PHYLLIS ODESSEY

and they say…

34563624you can’t go home again.  And boy are they right.  Steven Kasher of Steven Kasher Gallery  and alumni of the New York Studio School, organized a symposium on Saturday, December 13 around his current show, 12 Painters: The Studio School, 1974/2014.  I attended the Studio School after college, so I had a passing interest in attending the conversation that might take place.

Robert Bordo, a panelist and early alumni of the school: “The school accepted and

The original entryway to the school.  The building was the original home of the Whiteny Museum of American Art.

The original entryway to the school. The building was the first home of the Whitney Museum of American Art.

encouraged a “culture of dropouts”.  There was no application process.  You showed up with some work, talked to Mercedes Matter, who started and ran the school.  If she thought you were good fit, you were accepted, end of story or the beginning of new one.

The school was originally located on lower Broadway.
Robert Bordo:  “A man followed me into the building.  He was disheveled, dirty clothes, beard.  He followed me into the elevator.  I thought he was going to get off on another floor and panhandle.  Instead he exited the elevator on the same floor as me, the school floor.  He went into the open studio.  A woman was in the middle of painting.  The paint on her canvas still wet.  He took his hand and smeared all on the paint on the canvas.  She was horrified.

Milton Resnick working on a student's painting at the New York Studio School ca. 1968.  Courtesy of New York Studio School.

Milton Resnick working on a student’s painting at the New York Studio School ca. 1968. Courtesy of New York Studio School.

The man said to her, “You think you’re in Hell, but you won’t be.  You’ll be in this room.”

The rest of us were alarmed. We thought we should call the police.  The man saw our faces.  He said, “I am Milton Resnick.  I was asked to come and teach here.”

That is not only an apocryphal story.  It sums up The New York Studio School.  The School was formed in a rebellious moment.  4 hours of drawing and 4 hours of painting or 4 hours of drawing and 4 hours of sculpting.  That was it.  Some people thought it was a bastion of conservatism, based on an old European model.  And in some ways this was true.  It was all about observation and imagination.

Mercedes Matter (left) and students at the New York Studio School, c.1970's

Mercedes Matter (left) and students at the New York Studio School, c.1970’s

The school now offers, classes, certificates and MFA degrees.  This is probably the only way to survive in the current economic environment.  I am grateful to having attended the school when it still was part of “atelier system.”  Lots of friends, who are alumni have had long careers in the art world.  I didn’t last long: realizing long go, I had limited talent and qualified motivation.  As someone said on Saturday, the goal was to let students see the artist they might become.  It did that for me.

DREAMS
Langston Hughes

Hold fast to dreams
For if dreams die
Life is a broken-winged bird
That cannot fly.
Hold fast to dreams
For when dreams go
Life is a barren field
Frozen with snow.

 

 

 

 

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