1957/1958, Suzanne Hodes

1957/1958

Suzanne Hodes

With Bill Cummings support, I spent two challenging summers (1957‚ 1958) at Skowhegan. What an experience it was to eat, drink, work, and interact with other artists. Here, I could totally immerse myself in drawing, painting and supportive critiques. When I was a student at Skowhegan in the summer of 1958, there were many émigré artists as teachers, including George Grosz and Max Weber. Mr. Grosz always proclaimed the importance of the line and liked to make small line sketches in my sketchbook. In class, he spoke of the large triptych drawing “Metropolis” by Otto Dix, which is one of the strongest anti-war images ever created.

1968, Ken Rush

1968

Ken Rush

I was 19 years old, newly married, and my wife, Martha, and I went to Skowhegan directly from our brief honeymoon. My painting studio was a small stall which faced out on the lawn below the barn. It was the first time in my life that I was able to paint full time without the interruption of some sort of school structure. It was a freedom that I have waited almost 50 years to be able to fully enjoy again.

While I kept up my studio practice during my 43 year art teaching career, my thoughts always go back to those brilliant summer days in Maine. Special moments that come to mind include the weekly visits by Jacob Lawrence. He had a gift for pushing me through a few gentle comments. He was also the first person of color I ever had as a mentor—something which seems inexplicable today, but at the time opened me to an entirely new view of the world.

1973, Judith Amdur

1973

Judith Amdur

In 1973, the painting professors were Janet Fish, Alex Katz and Paul Resika. Alex Katz told me to “paint the light, not the form”. His words helped me to paint my very first landscape. I have never forgotten that phrase, even after all these years.

1987, Karen Yank

1987

Karen Yank

Agnes Martin and I met during our Skowhegan summer. We formed our friendship over swimming, of all things. She enjoyed watching my dedication and focus as I swam back and forth from the Skowhegan beach to the buoy each day, passing her cottage with each lap. Agnes was once a competitive swimmer and I think she was continuing her mental exercises through watching me swim.

The single most important tool she taught us that summer was to meditate before ever working on your art: with a quiet mind true inspiration can be allowed in. She believed this to be the most important tool in making art. Once it is achieved other problems such as showing, galleries, and finances will all fall into place on their own without the artist’s meddling. As Agnes always reminded me, “Karen, you are an unfolding flower.”

One of Agnes’ lines of advice that became famous that summer was, “If you can not stop thinking about going to the beach while working, you must take time off and go to the beach. Deal with your distraction and then you will be able to work in your studio once again.” Needless to say, the beach was a very popular place that summer!

Agnes Martin was a wise soul and a generous knowledgeable teacher. She showed all of us how to be content with the smallest of life’s pleasures and to be present in every moment.