Monday, August 15, 2016

Where Do You Summer?


DeKooning’s Bicycle: Artists and Writers in the Hamptons
Robert Long, 2005, Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Group Shot, John Jonas Gruen
(Back row): Robert Rauschenberg, Jasper Johns, Roland Pease (Middle row): Grace Hartigan, Stephen Rivers, Larry Rivers, Herbert Machiz, Tibor de Nagy, John Myers (Front row): Mary Abbott, Sondra Lee, Maxine Groffsky, Jane Freilicher, Joe Hazan
Is a fun little read that puts you there—because who can actually afford the Hamptons in the summer?! Maybe it once was in the 1950s when artists and writers were moving there.

Larry Rivers: he first thing I did in Southampton, Fairfield accompanying me, was rent from a Mr. Ralph Conklin a two-story eight-room house for $85 a month at 111 Toylsome Lane, down at the end of a long, muddy driveway. Alongside the house, fortunately, was a weathered no-doors, no-windows shed with enough space to carry on my life as an artist. There were trees all around and above the house, and one small lawn boxed in by tall, thick privet. The house had dark umber shingles except where green moss grew on them. . . I began referring to the house as ''my place in the country;'' more apt would have been ''my slum in the trees.'' . . . He paid rent with a bad check.

A considerable amount of time is spent in this volume about Green River Cemetery, a place I would love to visit—and could possibly afford. I’ve always had the feeling that the further out you go on Long Island the less wealthy the residents. This is probably a matter of percentage points amongst the top 1%, but hey!

Buried at Green River are some of my all-time favorites: Frank O’Hara, Elaine de Kooning, and, of course, famously, Jackson Pollock. Joe LeSueur is also there, not next to Frank. Larry Rivers lies not too far away in Sag Harbor at the Independent Jewish Cemetery. I’m not sure where Janie Freilicher is interred; she lived in Water Mill, long Island, not far from Pollack’s place or where the Fairfield Porters resided in East Hampton. Jimmie is still there. James Schuyler was the on-and-off eternal guest of the Porters and his ashes are at the Little Portion Friary (Episcopal), Mt. Sinai, Long Island, New York. Someday I will make a pilgrimage to see him. "June 30, 1974," is a poem that takes us back to a morning at Water Mill in the Hamptons, as lazy as any summer day.
 
The Sun Breaks Through, 1991
while Jane and Joe (Hazan, her husband)
sleep in their room
and John (Ashbery) in his. I
think I’ll make more toast.

View of the interior of Jane Freilicher's art studio, Water Mill, Long Island,
Schuyler describes a tranquil morning, nothing urgent.

. . . a millionaire’s
white chateau turns
its flank to catch
the risen sun. No
other houses, except
this charming one,
alive with paintings,
plants and quiet.

I can almost feel it, the summer solitude. No plans, just friends.
Jane Freilicher, self-portrait at Water Mill studio
From the viewpoint of deKooning’s bicycle we circle the east end of the island, drop in and visit some of the troubled souls that once lived and created there. Now there houses are museums. Hushed monuments to many summers, to drinking, and flirting, and playing. Painting and poetics. Thank you Mr. Long for taking us there.

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