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A Revered Teacher

This week we say goodbye to Knox Martin, painter and beloved teacher at the Art Student's League. He was ninety-nine. Do you know this work of art? Have you ever noticed it? Painted in 1970, it is located on the south side of Bayview Correctional Facility at 19th Street and The West Side Highway so it's been there as long as I've lived in New York and I see it every time we head north out of town. That building is no longer correctional facility and its future is uncertain. I hope the painting survives--it's ten stories tall!

It's titled "Venus."

Here's what I read about it, by Marilyn Kushner. "Traditionally the goddess of love and fertility, Venus represents woman, erotic and supple, but it also conveys Martin's love affair with New York. Venus is his love poem to the city where he has always lived, a place that is part of his being. The feminine, curvilinear shapes of the image are in direct contrast with the straight forms that intersect the composition. The overwhelming size of this enormous mural only intensifies the experience of female shapes, the linear aspects of the painted composition, and of the surrounding architecture. In an era when art was reaching out to the masses with pop culture, this huge mural was Martin's way of touching a public that would never venture into an art gallery."

Here's Knox with the painting in the background.

There's another Knox Martin at Houston Street and MacDougal-Woman and bicycle, which may be a tribute to de Kooning.

When I think of Knox I remember one class I took with him, when he told me my work needed to be "more stupid." I'm still mulling that one over. Then I think of those League studios and my first painting class where a friend gave me this print;

I've gone to Japanese and Chinese art for hints on how to draw water and clouds, so hard to depict in line. When I find something I love I first think, "Gee, I wish I'd thought of that." Then I wonder how I can make it fit in my own work. Then I put it away. And eventually, it shows up in surprising ways.

Like this.

This is one of my own favorites, Double Play at Sea. It's a collage of an intaglio etching, and a rolled color embossment. At first, I just had the image, Chicago Cubs' shortstop, Shawon Dunston, making a spectacular catch. I livened it up by placing him above the ocean waves. It's a precursor to my baseball series. Images get into my consciousness and emerge sometimes surprisingly. Is that what Knox meant by stupid? Let things happen? I'll never know but I keep mulling.

Rest In Peace, Knox or, rather, Rest in ART.

Now I have to say this. If you love someone you do everything you can to keep them safe. Are we doing that? Some of our leaders are putting weapons of mass destruction in the hands of troubled children. What do we do about that?

May 26, 2022

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