|George Gershwin in 1937|
George Gershwin was born in New York in 1898. He went on to become perhaps the most beloved American composer of the last century through his many compositions for the musical stage, the concert hall, and what has become known as the Great American Songbook. Gershwin's appeal comes in part from his colorful and lively incorporation of jazz motifs in all his music. He died in 1937 with what could only be called a wonderful career ahead of him. I often imagine what he could have brought to us had he lived.
|Walter Inglis Anderson|
The second artist, Walter Inglis Anderson, was born on September 29, 1903 in New Orleans. After training at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in the mid-1920s, he spent most of his career associated with Shearwater Pottery, a family enterprise founded in Ocean Springs, Mississippi. Though deeply troubled with mental illness for much of his life, he produced thousands of vivid works of art - often called "abstract realism" - seeking to celebrate the unity of human existence with nature. I often describe his work as decorated illustrations that play freely with figure and ground and the positives and negatives of visual perception. His realizations of nature explode in the mind's eye. Observing Anderson is a meditative experience. Visit the Walter Inglis Anderson Museum of Art site to learn more about the life and work of this regional artist who only recently has taken on national significance.
If I had to choose two personal favorites among American artists, I would choose Gershwin and Anderson. My mom and dad enjoyed listening to Gershwin's music on the radio and records, and later on television. I discovered Anderson on my own in the 1970s during the dedication of a National Park Service visitor center in Ocean Springs, Mississippi. The award-winning center featured architectural elements incorporating his motifs as well as interior displays of his nature paintings. Unfortunately, the center was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina.
Studying these artists came much later in my life and, in the last five years, that study led to a startling revelation: I share a birthday with them. George, Walter and OTR, a coincidence made somewhere in the stars beyond time. I don't want to attempt an explanation. And there's no delusion here; OTR will never approach their genius. Not sure I'd want to. I'll simply leave it at that and enjoy their greatness knowing that we share a quiet and inconsequential commonality.