Jun 222017
 

George Abend (1922-1976), a jazz musician and prominent figure in the San Francisco Bay Area abstract expressionism movement, studied in Guadalajara in the mid-1950s, at which time he was a frequent visitor to Ajijic.

Born in New York City in 1922, Abend studied at the University of California, Berkeley (1946-47); the 1948–1950 California School of Fine Arts, San Francisco (1948-50); and the Académie de la Grande Chaumière, Paris, France (1951-52), before moving to Mexico to study at the University of Guadalajara (1953-54).

George Abend. Untitled (1950).

George Abend. Untitled (1950).

A decade later, he taught art at the Carnegie Institute of Technology and the Cedar Educational Center in Pittsburgh (1962-66) before moving to California and becoming a visiting artist at California State College (Los Angeles) and a film consultant at the University of Southern California from 1966 to 1969.

Cover of Climax #2 (1956)

Cover of Climax #2 (1956)

Abend was a close friend of Don Martin, a painter who established his studio in Ajijic in 1954, and of the Beat poet and photographer Anne McKeever who also had links to Ajijic. Don’s widow Joan Martin kindly drew my attention to the photograph (above) used for the cover of the second (Summer 1956) number of Climax, a small-circulation Beat magazine from that time, published by Bob Cass in New Orleans and printed in Guadalajara. The photo, taken by Anne McKeever, shows Abend playing the piano in Don Martin‘s studio in Ajijic, with Don’s then girlfriend, Lori Fair, on drums. Abend, an accomplished musician, also played drums, percussion and the clarinet.

Abend’s striking abstract works earned him the honor of having numerous solo shows, including Howard Gallery, San Francisco (1949); Metart Galleries (1950); Lucien Labaudt Gallery (1950, 1952); Galerie de France, Paris (1951); Olivetti Art Gallery, Guadalajara (1954); Batman Gallery, San Francisco (1961); Carnegie Institute of Technology, Pennsylvania (1963); Howard Wise Gallery, New York (annually from 1963 to 1966); New York Six Gallery (1964); Hewlett Gallery, Pittsburgh (1965); Coast Gallery, Big Sur (1970); Fulton Gallery, New York (1973); and the University of California (1976).

George Abend, 1948. Photo by Harry Bowden.

George Abend, 1948. Photo by Harry Bowden.

His work was also chosen for inclusion in many group shows, including the Annual Painting and Sculpture Exhibition of the San Francisco Art Association (later the San Francisco Art Institute) at the San Francisco Museum of Art (1949, 1950, 1960, 1961); Third Annual Exhibition of Painting, California Palace of The Legion of Honor (1949); and the Winter Invitational, California Palace of The Legion of Honor, San Francisco (1960).

Among the institutions in California holding works by George Abend in their permanent collections are The Oakland Museum and the Monterey Museum of Art.

Abend died in Santa Cruz, California in 1976.

Sources:

  • Thomas Albright. 1985. Art in the San Francisco Bay Area, 1945 to 1980, Univ. California Press.
  • Susan Landauer. 1996. The San Francisco School of Abstract Expressionists, Univ. California Press.

Sombrero Books welcomes comments, corrections or additional material related to any of the writers and artists featured in our series of mini-bios. Please use the comments feature at the bottom of individual posts, or email us.

Jan 262017
 

Eugene and Marjorie Nowlen were an artistic couple who had a long connection to Mexico. The certainly visited Mexico prior to 1938, and first visited Ajijic on Lake Chapala in 1950. They became regular visitors to Lake Chapala from then until the 1970s. The work of both artists was included in A Cookbook with Color Reproductions by Artists from the Galería (1972).

The couple grew up in the small city of Benton Harbor in Michigan, which has a street named after Eugene Nowlen’s paternal grandfather, A. R. Nowlen.

Eugene Pratt Nowlen (aka Gene Nowlen) was born on 4 November 1899 and became an architect, completing his education at the school of architecture of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Lillian Marjorie Poundstone, who usually went by her middle name, was born on 31 March 1901. An accomplished pianist, she studied at the University of Michigan (class of 1924) and became a music and dance teacher. While still in high school she won second place in a state local history competition. Her essay, along with other winning essays, was published in 1917 in “Prize essays written by pupils of Michigan schools in the local history contest for 1916-17”.

Eugen Nowlen. Festival. ca 1972.

Eugen Nowlen. Festival. ca 1972. (A Cookbook with Color Reproductions by Artists from the Galería)

Marjorie’s musical accomplishments also started at an early age. She receives Regular mentions in the local press as a pianist. In November 1925, for instance, a short piece in Central Normal Life said that she played the “Blue Danube” waltz by Strauss and “To a Toy Soldier” by Clarence Warner with “great technical skill and fine interpretative ability.” It is clear from these and other references that both Marjorie and Eugene were in the social elite of Benton Harbor.

On 11 February 1928 they were united in marriage, a marriage that was to last until Gene’s death in 1977.

In their first years of marriage, Eugene Nolen practiced as an architect in his native city (remodeling the building occupied by the Peoples Savings Association and designing new homes), while Marjorie gave piano and dance lessons at their home at #758, Pearl Street.

The couple had two children: Barbara Jean (possibly Barbara Gene) and Richard, usually referred to in press reports as “Dick”. The children performed Mexican dances at local shows, and in more than one report, it was stated that “their parents have visited [Mexico] and bought authentic costumes”. At age 7, another report describes “Barbara Gene Nowlen taking several bows after her dance in a gorgeous costume brought back from Mexico by her parents”. The family’s love for Mexico was evident. For instance, following another concert, Marjorie Nowlen was going to show “Mexican motion pictures”.

Eugene Nowlen. Untitled watercolor. Date unknown

Eugene Nowlen. Untitled watercolor. Date unknown.

A lengthy newspaper piece in 1942 reports that “Mrs Marjorie Nowlen” was working as a Red Cross nurse in Berrien County and had organized dozens of home nursing classes.

In 1943 the family left Benton Harbor and relocated to California, to Pasadena and Laguna Beach, where Eugene worked in real estate. The circumstances that led them to visit Ajijic in 1950 are unclear but, by the early 1950s, Eugene had retired in order to paint full-time. The couple promptly set off on an 18-month-long trip around the world, allowing plenty of painting time along the way.

On their return, Eugene Nowlen’s watercolors were shown at the Laguna Beach Art Gallery, in an exhibit, held in 1955, which also featured oils by Carl Schmidt of San Bernardino. The press report for this event says that Nowlen had won an award at the annual Madonna festival in Los Angeles for a watercolor entitled “Mexican Mother.” According to the Laguna Beach Art Association, Nowlen had several solo exhibits during his artistic career.

As an artist, Gene Nowlen developed his techniques by studying with several well-known artists, including Sueo Serisawa, Paul Darrow, Hans Burkhardt, and Leonard Edmondson.

In 1960, Nowlen’s “Market Day” was exhibited at a showing at a private home in Los Angeles, alongside works by many other artists, including one who also had close ties to Lake Chapala. One of the other paintings in the show as Priscilla Frazer’s “Mosaic Gate”. Frazer had a home in Chapala Haciendas for many years and her work will be subject of a future post.

The Nowlens were active in the Laguna Beach Art Association through the 1960s. For instance, in 1968, they co-organized a December art bazaar. According to a Los Angeles Times article in 1970, during Marjorie Nowlen’s chairmanship of the Exhibitions Committee at the Laguna Art Museum, she brought in experienced judges and the membership more than doubled from 300 to 640. The article describes her as “a soft spoken leader” and says that this “gracious, girlish grandmother with a gentle sense of humor” is “a doer.”

Marjorie Nowlen. Happy Moments. ca 1972.

Marjorie Nowlen. Happy Moments. ca 1972. (A Cookbook with Color Reproductions by Artists from the Galería)

Marjorie Nowlen exhibited at the Many Media Mini Show, Redlands Art Association, in 1970.

A Cookbook with Color Reproductions by Artists from the Galería (1972) included works by both Eugene and Marjorie Nowlen. (Other artists represented in this small volume include Luis Avalos, Antonio Cárdenas, Marian Carpenter, Jerry K. Carr, Tom Faloon, Priscilla Frazer, John Frost, Arthur L. Ganung, Virginia Ganung, Lona Isoard, Antonio López Vega, Luz Luna, Robert Neathery, José Olmedo, Hudson M. Rose, Mary Rose, Eleanor Smart and Jack Williams.)

Marjorie Nowlen also showed a work which received an honorable mention, in La Mirada’s Fiesta de Artes in Long Beach, California, in May 1974.

Gene Nowlen died on 27 September 1977 at the age of 77; Marjorie Nowlen passed away on 1 April 1998, at the age of 97.

Note:

While the 1940 US Census suggests that the Nowlens’ son, Richard, was born in about 1932, elsewhere it seems that he was actually born in 1929 and is the same Richard Nowlen who was murdered along with a female friend in the Mojave Desert, California in 1959, while on the run from Chino men’s prison.

Sources:

  • Central Normal Life, 25 November 1925, p1.
  • A Cookbook with Color Reproductions by Artists from the Galería. 1972. (Ajijic, Mexico: La Galería del Lago de Chapala).
  • Guadalajara Reporter, 30 Jan 1964, 7.
  • Independent Press-Telegram, Long Beach, California: 29 May 1955, p 51; 10 April 1960, p 57; 1 December 1968, p 149; 12 May 1974, p60.
  • Independent, Long Beach, California, 11 September 1959, p5.
  • Lael Morgan. 1970. “Art Exhibition Chairman Brings Changes to Laguna”, in Los Angeles Times (16 October 1970), E2.
  • Mirror News, Los Angeles, Monday, September 14, 1959 page 12.
  • The News-Palladium, Benton Harbor, Michigan: 2 August 1917 p 2; 21 December 1923, p17; 28 July 1925, p4; 1 January 1938, p41; 22 June 1938, p 3; 11 May 1939, p3; 13 May 1939, p3; 23 June 1939, p 4; 16 March 1940, p4; 30 April 1940, p4; 31 December 1941, p120; 3 December 1952, Page 4; 23 May 1953, p 4.
  • The Ogden Standard-Examiner, Ogden, Utah, 22 September 1959, p2.
  • Michigan Ensign, Volume 25, UM Libraries, 1921.
  • Nancy Dustin Moure. 2015. Index to California Art Exhibited at the Laguna Beach Art Association, 1918-1972. (Dustin Publications: Publications in California Art No. 11).
  • Cornelia M Richardson; Marjorie Poundstone; Edward Morris Brigham, jr.; Russell Holmes; Michigan Historical Commission.. 2017. Prize essays written by pupils of Michigan schools in the local history contest for 1916-17. (Lansing, Mich.: Wynkoop Hallenbeck Crawford Co.).
  • San Bernardino County Sun, October 4, 1970, page 36.
  • The Tustin News, Tustin, California, 14 November 1963, p14.

Sombrero Books welcomes comments, corrections or additional material related to any of the writers and artists featured in our series of mini-bios. Please email us or use the comments feature at the bottom of individual posts.

Nov 102016
 

The famous American writer, composer and translator Paul Bowles (1910-1999) was a frequent visitor to Mexico in the late 1930s and early 1940s prior to moving to live in Morocco in 1947. Bowles spent a few relaxing weeks in Ajijic, on Lake Chapala, in the first half of 1942.

Paul Bowles was born in New York on 30 December 1910 and displayed early talent for music and writing. After attending the University of Virginia, Bowles made several trips to Paris in the 1930s, and also visited French North Africa in 1931. During the late 1930s and most of the 1940s, Bowles was based in New York where he composed music (primarily for stage productions) while making frequent trips south to explore the sights and sounds of Mexico and elsewhere, trips which had a profound influence on his musical compositions.

Bowles’ interest in visiting Lake Chapala dates back to 1934, when he was considering accompanying Bruce Morrissette in traveling around Mexico. In March 1934, Bowles wrote to Morrissette that, “A while ago I made a list of what seemed to be the best places there: Campeche, Necaxa, Toluca, the baja part of Baja California, Mazatlán, Pátzcuaro, perhaps Lago Chapala, Morelia, which looks to be lovely, Tepatzlán, Cholula, Amecameca and Xochimilco …”

In 1937, Bowles met Jane Auer at a party. When they met again, accidentally, a few days later, Jane suggested to Bowles that he “take her to Mexico with him.” Auer and Bowles married 21 February 1938, and had a successful, if unconventional, marriage that lasted until her death in 1973.

[Jane Sydney Auer (1917-1973) was an American writer and playwright. Her novel, Two Serious Ladies, first published in 1943, may have been the catalyst that resulted in Bowles’ own novel-writing career. Jane Bowles suffered a stroke in 1957, from which she never fully recovered. She died in 1973 at a clinic in Spain.]

bowles-paul-autobiographyThey took a Greyhound bus to reach Mexico on their first trip together in 1937, with Bowles hiding 15,000 anti-Trotsky stickers in his luggage. In Mexico, he met the Mexican composer Silvestre Revueltas and attended a concert at which Revueltas conducted his Homage to García Lorca. Bowles took a second trip to Mexico later in 1937 in order to live for a short time in Tehuantepec (on the recommendation of Miguel Covarrubias, whom he had met in New York), where he worked on an opera about a slave rebellion.

On 23 February 1938, two days after their marriage, Bowles and his wife attended the first performance of Bowles’ Mediodia (Mexican dances for 11 players) in New York. The couple then left on a honeymoon, “with 27 suitcases, two wardrobe trunks, a typewriter and a record player”, aboard a Japanese freighter, the SS Kanu Maru, on a trip that took them to Panama, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Barbados and Paris, France. They returned to New York in September.

They visited Mexico again in 1939 and stayed in Acapulco and Taxco (where Jane first met Helvetia Perkins, who would later became her lover). On this trip, they met a still unknown Tennessee Williams, and a young man named Ned Rorem, then only a teenager, who went on to become a composer and diarist, and win a Pulitzer Prize in 1976.

bowles-paul-on-musicSome idea of the exalted literary and musical circles in which Bowles and his wife moved can be gained from a list of their roommates in the rented house they occupied in 1941. The house, at 7 Middagh Street in Brooklyn Heights, New York, was rented by the novelist and editor George Davis, who occupied the ground floor. Paul and Jane Bowles lived on the second floor, together with the theater set designer Oliver Smith. Benjamin Britten, Peter Pears, and W. H. Auden shared the third floor, while Golo Mann lived in the attic. It was in this house that Bowles composed Pastorela, a Mexican Indian ballet commissioned by Lincoln Kirstein for American Ballet Caravan.

Early in 1942, when Bowles and his wife revisited Mexico, he was taken ill with jaundice and spent several weeks in a “British hospital in Mexico City” before going to Cuernavaca for convalescence. In Cuernavaca, Jane let him read and critique her manuscript of Two Serious Ladies, though it was greatly rewritten and edited prior to its publication the following year. Jane, accompanied by Helvetia Perkins, left for New York at the end of March, while Bowles remained in Mexico a few more weeks, staying at Casa Heuer, the small posada run by siblings Paul (Pablo) and Liesel Heuer in Ajijic.

In a letter to Virgil Thomson, Bowles wrote that, “As soon as she had gone I came to Chapala. Reasons for my not going with her were several.” During his stay in Ajijic, Bowles visited the house in Chapala where D.H. Lawrence had written the first draft of The Plumed Serpent in 1923; Bowles found it “depressing” and poorly ventilated, with the ambiance of a dead-end street. According to his autobiography, Bowles discovered a whole new world of “delightful” literature during his time in Ajijic. He started with García Lorca, then completed two novels by Bioy Cásares and the memoirs of Mario Alberti before turning his attention to Mexico’s early colonial times, and then to short stories by Jorge Luis Borges.

bowles-paul-and-janeBowles’ compositional creativity was in full flow during these years. In 1944, for example he composed the incidental music for the Broadway opening of Tennessee WilliamsThe Glass Menagerie. (The success of this work enabled Williams to spend the summer of 1945 at Lake Chapala).

In 1947, Bowles moved to Tangier, Morocco. His wife, Jane, followed a year later. Except for a series of winters spent in Sri Lanka (then Ceylon), and occasional trips elsewhere, Bowles lived the remaining 52 years of his life in Morocco. His fame was undiminished and a succession of famous writers and musicians made the pilgrimage to Morocco to visit him, including the most famous names of the Beat generation: Jack Kerouac, William S Burroughs, and Allen Ginsberg.

When Gregory Stephenson interviewed him in Morocco in 1979, he found that Bowles had mixed memories of Mexico:

“When I mention the Tarahumara, Bowles says that he once translated some Tarahumara myths for a surrealist magazine. He rummages in his bedroom and returns with a copy of View for May 1945, a special “Tropical Americana” number which he edited. There are black and white photographs, collages and translations, including sections of the Popul Vuh and the Chilam Balam, all done by Bowles. A myth titled “John Very Bad” has been rendered by him into English from the Tarahumara. There are also bizarre and gruesome news stories selected by Bowles from the Mexican press.

Bowles speaks of the extreme poverty and squalor he encountered in parts of Mexico when he visited that country in the 1930s. Mexico was a land of gloom and chaos, he says, but also poetry, mystery and great natural beauty. Places such as Acapulco and Tehuantepec were very pleasant in those days and living there was very cheap. Yet he was often very ill in Mexico, afflicted with diverse ailments.”

The astonishingly prolific writing and composing career of Paul Bowles was drawn to a close by his death in Morocco on 18 November 1999.

Bowles’ extensive musical output included Sonata for Oboe and Clarinet (1931); Horse Eats Hat, play (1936); Who Fights This Battle, play (1936); Doctor Faustus, play (1937); Yankee Clipper, ballet (1937); Music for a Farce (1938); Too Much Johnson, play (1938); Huapango – Cafe Sin Nombre – Huapango-El Sol, Latin American folk (1938); Twelfth Night, play (1940); Love Like Wildfire, play (1941); Pastorela, ballet (1941); South Pacific, play (1943); Sonata for Flute and Piano and Two Mexican Dances (1943); ‘Tis Pity She’s a Whore, play (1943);  The Glass Menagerie, play (1944); Jacobowsky and the Colonel, play (1944); Sentimental Colloquy, ballet (1944); Cyrano de Bergerac, play (1946); Concerto for Two Pianos (1947); Concerto for Two Pianos, Winds and Percussion (1948); Oedipus, play (1966); Black Star at the Point of Darkness (1992) and Salome, play (1993).

Novels by Bowles include The Sheltering Sky (1949); Let It Come Down (1952); The Spider’s House (1955); and Up Above the World (1966). His collections of short stories include A Little Stone (1950); The Delicate Prey and Other Stories (1950); A Hundred Camels in the Courtyard (1962); Things Gone & Things Still Here (1977); Collected Stories, 1939–1976 (1979); and A Thousand Days for Mokhtar (1989). Poetry works by Bowles include Two Poems (1933); Scenes (1968); The Thicket of Spring (1972); Next to Nothing: Collected Poems, 1926–1977 (1981); and No Eye Looked Out from Any Crevice (1997).

Sources:

Sombrero Books welcomes comments, corrections or additional material related to any of the writers and artists featured in our series of mini-bios. Please email us or use the comments feature at the bottom of individual posts.

Sep 082016
 

The Lake Chapala Auditorium (Auditorio de la Ribera), now celebrating its 40th anniversary, was originally scheduled to be formally opened on 25 September 1976 with a piano concert by Manuel Delaflor from Mexico City, who had just played at New York’s Carnegie Hall. In Ajijic, Delaflor was to play a Baldwin grand piano that had been donated to the auditorium the year before by Hilary Campbell, in memory of her sister Elsa. (However, the concert was cancelled at the last minute due to concerns about acoustics).

Hilary Campbell, together with her two sisters, Elsa and Amy, and brother Alan, settled in Chapala in the early 1950s. They first visited Chapala in 1945 but did not retire to the town until 1951. They initially lived in the “Salazar house”, across the street from the plaza. This building, close to Banamex, later became the Allen W. Lloyd offices.

In 1956, the family moved into their own home in Chapala, designed and built by Amy and Alan, at Calle Niza #10, on the hill near the chapel of Our Lady of Lourdes. The family landscaped the grounds and within a few years, the gardens were considered “a showpiece of the area”.

The Campbells were at home on Calle Niza when Life magazine photographer Leonard McCombe arrived in 1957 to document the American community at Lake Chapala. A photo of the eldest sibling, Elsa Cambell, arranging zinnias in the patio, has a caption explaining that the “ex-piano teacher … helps her brother, two sisters and three servants run an elegant household in a home they designed and built for themselves.”

The Campbells were the children of a mining engineer and his wife, Anne, an excellent pianist. Newly-wed, and about to move to Colorado, Anne ordered a Steinway grand piano to be shipped from Germany to the U.S., and then carried up winding Rocky Mountain roads to Gilpin, where the couple planned to set up home. However, the only home they could afford turned out to be quite small. Daughter Hilary later recalled that her mother had chosen to keep the piano rather than have a dining room table. The piano was subsequently inherited by Elsa, who took the piano, her “shining jewelry and faithful ally” from Colorado to New York, Carmel (California) and finally Chapala.

Elsa Campbell, 1957, photographed by Leonard McCombe for Life.

Elsa Campbell, 1957, in patio of the family home in Calle Niza, Chapala. Credit: Leonard McCombe, Life.

Elsa, who had been born in Ontario, Canada, in 1887 died in a hospital in Guadalajara on 24 May 1971. Her remains were sent to Mexico City for cremation. The only snippet I have managed to locate about Elsa’s early piano playing was from the Boston Evening Transcript for 23 February 1907, when she was about 20 years of age. The newspapers reports that she played a Grieg minuet and Lavalée’s “Butterfly” at the Dorchester Social Club of Women, “pleasing the audience with the delicacy of her nuances and the perfection of her technique.”

Amy Campbell (ca 1889-1966) was born in Denver, Colorado and died in Chapala on 20 February 1966. She lived for several years in Kingston, Ontario, as a child before becoming a faculty member at Simmons College in Boston. When the family was living in New York, Amy became a well-known dress designer. Amy was also a musician and played the violin in several amateur orchestras. Before “retiring” to Chapala, she had lived several years in San Francisco (she is recorded in the 1940 U.S. Census as living in that city with her mother, Anne, then aged 87) and Carmel, California, where she had designed and built houses.

Not content to be retired, Amy went to Taxco and learned silversmithing. She then designed and made silver and gold jewelry, some set with ancient jade found in tombs. Her beautiful jewelry was displayed in galleries in New York and San Francisco. Amy was very active in Chapala social and civic affairs,  including the local Bridge Club and the Lakeside Little Theater.

Hilary Campbell was born in Colorado in about 1891 and lived at least into her mid-80s. At the time of the 1940 U.S. Census, she was living in Manhattan, New York City, where she was an editor in the social work sector. The census record suggests that the four siblings may have had an elder brother or half-brother named James Perkin, born in about 1882.

There is evidence that Hilary was also a poet. In 1956 Witter Bynner, the famous American poet who was a long-time Chapala resident from well before the arrival of the Campbell siblings, gifted Hilary one of his volumes of verse, published the year before, with the inscription “to poet Hilary Campbell”.

It was Hilary (who outlived her siblings) who decided that there was “no better way to honor the memory of her sisters and their part in the early cultural efforts around Lake Chapala than by donating a $10,000 dollars [Baldwin] grand piano to the new auditorium.” The first concert on the Baldwin grand was performed by Mexican pianist Manuel Delaflor on 25 September 1976.

Alan Campbell, 1957, photographed by Leonard McCombe for Life.

Alan Campbell, 1957, photographed by Leonard McCombe for Life.

The youngest of the four siblings was Alan Randolph Campbell (ca 1893-1967). Born in Colorado, Alan spent part of his youth in eastern Canada and California, where he was in the class of 1915 at Stanford University. He then worked in Boston and New York, but by 1940 had returned to live in Carmel, California, where he is listed in the U.S. Census as a “salesman in the travel industry”. From Carmel, he moved to Chapala. He traveled widely in Mexico and in Guatemala. He apparently made a documentary film for the Guatemalan government tourism department, though I have yet to find any details. Alan died in Chapala on 8 October 1967; his remains are interred in the municipal cemetery.

Like so many other foreign visitors, this multi-talented family clearly found a new lease of life after “retiring” to Chapala!

Sources:

  • Guadalajara Reporter: 26 Feb 1966; 28 Oct 1967; 3 May 1975.
  • U.S. Census, 1940
  • Leonard McCombe (photographer). 1957. “Yanks Who Don’t Go Home. Expatriates Settle Down to Live and Loaf in Mexico.” Life, 23 December 1957

Sombrero Books welcomes comments, corrections or additional material related to any of the writers and artists featured in our series of mini-bios. Please email us or use the comments feature at the bottom of individual posts.

Jan 212016
 

American artist Peter Hurd (1904-1984) spent most of his life in New Mexico, but also had connections to Lake Chapala. In about 1968, together with  fellow artist and former student John Liggett Meigs, Hurd bought the home in Chapala previously owned by poet Witter Bynner. Although there is no evidence that Chapala influenced Hurd’s work in any way, the artist visited Chapala on several occasions, and presumably was accompanied on some of these trips by his wife, artist Henriette Wyeth.

Peter Hurd: Country Scene (undated)

Peter Hurd: Country Scene (undated)

Hurd had life-long ties to New Mexico. He was born on 22 February 1904 in Roswell and died there on 9 July 1984. His parents named him Harold Hurd Jr., but called him “Pete” and, in his early 20s, he legally changed his name to Peter.

In 1918, he studied at New Mexico Military Institute, and three years later entered the United States Military Academy at West Point. In 1923, he left West Point to study at Haverford College in Pennsylvania. Soon afterwards, Hurd settled in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania, so that he could study art under the illustrator N.C. Wyeth. He worked for a decade as Wyeth’s assistant and, in 1929, married Henriette Wyeth, Wyeth’s eldest daughter.

The couple moved back to Hurd’s native New Mexico and established the family home and studios on a ranch in San Patricio. Henriette Wyeth later became very well-known for her own portraits and still life paintings, “considered by many art scholars to be one of the great women painters of the 20th century”. Two of the couple’s children, Ann Carol Hurd and Michael Hurd, also became professional artists and continue to live on the family ranch in San Patricio.

Many of Peter Hurd’s works are set in Southeastern New Mexico, in and around the ranch in San Patricio and in the Hondo Valley:

In the 1930s, during the depression, Hurd focused on producing inexpensive lithographs for a larger audience. Convinced of the need for gallery representation in New York, he drove there with a portfolio and quickly convinced several gallery owners to display his lithographs.

During the second world war, Hurd was a war correspondent for Life. He became a full member of the National Academy of Design in 1942. Hurd’s wartime works varied from quick plein air sketches to watercolors and egg temperas (his preferred medium). After the war, Hurd traveled in North Africa, Asia and the Middle East.

From 1953 to 1954, Hurd, together with Henriette and two of his students – Manuel Acosta and John Meigs – painted a fresco in Lubbock, Texas, at the West Texas Museum (now the Holden Hall at the Texas Tech University). The mural depicts pioneers and influential leaders of West Texas, and includes a self-portrait of Hurd himself, sketchpad in hand.

A later Hurd mural, “The Future Belongs To Those Who Prepare For It”, was saved from destruction when its original location, the Prudential Building in Houston, Texas, was about to be demolished. It was rehoused in 2011 in the Artesia Public Library in New Mexico. The story of how the mural was moved makes for interesting reading.

Cover of Folkways record

Cover of Folkways record

Hurd was also an accomplished musician. In 1957, he collaborated with Folkways Records to release an album, Spanish Folk Songs of New Mexico, on which Hurd played the guitar and sang the lyrics (Spanish and English) of various ranchera songs.

From 1959 to 1963, at the invitation of President Eisenhower, Hurd served on the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts.

Hurd’s first major retrospective exhibition, in 1964/65, was held at the Amon Carter Museum in Fort Worth and the California Palace of the Legion of Honor in San Francisco. The catalog for the exhibit, entitled Peter Hurd : A Portrait Sketch from Life (1965) was written by Paul Horgan, a lifelong friend.

A 1967 portrait of Lyndon B. Johnson by Hurd, meant to be the president’s official portrait, did not find favor with its subject, but remains in the collection of the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery. The debate about the painting generated plenty of press coverage, which brought Hurd’s art to a much wider public.

Hurd illustrated several books, including The Story of Siegfried by James Baldwin (1931), and the same author’s The Story of Roland (1957); Hans Brinker or the Silver Skates by Mary Mapes Dodge (1932); Deep Silver. A story of the cod banks, by Nora Burglon (1939); Great Stories of the Sea and Ships, edited by N.C. Wyeth (1940); Murder and Mystery in New Mexico by Erna Fergusson (1948); Sky Determines by Ross Calvin (1948); Montana: high, wide, and handsome, by Joseph Kinsey Howard (1974). Hurd’s portrait of Charles C. Tillinghast, Jr. for the cover of Time (22 July 1966) was featured in a 1969 National Portrait Gallery exhibit of the magazine’s cover art.

Books about Hurd’s work include The Peter Hurd Mural (1957); Peter Hurd. The Lithographs, edited by John Meigs (1968); Peter Hurd sketch book, edited by John Meigs (1971); Peter Hurd: Insight to a Painter, by James K. Ballinger and Tonia L Horton (1983); My Land Is the Southwest: Peter Hurd Letters and Journals, edited by Robert Metzger (1983); Peter Hurd: A Memorial Exhibition, by Walt Wiggins (1984); The Art of Peter Hurd from the Permanent Collection, Roswell Museum (1985);

Hurd’s work can be found in many major museums and collections, including the Metropolitan Museum; Art Institute of Chicago, Brooklyn Museum, Roswell Museum, Columbus Gallery of Fine Arts, Museum of New Mexico, and the National Gallery in Edinburgh, Scotland.

Sources:

Sombrero Books welcomes comments, corrections or additional material related to any of the writers and artists featured in our series of mini-bios. Please email us or use the comments feature at the bottom of individual posts.

Sep 282015
 

Dudley Francis Kuzell, husband of Betty Kuzell, was a baritone in the well-known The Guardsmen quartet. The Kuzells lived at Lake Chapala for many years, from the early 1950s.

Kuzell (sometimes Kuzelle) was born in Cleveland, Ohio on 21 June 1896 and died in Guadalajara on 14 May 1969. He was a track athlete at Stanford University (class of 1919), but did not graduate, owing to registering for U.S. military duty near the end of World War 1. (The Stanford Daily, 28 April 1927). After military service, he settled in California making his living by acting and singing.

As an actor, he appeared in Hail the Conquering Hero (1944), Thank Your Lucky Stars (1943) and Faithful in My Fashion (1946).

As a singer, he was a member of the Ken Lane Singers and The Guardsmen quartet. The Ken Lane Singers accompanied Frank Sinatra on several occasions, including a 1945 recording of America the Beautiful; Silent Night, Holy Night; The Moon was Yellow; and I only Have Eyes for You, and for a 1947 recording that included It Came Upon the Midnight Clear; O little Town of Bethlehem; and the iconic White Christmas.

The Guardsmen quartet, 1949

The Guardsmen quartet, 1949

The all-male quartet The Guardsmen performed hundreds of concerts throughout the U.S., Canada and Mexico, as well as many radio broadcasts. The quartet sang on the sound tracks of more than 800 motion pictures from the 1930s to the 1950s. These movies included Walt Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937), where the quartet were four of the dwarfs.

During their “retirement” at Lake Chapala, the Kuzells were famous for their musical evenings, and instrumental in the founding of the Lakeside Little Theater.

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Sep 212015
 

Elizabeth L. Kuzell (1895-1986), better known as Betty Kuzell, lived in Chula Vista, Lake Chapala, for many years with her husband Dudley Kuzell (1896-1969). The Kuzells, both accomplished musicians, were active in the local community and instrumental in founding the Lakeside Little Theater, which has proved to be an enduring success.

Betty Kuzell was born Elizabeth Laird in California on 22 November 1895 and died in Chicago in 1986, on her 91st birthday. (Her mother was the cutely named Pocahontas Glazebrook). Betty married Dudley Francis Kuzell in Los Angeles, on 2 March 1918. The couple had one child, James Elgar Kuzell, born  in about 1923.

Versions of the founding of the Lakeside Little Theater differ, according to source. According to June Nay Summers, Betty Kuzell founded the theater in 1964, a date echoed in the short book Ajijic, 500 Years of Adventures (DAR, 2011). Summers claimed that the first production of the theater group was held in the building that was the former Chapala Railway Station on 14 August 1965, and was a musical written and directed by Betty entitled  “From Kokomo to Mexico”. Sadly, these details do not appear to be substantiated.

Based on the pages of the Colony (Guadalajara) Reporter (a weekly first published in December 1963), the story begins in early 1964, following an evening of musical entertainment (featuring Betty on the organ, Paul Carson on the piano, with Dudley Kuzell, William Stelling and Kenneth Rundquist as singers) at the Kuzells’ home. (This was quite a distinguished gathering since Rundquist was scheduled to sing at the World’s Fair in New York a few months later.) (CR, 2 April 1964)

if=men=played=cards-A week later, anyone interested in forming a Little Theater Group was invited to meet at the “Chapala Country Club on Friday 10 April at 4 p.m”. Clearly the meeting was a success since, on 20 June 1964, “the first little theater production to be presented by the Chapala Country Club” (based at the time in the former Chapala Railway Station) opened. A cast of four (Bob Owens, Floyd Wilson, Mike Bieselt and Dick Peppin), under Betty Kuzell’s direction, put on George S. Kaufman’s brilliant satire, If Men Played Cards as Women Do.

Early the following year, on 18 February 1965, a columnist reports that “Lakeside Little Theater became an independent and solid entity with its first business meeting held last week at Chapala Country Club.” The group adopted by-laws and Betty Kuzell became founding director. Regular membership was set at $25 pesos a year (two dollars at the then rate of exchange); sponsor members had four free tickets included in their $100 peso membership fee. (CR, 18 February 1965)

By June, the Lakeside Little Theater had 130 members, and announced it would close membership at 150. In mid-June, it presented “The Saddle Bag Saloon, Duke Reagan, Prop.” at the Chapala Country Club. The play, with a cast of over 40, was written and directed by Betty Kuzell, who also arranged the music. The set included a nude painted by Bob Snodgrass. At this time, the group was variously called either the Lake Chapala Little Theater or the Lakeside Little Theater in different articles and places.

In August 1965, the Colony Reporter (19 August) announced “another hilarious Lakeside Little Theatre workshop program next Monday… when Ken Kirk… will present “Courtship in 1830″ at the Chapala Country Club.

Relatively little is known about the Kuzells prior to their time in the Lake Chapala region, though a trawl through old newspapers reveals some snippets related to their musical prowess.

For example, the 18 September 1950 edition of The Van Nuys News from Van Nuys, California, describes a “sisterhood event” held at the Valley Jewish Community Center, at which Betty sang with the Sisterhood Choir.

Sombrero Books welcomes comments, corrections or additional material related to any of the writers and artists featured in our series of mini-bios. Please email us or use the comments feature at the bottom of individual posts.

Jun 122015
 

Painter and muralist Louis Ernest Lenshaw (1892-1988) was born in Esbjerg, Denmark, on 24 September, 1892. Lenshaw visited Chapala in the late 1940s or early 1950s while spending several months living and working in Guadalajara, though no details have yet emerged of his visit to Lakeside, or whether he painted whilst there. He does, however, have a connection to another European artist who spent some considerable time in Ajijic and whose paintings of the village were exhibited in Mexico City and elsewhere.

At age 14, Lenshaw was apprenticed to a local Danish artist. He also had considerable talent as a violinist and spent several years traveling across Europe (including Denmark, Norway and Germany), working as a decorative painter, but also playing the violin in cafes and movie houses. After a visit to Brazil he emigrated to the U.S. in 1921, landing at San Francisco. His first job was helping apply gold leaf to the sumptuous interior of the Fox Theater in Oakland.

While living in San Francisco, he took art classes at the the local Arts Students League and also spent time painting landscapes of northern California. During the 1930s Lenshaw fulfilled commissions for the Works Progress Administration (in the San Francisco County Hospital Children’s Ward and the Sunnyvale Housing Project Administration Building), and was one of the many painters who worked on murals for the Golden Gate International Exposition in 1939-1940. He also painted murals in several commercial buildings in California.

Lenshaw married Hilma in 1924; the couple had two children: Vilma and Normand. In the 1940s and 1950s Lenshaw began to become seriously interested in Spanish dancing and flamenco guitar playing. The Lenshaws moved to San Diego in 1968. In 1978, at age 85, Lenshaw remained an enthusiastic member of the San Diego Folkdance Club and the San Diego Flamenco Association. In the words of the association’s newsletter for January 1978:

Ernest Lenshaw, a legend in San Diego… is a tall, outstandingly-featured man who radiates self-confidence with his erect posture and beret perched jauntily on his head. He speaks with a Danish accent, paints, plays flamenco guitar, dances, is famous for the castanets he makes, and attends as many flamenco events as possible.”

At one time or another, he met many of the world’s greatest flamencos. Louis Ernest Lenshaw remained active as a painter, dancer and musician up to the time of his death in Covina, California, on 1 February 1988.

In an oral history interview in 1964, Lenshaw recalled details of his time as a muralist in San Francisco, and his trip to Mexico, which he remembered as being in 1952*:

a Russian girl named Anna Medalie whom I know from… I worked with her before in a furniture shop …she was a flower painter… And when I went to Mexico, I was just about a month behind her. I went to Mexico in 1952 and wherever I went, we were talking about painters and what not and people said, “Do you know Ann Medalie?” I said, “Yes.” He said, “Well, she’d just been here about a month ago or two months ago.” I was in Guadalajara and Taxco, Acapulco and I don’t know, Mexico City. I mean Sargent Johnson was also talking about her. He was acquainted with her at the same time.”

* In reality, Lenshaw must have visited Mexico much earlier than the 1952 he claimed in the interview, since Ann Medalie had definitely already moved to Israel by 1951. (See our post about the life and work of Ann Medalie).

Sources:

  • Oral history interview with Ernest Lenshaw, 1964 May 19, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.
  • Edan Hughes, Artists in California, 1786-1940.
  • “La Luz”, by Rosala, Jaleo (Newsletter of the Flamenco Association of San Diego) Vol 1 #6, January 1978

Sombrero Books welcomes comments, corrections or additional material related to any of the writers and artists featured in our series of mini-bios. Please use the comments feature at the bottom of individual posts, or email us.

Feb 262015
 

The distinguished painter and musician Gustavo Sendis divided much of his time between Guadalajara, where he was born in 1941, and his family’s second home in Ajijic.

Gustavo Sendis: Untitled. Credit: Galería Vértice.

Gustavo Sendis: Untitled. Credit: Galería Vértice.

He became interested in art at an early age and, in 1958 and 1959, studied drawing with Jorge Navarro and Ernesto Butterlin. His love of guitar music and painting took him to Spain for a time. On his return to Guadalajara, he exhibited paintings and gave guitar recitals. During a second trip to Europe, he continued to exhibit his work and give concerts. The inspiration for many of his paintings (which include scenes hand-painted onto stoneware plates) came from Jalisco locations, such as Ajijic and Lake Chapala, that he first knew as a child.

Gustavo Sendis: Volcán. Credit: Galería Vértice.

Gustavo Sendis: Volcán. Credit: Galería Vértice.

Sendis’ first formal exhibition was at the Casa de la Cultura Jalisciense in Guadalajara in 1968. He also exhibited in several European countries, including Italy, Switzerland, Portugal and Spain, where he participated in the Ibiza Biennial in 1971. His work was included in a joint show at Malaspina College (now Vancouver Island University) in Nanaimo, B.C., in July 1980, with works by Zbigniew Olak and Aquatic Exotic.

Credit: Ramon Macias Mota, Las Seis Cuerda de la Guitarra (Google e-book)

Photo from Ramon Macias Mota, Las Seis Cuerda de la Guitarra (Google e-book)

Sendis lived for many years in Ajijic prior to his untimely death there from a heart attack, while still in his forties, in 1989. Fellow artist Tom Faloon extolled the quality of Sendis’ work, saying that he “did some wonderful paintings, and pretty much lived in his own world.”

In 2010, a major “Winter Collective” exhibition in Guadalajara at Galería Vértice included a Sendis painting, alongside originals by such renowned artists as Rufino Tamayo, Gustavo Aceves, José Clemente Orozco, Rafael Coronel, Gunther Gerzso, Leonora Carrington and Juan Soriano. Sendis’s work was also included in a similar exhibition the following year, alongside works by Georg Rauch, Jose Luis Cuevas, Juan Soriano and Francisco Toledo.

Note: Galería Vértice catalogs were at http://www.verticegaleria.com/esp/antes_exp.asp?cve_exp=82

Sombrero Books welcomes comments, corrections or additional material related to any of the writers and artists featured in our series of mini-bios. Please use the comments feature at the bottom of individual posts, or email us.

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