Saturday, July 3, 2010

Sally Avery

For Four Summers from 1987 - 1990 I worked for Mrs. Milton Avery in Bearsville, NY. I usually began my duties around the Summer solstice when the days were long. I was Sally's personal and studio assistant though she was very much able bodied and of strong, precise mind. Our life was simple. We rose early, ate breakfast and were usually in our studios by eight AM. Sally liked to have at least four clean canvases ready, so my morning ritual often included stretching canvas, a task I loved, though I painted on canvas tacked to the wall of my former horse-stall studio. We'd break at noon for lunch, a nap and a swim and then returned to our work. At five we would go on sketching excersions, prentending to get lost in Ulster County, stopping roadside to sketch. After which we'd return for dinner, reading, conversation. As my birthday fell on July 8, Sally would take me to The Elephant (A huge Army and Navy store that once served as local hot spot for legendary musicians such as Fred Neil) for a new shirt. I still have two of them. Sturdy Levis - one white, one tan.

I was in Woodstock today. I was thinking of Sally as I always do. And of our seemingly endless Summers of hard work. Sally taught me many things, but most importantly, she taught me that there was no such thing as inspiration for an artist. That work breeds more work...and to do alot of it.

Sally once told me that she heard the most amazing poem ever spoken (on a Manhattan bus) when she heard a young lady remark to her friend these words : "Ain't the Summer flew?" It was a phrase we used when September arrived with cold mornings and shorter days.

I snapped this photo of Sally's grave marker this morning. A simple piece of slate, and like her beloved Milton, it is nothing more than her artist's signature and the dates she lived on earth.

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