Cooper Union School of Art, on the Lower East Side, is another New York City treasure. I went there yesterday, driving downtown from the Upper West Side on such a beautiful fall day. Seeing the sun bouncing on the Hudson River and the air crisp made one feel good.
With a mix of emotions, we were headed for the East Village to honor the great American artist, Deborah Remington. The film, Howl, has just been released. It’s about the origins of the Beat Generation literary movement, titled after the poem written by Allen Ginsberg. The poem was first read by Ginsberg at Six Gallery in San Francisco in 1955. Deborah was one of the six painters and poets who owned the gallery—the only woman and first significant female Beat Generation painter.
Deborah was the first and only woman many times in her life. She was so much a part of the New York art world, and it was she—as an activist—that made it possible for artists to live and work in their lofts. She was living in a loft on Canal Street when I first met her. At the time it was illegal to live in your work space. Deborah got the law changed.
She helped develop the Soho area. She was one of twelve artists who settled the area that is so trendy and popular now. Her paintings hang in every major museum. Her success as an artist is well known, but her success as a person, teacher and mentor not so much. Everyone had a personal story about the great influence she had on their lives.
Six-feet-tall and with bright red hair, she was striking. A gourmet cook, a world traveler and fine hostess, it was at her home that I met Brice and Helen Mardin, the de Koonings, Louise Nevelson, Paul Jenkins and gallery owner, Klaus Kertess.
Deborah enhanced my love of art and my life as she did for so many. She taught at Cooper Union, probably the most daring art school in America. It is free and has no tuition. I was so lucky to call her a friend. As usual, I was in the right place at the right time.