Posts Tagged ‘Tom Buechner’

West End Childrens Center Party 2015 Charlotte Royal

I was the guest speaker last night at a private event held at the West End Gallery.  It was a combination dessert /wine tasting with a bit of a gallery talk thrown in to break up the great flavors, all of which was an item offered in a charity auction to benefit the Children’s Center of Corning that was held earlier in the year.  The generous winning bidders, Chris and Darryl Heckle, and a group of their friends were treated to four incredible desserts and their appropriate wine accompaniments provided by Susan Barbosa, the executive chef at Corning Inc.

Oh, best of all– I got in on the goodies as well.

The one shown above was the first of the night, an exquisite Charlotte Royal.  It was a beautifully crafted dome of two cool and creamy mousses under a covering of thin sponge cake slices.  Wonderful flavors.

Profiterol Cheesecake WE 2015My favorite was the finale offering was this monster, a base of chocolate cheesecake filled with profiteroles (creme puffs!) that was topped with a deep chocolate ganache.  Long story made short– I cleaned every drop of it off my plate.  I could have eaten that until my eyes popped but decorum dictated that I just eat the large piece I was given.  I don’t know how decorum judged me licking my plate clean but that’s the risk you take when you let a guy like me into an event like this.

All kidding aside, it was a lovely evening with a very congenial and interesting group of people.  I gave an abbreviated version of my gallery talk and answered a number of questions from the group.  I also talked a bit about  a few other artists in the gallery, pointing out the influence of the late Tom Buechner on the many artists of this area.  Hopefully, they found something of interest in much of this.

A hearty “Thank You” to the Chris and Darryl Heckle for their generous bid.  Also, many thanks to Peigi Cook of the Children’s Center for her coordination of the auction and this event and to Susan Barbosa for the meticulous preparation and service of her wonderful goodies.  And to Jesse and Linda at the West End Gallery for opening their gallery to this event.

It was a pleasure.  And tasty, too!

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Principle Gallery King St AlexandriaThere is an opening that I will be gladly attending this Friday, April 25th, at the Principle Gallery in  Alexandria, Virginia, a celebration of the gallery’s 20th anniversary as an Old Town fixture on  historic King Street.  The gallery first opened in April of 1994 on Cameron Street in a second-story space and moved to their present location in 1997, taking up residence in historic Gilpin House.  Over the years, they have featured some of the finest in contemporary art, focusing on representational realism, and their reputation as a gallery of the highest caliber has grown, nationally and internationally, with each passing year.  In 2013, the Principle Gallery brand expanded with the opening of a Principle Gallery in Charleston, South Carolina.

The rest, as they say, is history.

For me, I first came on board with an invitation from owners Michele Ward ( then Marceau) and the now retired Sue Hogan in early 1997, just as they were about to make their move to their present location.  I had only been showing my work publicly for just two years at that point and had only been painting for a little over three so I was excited to find a spot in their roster.  Little did I know how important my relationship with this gallery would become to my career.

I have written here in the past about the gratitude I have for the galleries with which I have worked over the years.  I have worked with several galleries for the better part of two decades and each has been vital to the growth of my work and my career, providing me with reassurance when I am feeling less than confident  and willing eyes when the work evolves.  Each has provided me with intangibles that I cannot fully describe.  My life would be so different without each of these galleries.  I shouldn’t say galleries because it is truly about the people that operate them.

That certainly has been the case with the Principle Gallery.

Over the years  I have worked with numerous wonderful people there, each of who has  allowed me to let my work grow in many directions, always encouraging me and  treating my work with respect.  They always make me feel welcome as a friend the moment I enter the gallery and I think that is a quality that extends to nearly everyone who comes through their doors.  You see it in the faces of many friends from the area who pop in just to say hello.  That alone says volumes about them as people.  It certainly makes the gallery experience they offer a much different one than most people envision.  It is an experience based on making you feel comfortable and they succeed in every way.

I know that they have made me feel comfortable there over the years and for me that is saying a lot.

I had my first solo exhibit at the Principle Gallery back in 2000.  That was the Redtree show that gave birth to my now trademark image.  This year’s June show, Traveler,  marks the 15th consecutive year I will have had a solo show there.  It has been my pleasure to be able to grow with the gallery, to see it constantly strive to be better, to make itself more.  It inspires me to do the same.  And that, among all the things they have given me over the years in terms of encouragement and friendship, might be the greatest gift of all.

The inspiration to aspire to be more.

So, to Michele and her wonderful staff– Clint, Jessica, Pamela and Kris– I send you a heartfelt thank you and best wishes for many more years of success.  Happy 20th!

See you Friday!


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I went to an opening last night at the West End Gallery for a memorial exhibition of paintings by the late Tom Buechner and an accompanying display of work by the many, many artists who painted with or studied under him.  It was a great show and was heavily attended.  A fitting tribute to Buechner, whose influence in this area has been immense.

At the opening a friend, Brian Hart, who is a great talent of a painter, told me I should stop over to a local arts center, 171 Cedar Arts, to see an exhibit by artist Dave Higgins.  It was a show of illustrated pages and Brian said it was incredible.  After a short while at the West End, Cheri and I snuck out and headed over to 171.

I have mentioned Dave Higgins before in this blog in a post about his Yellow House painting, which he has painted over a hundred times.  He is incredibly talented and creative with a slightly skewed sense of the world that often shows through in his work. We share a love of goofy pop culture, such as Hee Haw .

 I remember sitting in for the owners of the West End many years ago and selling one of his paintings to an older couple .  It was a dark night scene of the city of Corning as seen from a neighboring hilltop.  In the sky above the city was the perfectly rendered head of a red demon with tongue extended.  It could have been awful in the wrong hands but in Dave’s care it became a wonderful painting, with beautiful color and feel. The couple that bought it were an elderly couple who were just swept away by the piece.

This show, David Higgins: My Book 1987-2010, features pages much like the one shown above from the show’s postcard.  Dave started doing at least one of these pages per month back in 1987 and over the years has amassed a treasure trove of these pages.  They are remarkable.  Each page is so different from the next and each shows multiple styles and influences that boggle the mind of someone like me.  Some are purely in black and white while others have rich color.  There are little stories and narratives on some pages and wonderful wordplay throughout.  One of my favorites was a page with the headding that read “Lester, Said Hester, Let’s Pester Sylvester“.   There are references to pop culture and literature, with much of the work influenced by one of three things– children’s books, the Head Comics of the 1960’s and 70’s and the Beauty Books of early 1900’s, which were produced to illustrate the quality of a publisher’s printing process.

I came out of there in complete awe of his creativity and talent.  It is always daunting to look upon a grand expression of talent obsessed.  I wish I had more sheets to show because I know my words lack the impact of the work itself.  If you’re in Corning before the show ends on Novemebr 12, do yourself a favor and stop in at 171 Cedar Arts.  I’m hoping that Dave publishes these as a group soon so that the rest of the world can discover this work that we are so fortunate to experience.

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Painting of Old Centerway Bridge by Marty Poole

At yesterday’s memorial service for Tom Buechner, former congressman and head of Corning, Inc Amory Houghton was one of the speakers who stood before the large crowd under the spectacular Tiffany stained-glass windows of  the Christ Episcopal Church in Corning and told stories about the man.  At one point, Houghton said that  while Tom was a brilliant man (he had , after all, been chosen by the Houghtons to start the Corning Museum of Glass in 1950 at the tender age of 23) he sometimes came up with “nutty ideas“.  He then cited the stained glass bridge that I mentioned in yesterday’s post as an example, almost harumphing as he finished as if to say, “How crazy is that?”

Cheri and I exchanged sideways glances and to the crowd’s credit, very few seemed to share the humor Amo seemed to find in it. 
Nutty idea“?
Big? Yes.   Risky?  Sure.  Difficult?  Of course. Expensive?  Positively.  Impractical?  Maybe…
But at the same time, it is an idea that is forward-thinking on a grand scale, filled with the possibility of returns for the community and company that dwarf the initial risk.  Visionary, yes.  Nutty? Hardly.
And therein sits the division between those who see possibility and those who see impossibility.  It’s a very narrow chasm often leaving two people seemingly standing next to one another, close enough to touch.  But between them is a gaping ravine deep enough to deter crossing.  The believer in possibility stands on one side and tries to convince the denier of possibility that all he must do is to dare to lift his foot and simply step across to the other side.  Though not so far away, the view is so much different from this side! 
Maybe this difference of views is the same that separates us all.  Deep chasms we dare not cross, formed by our fears and the thoughts of what can’t be done rather than what can.  I read an interesting editorial the other day where the writer talked about this moment in time in our country versus the time after World War II.  At that time, our national debt was 120% of our GDP as opposed to the nearly 90% now.  The highest income tax rates hovered at 90%, shockingly higher than today.  Unemployment was soaring as the masses of troops returned to the civilian ranks.  We were staggering and teetering after a decade of the Great Depression and a costly war.  Yet, as the writer of the editorial  pointed out,  there was a positivism then that is virtually absent now.  We had persevered the worst in the Depression and came out victorious in the War and we had come out the other side with an atitude that we could get anything done if we set our will to it.  We embarked on two huge and costly efforts despite staggering costs-  the Marshall Plan to rebuild war-ravaged Europe and the GI Bill that rewarded our troops for their selfless sacrifice with  a chance at a higher education and low-cost housing, one of the largest entitlement programs in our history and one that set the table for the growth of the middle class in the 1950’s.
Today, that positivism is nowhere to be found in the general populace.  Gone is the roll-up-your-sleeves attitude.   We have become afraid to move forward, preferring to stand in the present and not step across the chasm of possibility to a future that moves forward.  We have fallen prey to fear and negativity and nothing good, absolutely nothing, can come of this attitude.
So, maybe hearing “nutty idea” spoke to more than a little museum on a little  bridge in a little city in a rural county in upstate New York for me.  Maybe it spoke to the symptoms  and causes of what ails us as a nation– the differing viewpoints of those who look on the same thing and see two vastly different versions.  A chasm between possibility and impossibility.

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The Stained Glass Bridge- Thomas Buechner

We are heading off this morning for a memorial service for the late  Tom Buechner, a man of many talents ( including those as an artist, writer, curator, art historian and teacher) who passed away on June 13th.  The memorial is being held at the beautiful Christ Episcopal Church in Corning which, with its great stained glass windows, brings to mind one of Tom’s dreams that never reached fruition, unfortunately.

The Chemung River cuts the city of Corning into two halves and there are two active bridges that span the often lazy river.  There is also a third bridge, the old Centerway Bridge that sits right next to the newer Centerway Bridge, that was built in the 1970’s, leaving the old bridge to sit idly by acting only as a wide pedestrian bridge between the downtown Market Street district on one side and the Corning Museum of Glass on the other. 

Buechner saw this idle bridge and its scenic perch above the river as a waste of an asset.  In his creative mind he saw it as something more, as a foundation for a structure rising from it, one that would celebrate Corning’s glass heritage and fame.  Stained glass, in particular.  He saw the bridge holding a world class museum and facility for the study of stained glass, a natural extension of the present Glass Museum which draws glass scholars from all over the world.

It would sit above the river and have glass panels on each side that would permit the freeflow of light through the panels on display, giving the outside of the building a colorful gleam.  At night, it would glow above the river in the glorious colors of so many stained glass windows.  It would have been quite a sight to see and would have become, no doubt, a great addition to Corning’s lure as a tourist destination.

But it was a big dream for this small city and never came about.  Money, structural concerns, etc.  They all conspired to leave the stained glass bridge as a seed in Tom Buechner’s mind.  This past year, at his October exhibit at the West End Gallery in Corning, he displayed the painting above which showed his concept for the museum.  I remember being excited at seeing this piece because the idle bridge always seemed to be sitting there, waiting to be transformed into something.  A phoenix hovering in the ashes.

There’s still hope that someone will recognize the beauty of this dream and let the phoenix rise.  But it’s doubtful now that Tom has passed, taking with him his vision and his passion.  But at least the idea and the dream still remain. 

Imagine a lazy summer evening and, as dusk breaks, the deep colors of many stained glass windows cast their rich light over the river …

Present Day Old Centerway Bridge in Painting from Tom Buechner

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Tom Buechner In His Studio-- Photo by Barbara Hall Blumer

Tom Buechner died Sunday, June 13, at his home in Corning  after a short time after being diagnosed with lymphoma.  He was 83 years old.   He is survived by his wife, Mary, and his three  children.

I don’t know how you would characterize Tom’s career, it being so multi-faceted.  He did so many things in so many areas, all at the highest levels.  He was a true man of accomplishment.

 He was well known in the museum world, having started the Corning Museum of Glass, which evolved into the world-class facility it is today,  before leaving to head the Brooklyn Museum throughout the 1960’s.  He was president of Steuben Glass, the company that produced some of the finest American crystal and art glass ever made.  He also was instrumental, serving as President for a decade,  in the formation of the Rockwell Museum in Corning, which has the largest collection of Western Art east of the Mississippi.

He was a leading glass scholar, being one of the biggest authorities on  the work of art glass pioneer Frederick Carder.  He wrote the glass section for the Encylopedia Brittanica.   He also wrote a best-selling book, Norman Rockwell: Artist and Illustrator, that  is one of the definitive works on the great American artist.

He is perhaps best known as a painter.  Trained as a young man at the Art Students League in NY and the Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris, Tom maintained a passion for painting throughout his life.  His landscapes, still-lifes and  portraits are highly sought after in the many galleries throughout this country that represent his work and hang in many fine collections and museums, including the Metroplitan Museum and the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC.  His portrait of Alice Tully hangs in the hall named for her at Lincoln Center in NY.

In this area, he was also the biggest influence in our local art community.  Generations of artists benefitted from his talent and knowledge,  many taking his well-known classes in painting as well as painting with him on a more casual basis, in weekly get-togethers.  His influence on local painters was so strong that when I first started going to the West End Gallery, I would have to go from painting to painting to check the signatures because so many of the painters had adopted his style and palette from their time with him.   He was also a huge presence behind the scenes of many local organizations and events, something that probably went unnoticed by many.

That’s just a quick thumbnail version of one hell of a life in art.  There are so many other aspects to his talents that it could go on for many more paragraphs.

Now, I didn’t know Tom well at all.  We talked several times briefly in the gallery, usually about his work, which had a classical appearance.  Actually, I wasn’t sure he was even aware of my work until one evening when he showed up unexpectedly at one of the openings  for a show of mine at the West End.  As I was talking with a lady before a painting, he came up and asked if he could interrupt.  He then gave me several minutes of exuberant praise, telling me that he envied me for creating a body of work that had its own distinct look and feel, that was instantly recognizable as mine.  I think my mouth was hanging open in shock as he turned and was gone.  The lady  that had been speaking with me  gasped out, “Oh my god!  That was amazing!  You should have recorded that.”

I was giddy, trembly inside.  Even though I was well along and fairly well established in my career, I was shocked that these few words of praise meant so much to me, that they affected me so much.  I felt validated.  I felt changed in some way.  To me, Tom Buechner represented  the established art world and even though I never sought its acceptance, to be received so heartily made me feel very … well, I can’t even describe how it made me feel.  It remains one of the highlights of my career.

I think that says a lot about Tom Buechner’s magnitude, that a few brief, kind words given at an opening could make me feel completely different about my own work.  For that moment alone, I will always have a place in my heart for Tom Buechner. 

May his spirit live on…


The photo of Tom from the top  of this post is from the book , In Their Studios: Artists & Their Environments, from photographer Barbara Hall Blumer.  Here are a couple of  pieces from Tom’s body of work,,,

Leslie-- Thomas Buechner

My Still Life– Thomas Buechner


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