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Tag Archives: Miggs Burroughs
The Westport Public Art Collection has been around for over 50 years. It’s grown to over 1,500 works — paintings, watercolors, drawings, prints, cartoons, photos, sculptures and murals — by international artists (Picasso, Warhol, Matisse, Mothewell, Miro, Christo, Calder) and, just as importantly, giant Westport names like Stevan Dohanos, Hardie Gramatky, Leonard Evertt Fisher, Miggs Burroughs and Ann Chernow.
But a “Friends” group was formed only last year.
Now they’re planning their 1st-ever fundraiser. Set for Thursday, June 8 (7 p.m., Rive Bistro), it includes a special exhibit of art from the collection — including all those masters listed above.
There’s also an auction of fantastic works — like Larry Silver’s classic “Beach Showers” photo — and a chance to meet and mingle with our town’s top artists.
Funds raised will help conserve, maintain and display works in the Public Art Collection.
If you’ve ever been inside a Westport school — or any other public building — you’ve been impacted by the collection. It hangs in hallways, libraries, classrooms, lobbies, offices and conference rooms. It inspires, provokes, soothes and challenges students, teachers, library-goers and Town Hall visitors.
Students in Staples High School’s Inklings classrooms are inspired by photos from prize-winning photographers (and alums) Tyler Hicks, Lynsey Addario and Spencer Platt.
The Public Art Collection is one of those Westport treasures that surround us every day. Most of us seldom think about how the art got there — or what it takes to keep it alive and fresh.
But members of the Westport Permanent Art Collection — and their Friends group — do. That’s why they want to see you at Rive Bistro on June 8.
The Westport Arts Center is a wonderful, vibrant place.
It’s also wholly inadequate.
Essentially one long room on Riverside Avenue — with a spectacular view of the Saugatuck River — it functions as a small studio and gallery. But it can host only one meeting, lecture, concert, class or exhibit at a time.
Given Westport’s long arts heritage — and the interest of so many Westporters, from senior citizens to kids, in art in all its forms — it’s no wonder the WAC has sought more suitable digs.
Last fall, town representatives approached the organization. Would the WAC be interested in preserving and using Golden Shadows — the main building on the southeast corner of 23-acre Baron’s South (named for the perfume developed by its previous owner, Baron Walter Langer von Langendorff) — for exhibits and performances?
The town soon came back with a new question: Would the WAC like to take over the other 3 long-neglected buildings there too?
Meanwhile, a group of veteran, well-respected local artists and photographers — including Leonard Everett Fisher, Ann Chernow, Miggs Burroughs, Niki Ketchman and Larry Silver — had been meeting regularly to discuss their own idea.
These “deans” of the Westport arts scene wanted a dedicated museum-type space to preserve the town’s artistic legacy.
And at the same time, folks like Burroughs, Westport arts curator Kathie Motes Bennewitz, RTM moderator Eileen Lavigne Flug and the Westport Historical Society’s Bob Mitchell were seeking ways to involve the WAC more fully with other arts organizations in town.
The result was a public/private partnership to create a “community arts campus” at Baron’s South.
As presented last night by 3rd Selectman Helen Garten, at a Planning & Zoning Commission pre-application meeting, there would be 3 phases:
- The Westport Arts Center would lease and restore Golden Shadows, retaining most of its decorative interior, for use as offices, classrooms and gallery space.
- The WAC would lease and restore the Tudor revival guest house at 70 Compo Road South as additional gallery space.
- They would lease the 2 units at 52 and 52B Compo Road South, for use as artists’ residences.
“Leasing all 4 buildings to a single user is the best way to ensure minimal impact on the public open space and surrounding neighborhood,” Garten said.
“Instead of 4 separate buildings, each accessed by its own roadway and each with its own use, there will be a single integrated property.” It would function much as the baron’s estate did, decades ago.
However, P&Z members gave the arts campus plan a frosty reception last night. A pre-app meeting is intended to give applicants a sense of what the zoning board feels about a plan. Commissioners insisted that the concept is too intense for the “light use” zoning of Baron’s South. It’s zoned as “passive recreational open space.”
Arts advocates were unsure last night what their next step will be.
Back to the drawing board they go.
You have to hand it to Miggs Burroughs.
The Westport artist — whose long career includes Time magazine covers, a US postage stamp, and pro bono work for every local organization that ever existed — has just completed a compelling new project.
Like many of us, Miggs is fascinated by signers — the men and women who use American Sign Language to interpret speeches for hearing-impaired people. He’s amazed by their speed, as well as the variety and movements they make with their hands.
Three years ago, he created the “Tunnel Vision” exhibit that enlivens the pedestrian walkway between Main Street and Parker Harding Plaza. With his specialty — lenticular photography — Miggs used Westporters’ hands to show a variety of Westporters’ experiences. The photos change dramatically, depending on where you stand.
As he thought about the ASL signers, he realized that by slowing down their movements, he could use lenticular photos to portray their grace and beauty.
Online, he found an ASL dictionary. Users type in a word; up pops a video of its sign. As Miggs watched in slow motion, his idea took shape.
Meanwhile, America’s political climate was heating up. Miggs wondered how local artists would react. He’s always believed creative folks do what they can — however they can — to make the world a better place.
Miggs turned the focus of his new project toward finding a poem of manageable length.
He doesn’t read a lot of poetry. But when his son attended Hampshire College, he lived across from Emily Dickinson’s house.
Miggs found a poem of hers, called “Signs of Compassion. The title is perfect.
Miggs planned to photograph a teenage girl — fellow artist Nina Bentley’s granddaughter — signing the entire poem. But Chris Timmons of the Westport Library — where Miggs serves as artist-in-residence — suggested using a variety of people in town.
“That was the key,” Miggs notes. “Now we have representatives of the entire community talking about compassion.”
Miggs mined his many contacts to find models. Nearly everyone he asked said yes. The 30 photos he used include whites, blacks and Asians. There are young Westporters, and old. First Selectman Jim Marpe is one model. I’m another.
How did we know what to do? Noah Steinman — then a WAC staffer, now at the Aldrich — knows ASL.
Miggs used his iPhone to film Noah signing the poem, while explaining each motion. Miggs then broke every one into 2 distinct gestures.
He photographed each model doing both gestures. Under every photo is Dickinson’s poem, with that particular word or phrase highlighted.
The result, Miggs says, is “not an exhibit of 30 different photos. It’s a visual chorus of our community expressing the need for compassion in the world.”
This will be the last Great Hall exhibit before the library transformation project begins. (The library itself will not close.)
In its silence, it speaks volumes.
(The opening reception is Friday, May 26 from 6 to 7:30 p.m. The exhibit is on display through July 27. For more information, click here.)
When the Westport Arts Center announced its next exhibition — “Main Street to Madison Avenue,” honoring Westporters’ involvement in advertising and art over the last 70 years — folks flocked to offer items.
Children, grandchildren and surviving spouses scoured studios, attics and basements to find sketches, paintings and storyboards. WAC officials had expected some interesting submissions. But they were stunned at how much had lain around, unnoticed and untouched for years.
One of the people was Miggs Burroughs. A noted artist and photographer himself, he hauled in his father’s portfolio. In the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s, Bernie Burroughs was one of those Westporters whose drawings helped influence consumer habits around the country — and eventually the world.
Miggs had not looked at some of his father’s work for decades. The Arts Center staff was fascinated by it.
After a couple of hours, Miggs casually mentioned Bernie’s van Heusen ad campaign — which Andy Warhol later appropriated.
That fit in perfectly with the “Main Street to Madison Avenue theme.” In addition to paying homage to Westporters, the show examines nationally known artists who were influenced by the iconic design and aesthetic of that era.
And when Warhol used Bernie Burroughs’ work, his model was Ronald Reagan.
“That’s the whole point of this show: making those connections,” WAC executive director Amanda Innes says.
Miggs had another surprise for the WAC curators. He said that as a child, he’d go to the Westport station with his dad. When the train pulled in, Bernie would hand his portfolio to the conductor — along with some cash.
The conductor delivered it to Bernie’s New York ad agency. That was common practice, Miggs said.
“That’s a great story about trust,” Innes says.
“But it also shows the anonymity of these artists. They created the work, but they didn’t sign them. They weren’t invited to ad meetings. They didn’t even own the art — the agencies did.”
Part of the reason for this show, she says, is to “honor the men who created so much of this iconic imaging and branding.” (And yes, everyone in this show — like nearly all of Madison Avenue then — is male.)
The Arts Center show opens tomorrow (Friday, April 21, reception from 6 to 8 p.m.). On display is original art and advertisements from illustrators like Bernie Burroughs, Al Parker and Bernie Fuchs. Hung alongside are works by artists like Andy Warhol, Walter Robinson and Richard Prince, who appropriated so much of that material.
Innes has had a great time — and an excellent education — mounting the exhibit. For example, hearing it was in the works, Harold Levine headed over. He spent 2 hours regaling Innes about his career.
He had a lot to talk about. In addition to co-founding (with Chet Huntley) a legendary ad agency, he knew Warhol when the struggling young artist asked him for work.
Sadly, Levine will not be there tomorrow. He died in February, at 95.
But that gives you an idea of the kind of show it will be.
Simultaneously, the WAC will showcase 30 works by high school students. The show is juried by treasured Westport artists Ann Chernow and Leonard Everett Fisher.
Tomorrow evening, a Westport student will receive the Tracy Sugarman Award — named for another of our most famous artists.
That award — and the entire show — is a great way to tie our artistic/advertising past in with our consumer culture present. It’s also a chance to highlight the next generation of local artists.
Some day, some may gain fame for their paintings. Some may toil anonymously, but have their works seen by millions.
And — like the professionals featured in the new Westport Arts Center show — some may do both.
(During tomorrow’s opening reception for “Main Street to Madison Avenue,” the video room will run a loop of advertisements — including some from Harold Levine’s agency. The show runs through June 22.)
Some things about the Westport Fine Arts Festival never change.
Favorite artists, sculptors, jewelry-makers and photographers return, with familiar work in an intriguing variety of styles. Westporters and visitors flock downtown; there is music and food. The weather is hot.
Some things are always different. There is new artwork. New bands play.
This year too, the Westport Library‘s new artist-in-residence lends his presence — and talents — to the 43rd annual Fine Arts Festival (Saturday and Sunday, July 16-17, 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Parker Harding Plaza).
Miggs Burroughs co-presents his own artwork — along with others from the Westport Artists Collective — including Nina Bentley, Trace Burroughs, Linn Cassetta, Wilhelmina de Haas and Tammy Windsor.
Miggs will man an “Artist-in-Residence” booth, answering questions and providing information about the library’s connection with local artists, town arts organizations and events.
The Fine Arts Festival — sponsored by the Westport Downtown Merchants Association — is one of the town’s signature summer events.
Of course, so is the Library’s annual book sale. It runs this weekend too: Saturday, July 16, 9 a.m.-5 p.m.; Sunday, July 17, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; Monday, July 18, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. (all items half price); Tuesday, July 19, 9 a.m.-1 p.m. (all items free; contributions welcome).
The 2 events are big, fun and complementary.
Just think: It’s the Library’s biggest event of the year, and they share their artist-in-residence with the Arts Festival.
There are many reasons — probably more than 109 — to come to the 109th annual Yankee Doodle Fair.
But among the many — free admission! unlimited-ride wristbands! a bake sale with macaroons from 90-year-old Bev McArthur! — my favorite may be this:
Yankee Doodle himself is going.
The fictional colonial simpleton — who bears a striking resemblance to Westport artist Miggs Burroughs (designer of our town’s Minute Man flag) — will be there this week. In full costume.
With — of course — a feather in his cap.
For a $3 donation, you can take a selfie at the Yankee Doodle Fair (Westport Woman’s Club, 44 Imperial Avenue). With Yankee Doodle.
You gotta hand it to Miggs. When he borrowed his costume from fellow illustrator Ed Vebell, he realized it was a better fit for a 1776-size guy.
So Miggs found a tailoring kit, and fixed it himself.
Betsy Ross would be proud.
Which is not just a clever line. Fun fact: Miggs actually dated Betsy Ross.
No, not that one. He isn’t that old.
Miggs met this Betsy Ross in 1998, at a New Year’s party at Ann Sheffer and Bill Scheffler’s house. She grew up in Westport — as Betsy Peterken– and left Staples after 10th grade.
By the time she returned for that party she’d married and divorced Thomas McCaughey, married (and was in the process of separating from) wealthy investment banker Wilbur Ross — and was, in her own right (using the name Betsy McCaughey Ross) lieutenant governor of New York, under George Pataki.
A staunch conservative, she was also in the process of defecting to the Democratic Party — so she could run against Pataki. (She lost in the primary.)
Which brings us — in a roundabout way — back to Yankee Doodle.
The costume is hot. So Miggs will be in air-conditioned Bedford Hall — part of the Yankee Doodle Fair grounds — for limited hours: 6-8 p.m. on Thursday and Friday, June 16-17; 4-7 p.m. Saturday, June 18, and 1-3 p.m. on Sunday, June 19.
After 109 years, this Yankee Doodle Fair promises to be a historic occasion.
(Full hours for the Yankee Doodle Fair: 6-10 p.m. June 16-17, 1-10 p.m. June 18; 1-5 p.m. June 19. All proceeds help fund Westport Woman’s Club grants and scholarships. For more details, click here.)
As signs go, the ones advertising this weekend’s art show may not be the most artistic:
So Westporters may be forgiven for not realizing that for several reasons, this year’s event is special.
For one, it’s dedicated to Howard Munce and his wife Gerry, a longtime WWC member and community volunteer.
When Howard died recently at 100, his place as one of Westport’s foremost artists was secure.
Howard’s roots here date back to the Great Depression. At that time, Westport supposedly had the largest per capita population of unemployed professional artists in the country.
Many were married to Woman’s Club members. To help, the WWC held art shows in Bedford House, the 2nd floor of the downtown YMCA.
Howard was no starving artist. He went on to great fame. But he showed his appreciation for the Woman’s Club by participating in art shows through the 1980s, long after the organization moved to its 44 Imperial Avenue home.
In 2007 — when the WWC celebrated its centennial — Howard designed the logo.
Howard and Gerry were friends with another civic-minded local family, the Burroughses. Bernie (an artist) and his wife Esta (of Remarkable Book Shop fame) raised 2 artist sons, Miggs and Trace.
This weekend’s art show — curated by Miggs — will be held in the Woman’s Club’s new Bedford Hall. It’s a few steps — and many years — away from the Y’s old “Bedford House.”
The Westport Woman’s Club art show venue has changed, since the Depression.
Howard Munce — for the first time since then — won’t be there this year.
But the show itself hasn’t changed much. It’s still fun, and still an important fundraiser.
And Howard and Gerry will be there for sure, in Westport arts colony spirit.
Most Westporters knew Merle Haggard — if they knew him at all — as the singer-songwriter of the proud-to-be-a-hippie-hater “Okie From Muskogee.”
But Miggs Burroughs knew Haggard — who died Wednesday, on his 79th birthday — in a different way.
More than 40 years ago — in June of 1973 — Time Magazine asked the 27-year-old artist to create the cover for a story on the country music “outlaw hero.”
“I wasn’t a fan at the time,” Miggs recalls.
“I painted it on real barn siding to make it look as haggard as possible. I liked it, they liked it, and proofs were printed.”
But Merle complained, and the editors swapped Miggs’ artwork out for a photographic cover.
He sighs. “Then it was me who looked haggard.”
PS: 14 months later, Miggs painted another Time cover — the one announcing Richard Nixon’s resignation. The disgraced president didn’t like hippies either.
If you listen to longtime residents — or read “06880” — you probably think Westport has lost its artistic mojo. With Howard Munce gone — and apart from Miggs Burroughs — when was the last time you heard of a home studio?
Happily, there’s at least one left.
The other day I visited Mina de Haas in her small, 2nd-floor apartment. There — in the shadow of I-95 — she creates acrylic paintings, decoupage and digital collages. She’s not our only in-home artist — but she sure seems a throwback.
A 1979 Weston High School graduate (and direct descendant of the famous Dutch landscape-paining Koekkoek family) who studied fashion merchandising at the University of Bridgeport, Mina worked as a graphic artist for advertising firms and a pharmaceutical company before joining a Norwalk market research company.
But this story is about her studio.
Heavily influenced by Dali, Picasso, Warhol and — especially Hieronymus Bosch — Mina wants her art to make people feel a bit uncomfortable.
“Anyone can look at a pretty picture of a sailboat,” she says. “I want people to look at my work and wonder ‘What’s going on there?’ And make their own interpretation of what my artwork means to them personally.”
She points to a 3D work called “Stripper Barbie.” It’s exactly what it sounds like: the famous doll in a cage with a stripper pole. Crumpled bills lie on the floor.
She is an expert at taking existing paintings, photos and other images, and manipulating them in new ways — for example, in her interpretation of Bosch’s “Garden of Earthly Delights.”
A favorite subject is cars. She looks at their lines and angles in fresh ways, placing familiar vehicles in intriguing and innovative contexts.
One of Mina’s favorite paintings is “Seine River Bleeds.” Done right after November’s Paris attacks, the famed river is bright red. The lights of the Eiffel Tower look like the souls of the murdered victims.
Mina de Haas is not well known. She exhibited in a small local gallery, and will soon show several pieces at a UB alumni art show.
She hopes to get into a Westport Arts Center emerging artists exhibit. She’d love to sell through restaurants and retail stores here.
Mina does not think there is a real “artistic community” in Westport — at least, not one she feels part of it.
But she’s undeterred.
She does what she loves. In her 2nd floor apartment studio, she creates art.
Just as Westport artists have done, for well over a century.
(To see more of Mina de Haas’ work, click here.)