she was a moral foundation during my youth and brought me into “attention” of the various religious aspects of Chautauqua growing up. I was the good child who attended school and summer camp, boys club or the newest book club to enrich my experience. Good music, as it was called was always available. Piano Concerts, Violin Concertos and Symphony Concerts rang forth from the Amphitheater which, a century old, was filled to capacity for these events. Back in the 1960's one could not even imagine a rock concert ever being performed, perhaps at the most a pops or jazz ensemble. Of course once in a while a group would perform, and it became more and more common to hear the modern music as more of a standard than the old and beloved music of Strauss and Oftenbach. I remember so well the long lines going to the performances at Chautauqua of famous classical performers, and the long lined that decended backstage after these. I remember conductors such as Arthur Fiedler, Walter Hendl, Andre Kostelanetz and others, performers such as Van Cliburn, Lili Kraus and many others who graced the old wooden structure called the Amphetheter at Chautauqua. I remember the consequence of “long hairs” descending to Chautauqua and how much they were disliked. The hippies were rounded up and set outside the front gate. The police were always on guard as well as “moral” citizens watching over each aspect of the Chautauqua environment. Liquor of any sort was not and (is still) not allowed on the Chautauqua grounds. It was an absolutely puritan setting with rules-regulations and activities of conduct that were required.
In my teens I remember how strict these rules were. Regulations from one end to another seemed to grow on many minds. I remember the students of the various studios in music, and art as well as the theater schools sometimes rebel to these rules. That this was the “ultimate” gated community was an interesting concept and that there was a loosely confining curfew at 11pm seemed restricting for any parties to occur. These did not happen, at least to public view. “Silence” was enforced at 11pm. If at 1am the Chautauqua grounds were absolutely “in silence”. The teenagers didn’t have too much to do and sometimes they would file through holes in the fence to various nearby towns to party and return the following day with an office inconspicuous smile. There was a “College Club” with various ongoing events that ended before 10pm. There were some concerts that were on the grounds that brought the police. Chautauqua was a very safe environment for the summer except for a few times when gangs made their way onto the grounds. (It was amazing how someone could lose their rights to stay with a simple injunction of not following the rules-regulations, even through they owned properties. Today they are called CC&R's, but I always felt the Chautauqua environment was the inventor of this kind of community.
As I grew into my late teens and early 20's I began to date regularly during the summers. Chautauqua was a romantic adventure that somehow seemed magic....and almost as though like some movie set from the 1950's. Of course there were “moral” enforcement to everything that was seen, appropriate behavior and ways of acting. Anything different that was seen out of respect to the community, or morally objectionable...one might hear about it the next day...90 percent of the time. Mind you it was a town of 750 acres with a fixed population of observers. Questionable behavior was always brought up and in the light of “artists”, (whether they were visual or musical) the appropriate behavior was always checked. Of course there was an underworld in Chautauqua that no one could even dream about...one that might be called a Victorian “sneaking culture”...but those were days when almost any bad behavior was called to its source and by its name..seemingly “sin”.
My Early Years in the Arts at Chautauqua
I first had interest in the arts in 1964. Every week during the summer there was a trip up to the studios at the Arts Quadrangle, quite different in the 1960's than at any time since.
I remember a young artist, taking me to sit an watch her paint under a tree a simple landscape of the college hill, her friend posing in the summers light. I somehow became facinated with the aspects of colors and paint. I remember the feel and smell of paint and often reflect on that simple image that was before me as well as the tubes of paint this young lady gave me---I think I still have them---Grumbacher Caseine Red-Bright Yellow and blue in thick heavy lead tubes.
As a child one dosent often realize what fascinations affect one. Im sure that if the events as they happened never came to pass I probably wouldnt have an interest in art. Rather I feel that I was found by art, and this future, or what it represented to me then as a child followed through until this day. Oh sure one can always change perceptions. One is not born as an artist but likely inclined into this realm. Im sure I could have been a businessman, doctor, lawyer or scientist if I were inclined. But no, art found me here at Chautauqua and several years later I began to take classes at the Art Quadrangle.
Remembrance of the thousands of hours of work in my studio at Chautauqua studying with Revington Arthur. I began classes in 1967, accidently being enrolled in the "adult" class- Revington Arthur, a well known an respected artist was quite taken by the young child student in his class. During this particular summer I eventually made my way to a private class by a lady by then name of Vicky Williams, a noted artist in her own right. (The early beginnings in 1967 to 1986 upon my departure) Memories of art, and the summers spent at Chautauqua, Revington Arthur-noted artist and student of Ashile Gorky, George Lux and others. I was his assistant during the last years of study at Chautauqua. Memories of the days and nights in the studio. The people I met who influenced me and recollections of unique events which inspired me. (100 pages here)
"Attitudes are more important than facts." ring true, as "imagination is more important than knowledge. The author of the first quote: Karl Menninger who just happened to be a frequent lecturer at Chautauqua and was active in the arts. Of course the second quote was by Albert Einstein. I imagined that this his genius would bolster the first statement by Menninger. A healthy attitude is required for art to be art to be made. Putting aside semantics and dramatic episodes for concrete facts, however they were laid out would be a rather boring study in this episode of my experiment in biography. An artist studio is something of a chapel-study, intrinsically speaking, a place to work and a chapel for ideas and influences to grow. This was Chautauqua during my years there.
I ran into quite a number of interesting people during my years at Chautauqua. To make a list would be an academic exercise, and to write endless passages a message of my pen.
I began the Art School in 1967 when I was 8 years old. This was one of the first full summers of art-painting and drawing that I can recollect with much clarity. During the summer years at Chautauqua (1959-1986) I knew I entered the Children s Art Classes perhaps earlier than this date-Perhaps 1964 or 65 but I don’t want so much bearing on my age. 1967 was a good year to start more formal studies in the arts.
As children art school goes-mostly crafts and clay work, perhaps and introduction to some media- I had an advantage. I was interested in the subject, instilled by my parents (mostly my mother) to take advantage of some really advanced children s art teachers that they had at Chautauqua. Vicky Williams was this art teachers name, and she was phenomenal.
I actually brought out oil paints for the first time and began to study pastels. These were not children s media but Ms Williams had a gist with young students and encouraged their progress. Who remembers Vicky Williams? I certainly do as well as the expanse of imagination that helped her young pupils worked from.
She was knowledgeable help and extremely gifted with students.
I trained with her several summers after that and once in a while...just once in a while would be taken up to the adult class with Revington Arthur to work.
Chautauqua was an amazing place for a young child to learn. I experienced every possibility to advance in my studies as a child whether it be in reading, or learning poetry, playing piano (a rather obvious one...when I could receive lessons from my mother which was always extremely busy) or socialization, sports, and learning from others.
I did what young children do. I went to Boys Club for several summers, but being more of the creative type had a journey that was needed, a calling somewhere inside, as well as interests that needed to be preserved.
From 1967 forward I studied art and this quite simply. Each summer there was an exhibition of children s work and later the more strict levels of classes which evolved. Each summer I was a part of this ongoing expression.
When did I first take art "seriously"? When was it that I took my first class and said...I want to be an artist?
1974/75/76 were the leaning years. I knew this career was what I wanted. I can say the year of "seriousness in art " took place in 1976/77 when I made up my mind to spend hours outside class-time in study and preparation and had available to me my first studio at Chautauqua.
During my summers I had the opportunity to become part of reading groups and other societies that came to Chautauqua in the sessions of CLSC (Chautauqua Literary and Scientific Circle). I was encouraged to have a well rounded education during the summers ventures. I wish elaborate on this as time comes to pass, as my interests during my youth had a number of different dimensions. Some of the people I met had met at Chautauqua as a youth, inspired me for my entire life via their lectures which were numerous in the 60's and 70's:
Dr. Karl Menninger
Pearl S. Buck
Madame Shao Fang Sheng
Buckminster Fuller (An inspiration after meeting him after a lecture)
Many Others who would give lectures or appear on the "grounds" during summers residence.
Through the years 1977-1986 I advanced and became interim to assistant to Revington Arthur during these years finally gaining scholarships for my summers study in the early 1980's.
Revington Arthur was to some, an obvious iconoclast of realism, romanticism and other methods of art. Many of his students in those years were older, but there were some younger members of the art classes who were more serious and getting their appropriate degrees in college or university. Needless to say Arthur’s lectures at Chautauqua were a two-fold curiosity. He taught beginners and advanced students from universities across the United States. His lectures included a good fabric of American art history woven into their fabric. Critiques would be either very general or pounding
commentary of history from American Realism through Abstract Expressionism, most not the New York School. He was tough on his advanced students if they cared for objective criticism. There were times when the critiques were so strong that people, beginners as well as advanced students came away with questions that y absorbed them. They key objective for many of these students was the advanced course of study written in the MFA Curriculum. MFA, what does that stand for? Of course Masters of Fine Art, a terminal degree in art that had far reaching circumstances in the period of art of the 1950's through the 1980's. (I would like to say the curriculum is the same now as it was during that period...but the emphasis is a bit different altogether)
For nearly 100 one hundred years the MFA had been the highest attainable degree for an artist at university level. There was not a PhD or some other lettered degree that was matched in the United States. Historically the MFA degree was earned by people wishing to make professional advances in their work with scholarly study of the subject at hand being one of the requisites.
Here is a description of the MFA according to Wikipedia:
In the United States, a Master of Fine Arts (MFA) is a graduate degree typically requiring 2-3 years of study. In the United Kingdom, a (MFA) typically requires two years, whereas an (MA) usually takes one year of study, except in Scotland, where the MA qualification has supplanted the BA as an undergraduate degree and requires 4 years of study as opposed to the 3 normally required for a BA. The Scottish case aside, the MFA is a postgraduate study beyond the bachelor's degree level and usually awarded in visual arts, creative writing, filmmaking, or theater/performing arts. Coursework is primarily of an applied or performing nature with the program often culminating in a major work or performance.
MFA programs have generally required a bachelor's degree prior to admission, but many have not required that the undergraduate major be the same as the MFA field of study. The most important admissions requirement has often been a sample portfolio or a performance audition.
The MFA differs from the Master of Arts in that the MFA, while an academic program, centers around practice in the particular field, whereas programs leading to the MA are usually centered on the scholarly, academic, or critical study of the field.
The MFA is seen as a terminal degree, meaning that it is considered to be the highest degree in its field. In the interest of extending the connection between creative production and continued academic research, however, some universities have established competing Ph.D programs in fields such as creative writing, visual arts, and theater.
Enough said. From my earliest years I had already decided to be and artist-with the advice at hand- to presue the venue inclusive of the highest attainable degree as well as being an exhibiting artist.
In recent years <2010 there has been a major popular trend to discard degree relevancy to the fields of art. I have no idea what this trend is, but it is disturbing. It has been extremely damaging to the purpose of art and progress of collegiate aptitude to the subjects of the arts as well as to creativity in all areas of society in general. The system that supports arts, helps to develop progress in society through the incentive of dynamics and structures that give imaginative ends to otherwise static outcomes.
I entered my field as a journeyman artist in the way many Great Masters of history did. I as a visitor to this lifetime had the encouragement, and the self-determination to make what I could with the background I had-or if dissed by the society (as so many artists and cultural creators were during their own lifetimes) make with it what I could, for in the "great element" of that thing called art, for whatever reason it is all part of the akachic records (the records of all things known and understood). The element of living, breathing, doing, understanding, making stakes-winning-losing (whatever formation one can possibly understand) is a "plus" for the one who initiates, puts into action, and channels this "thing called talent" for whatever purpose-and whatever identity that comes to pass. As a teacher, in art or music, every note played, and every picture painted, for whatever reason-and in whatever style, is for the matter of the "Universe" to make reakon, for we as pilots of very small ships, destined for uncertain shores, have within us the element of "initiation" (beginning, starting and ending for all things-whether it be art or business) and, in that element and that element alone is the sole work perspecacity. Politics, Ego, Fame and the notions thereof, being ammassed like a balloon floating up with each discovery, the magnitudes being left to the unknown, can initiate for us a singular soulful purpose-discovery of our ability (or talent) each in a realm, specific and singular, dynamic or static, as we uncover for ourselves "meaning and purpose". Societies today, and yesterday have distanced the artist (creator-whatever mode one chooses to implement art, from business-capital climax, to the making of a small unknown work of art) to particular nitches, the artist to often be unknown or the philosopher-figuratively enough to spend their time in thought filled, but not necessarily economicly augmented situations, for these purposes of "self discovery" In the great realm of things real, either metaphysical or primordial, the essence of what we make-with our own hands as craftsmen, is an initiation into the very real realm of understanding.
During my years at Chautauqua, I had a vantage point. I grew up here amidst very conservative values, and took those values to heart for the elements of what they were only to push these forward into new understandings-in art, or music-or philosophy. Many of the people I met early on in Chautauqua later became famous for various reasons, some very wealthy, others on paths of discovery to different and less encountered unions of faith through self-discovery. In these early years I became well aware of the aspects of "finance", the appearance of wealth as they pretain to physical realities and the aspects of lesser known elements which may or may not play function on the routes through our lives- perspecacity, elements of "faith" which Chautauqua had meaning-the gathering, and the greater notion of all things that there are paths of the lesser traveled. "Wealth is not a matter of how much we have in our pockets, for this can be gone in an instant...", I remember some conversation on the porch of one of those houses as a youth, "The matter of Faith, and how you build the wealth hidden 'within' is a much greater commodity than can ever be held by either man or woman". I do remember conversations being intitiated on the grand old porches, then during my youth, by pastors of faith, or ministers of calling during the dawn of my life. Of course many conversations had their ebb, and flow too. Some mentioned that finance-material wealth was the greatest aspect that man could live for, or work for. "A strong and bold element of financial gain, man makes himself Emporer or Leader...." one juxapose thought came to mind, "Art, who needs art? It is industry, hard work, labor and the gravity of an axe at the anvil that gives man his/her justice, hard work being primary...." another element, respected for it seems many conceivable elements justify what is, or what will become....labor being one. For centuries the establishment of art as is was assumed to have context in history- meaning the establishment of knowledge of the craft as well as craftsmanship and the context and imaginative talent, skill and gift. Why not? What a man wants, is given by labor in all senses, whether it be by the means of the extreme or the sublime .This is what one aims for...to be an artist and to gain perspective in exhibitions and labors of ability. What greater sense has one than a mind to use, and abilities to keen, and senses to propagate? All mankind being the same, distinct to our own person, as creator (perhaps all artists of a sense) we do work. Wares of an industrialist are the hands of others and their management, wares of a farmer, his till deep within the soil, spreading out roots in a fertile harvest, those wares of an artist, actions of beauty, making, augmenting and folding the structures that were mere media into new ideas, new hangings and prospects for internal/external enlightenment. In the great actions of man, whether high or low, big or small...from the aspects of the field marshal who controls the infantry, or the great industrialist who sends his focus upon his propagation of material, what is it that makes a "greater man" from a "lesser man?" Is there such an obnoxious differentiation? Are we all prepared before our "Lord" to do works of great response or great beauty-equally among our class distinctions, within our own realms? Should this be realized?
As a youth I once met a very wealthy industrialist---name witheld---who shared with me a secret that was rare. I think of this every so often in retrospect. It was the summer of 1975 and I was bringing all my art materials up a hill from a venture of painting plein air (one of many experiences that I had at Chautauqua. An old man called to me from a porch of a large grey house---ironicly one of the same places I once lived as a child---I rememberd the fellow walking by and making some comment on my work and now, later, he was calling me from my procession up the long hill to the studio to gather some attention and perhaps a conversation. With greetings I sat with him on the porch of the tall grey house with white accents. I sat with him and he asked me about my art, and my vision. I was only 16, just a boy mostly who had it within his mind to become an artist, doing some very "impressionistic" watercolor, not big, but small-detailed and more for exercise. His persona was almost as a Thomas Edison, white hair balding on top, well suited for the evening dress, cane in hand sharp, witty and sincere. "So what is this young man doing as an artist?" he smiled graciously, liking my painting and commenting on the colorations. I had hoped he might buy the piece, and tried a small sales pitch. "No...That is your exercise..." he commented. "Do you know what I do?" he persisted. I smiled and listened from there. "I make millions of dollars..and my luxury is a big, big---Big house, and cars..lots of cars! You like cars?" He almost humorously built himself up into an extasy of self glorification---then laughed and smiled at my response. "Race horses.....do you like horses?" he questioned. "Probably not a race horse fan...hum?" he continued. His wife came up from a walk across the street, introduced herself to me and then dissapeared inside, "Hes not talking your ear off" she laughed, "Thats my wife!" he smiled and then continued. He brought out a big cigar, and nipped the end off putting it in a bucket to the side of him and lit it, pardoning himself for smoking. "Yess, horses!..." he continued, "Its all about a horse race, life that is". "Did you ever hear that one horse that wins, often wins by a nose?" he joked, pointing to his nose in eccentricity, "Let me elaborate...its all about the 'photo finish', he gnawed--probably the best kept secret that one would learn" he postulated, "Its winning by a nose hair...No matter how good one precieves themselves to be, its just like that horse--we have a big wager on--he runs, and runs and does he make it to that point of winning? Or is it a photo finish and we measure the legnth of the nose-hair and say this is it.."The winner", or maybe he falls last in the race because of a very small stone in his hoof, or a nail that isnt quite anchored in?....There is allot of 'chance' one takes when one does a horse race, 'winner take all' or not a winner at all! A million to one odds! Yessss!" he spurted, I paying very close attention to him as it was a decisive year (1976-77). "Its not a matter of chance, and it is a matter of chance at the same time---'a nose hair', photo finish!", he grumbled, sticking that large cumbersome cigar between his teeth an releasing a huge plume. "The thing is preparation!...if one is not prepared, END OF GAME!, but...if one is prepared, one has a chance of a nose hair, or photo finish! Understand!" he grappled, looking right straight at me with burning eyes! "Are you going for just a nice picture or a painting? Do you have---'Education' to make the leverage of knowledge, and informed dicision behind you?..." he spoke forward. "Now I didnt have the opportunity to 'get' an education, yet Im worth---millions! but then again, I never did what I really wanted in life..I always followed what the next person in line was directing me..." He related, as 'all was a great horse race'--the end result a nose-hair or photo finish, or a last leg example of a fall back. "Be prepared! Having an education and being prepared are one of the best things one can have!" I followed his words---"Remember this---its not a horse race and if I call you from across the room it may only be about the photo finish" he said and laughed. The conversation went on for about an hour and then the landlord came out with his wife (I had known them in that same house for years). I was quite astonished that they had known me since a child, and introduced me, as well as my father who had been at Chautauqua for many years, recollecting that it was the first place I had lived, that first summer of 1959 that I had stayed there. Over the course of that summer and the next year I often met this old fellow at Chautauqua. Often he would call across the street in a loud tone "Is it a photo-finish?"-smiling as he piped that cigar,I would reply "Just in by a nose-hair", other times I would sit and talk. So who was he? It dosent really matter-but some of those conversation, regardless of who he was were lessons-
It all comes down to doing what one really wants with ones talents, and being prepared---for that one second which makes things count! If that second dosent happen--it has to be seen as a game, the end result a personal challenge, to love what one does and be who one can be-
I personally do no believe that....everyone is an artist....the concept seems rather dismal and far fetched from any "professional" level, someone might remark-but the challenge remains---its what one does, that one loves! There is the reward to the challenge, and the greatest wealth comes from this experienceI I would reply "Just in by a nose-hair"! That a person is prepared is the footing, that they make a construction on that sight the implementation- That whatever structure is built upon the foundation is completed, a testement! Not a dabbler, but a key note, perhaps that one is what they build of themselves, not just in name! That I would be an artist, painter and musical lover would be enough! One always has to be observant of ones long-standing though--I cannot be just an artist, no one ever is--just one thing! That I am a master artist, perhaps only an inquiry, self-perpetuated and life long-but not a hobbiest- It would be like calling everyone a rocket scientist, surgeon, engineer. Perhaps one can pull semantics to such a brink and escalate either up or down on such intellectual trappings. "Perhaps everyone wants to be an artist" might be a better statement, indeterminate of what "Is" -is!
Then again I must oblige with a political correction, "That everyone must be artists, because there are so many of them...."
The summers remained for work on my art and serious study form 1977 to 1986.