Tuesday, November 10, 2009

A Madeleine Moment

I was watching Antiques Roadshow, Louisville. A small abstract watercolor and gouache painting was on the easel, signed by Jimmy Ernst, 1959. The appraiser told its owner a bit about Ernst's bio as the son of Max Ernst, etal and gave it a value of $5000.
As I looked at the work, I flashed back to an evening at Brooklyn College, 1954 or 55, when I'd been working late in the photo lab and was leaving for home. The small, rather isolated hallway, on this 4th floor where only the Design office, lab and a few design classrooms were, was covered with newsprint and some heavier paper. Hanging from the central lighting fixture was a cord wrapped around a bottle of India ink whose cap had been pierced. Jimmy Ernst, one of my teachers, was swinging that bottle and examining the arcs produced on the papers. He'd change the direction of the swinging bottle, move the heavier paper sometimes as I silently watched. He was absolutely absorbed in this and after a short time, I walked to the stairs and left for home.
As I looked at the Roadshow work, a watercolor background with white arcs in the foreground, I knew that those arcs were created by swinging a bottle w. a pierced cap, this time of white gouache; that I'd been privileged to see this wonderful teacher and artist in the process of working out a specific technique.

No comments: