Connie Fox – Sammy’s Beach I

Saturday, July 20 – Wednesday, August 21, 2024

Opening Celebration, Artist Talk and Film Screening with Levin Chaskey – Saturday, July 20 at 4pm

Poetry Reading and Book Signing with Megan Chaskey: Sunday, July 28 at 4pm

Book Talk and signing with Scott Chaskey: Sunday, August 11 at 4pm

William King – Jolie Fleurs

The Leiber Collection, at 446 Old Stone Highway in the East Hampton hamlet of Springs, is excited to present ‘Connie Fox and William King ~ Entangled’, featuring paintings from Connie Fox’s iconic Sammy’s Beach Series, and William King’s delightful Sammy’s Beach inspired sculptures.

William King and Connie Fox were friends of Judith and Gerson Leiber, and King’s Four Philosophers have held court in the Leiber Collection Sculpture Garden for the past 20 years. This exhibition series is a celebration of the extraordinary artists in the Leibers’ Permanent Collection, and I am thrilled to kick if off with William King and Connie Fox!

I am extremely honored to have this opportunity to work on this exhibition with Levin Chaskey, Connie and Bill’s grandson.  When I first considered a Fox and King show, I wanted it to be about place, and about the exciting multi-generational creativity that I see in their family and on the East End, with younger generations sharing and protecting the legacies of the great artists that came before.

Levin jumped in full force, suggested Connie’s Sammy’s Beach series, and has taught me so much about his grandparents and their extraordinary lives. I am beyond grateful for our partnership that enabled this exhibition come to life.

I admire how Connie and Bill inspired their family of multi-generational creative minds, and inspired the East End Community, their extended artistic family, by what Levin calls their “intertwined worlds of art, nature and familial heritage.”

From Levin: “The significant art world legacies of Connie Fox & William King share the spirit of love, support & lasting impact that Judith & Gerson Leiber represent.

The Entangled exhibition at Leiber Collection Museum and Sculpture Garden will feature Connie’s transcendent “Sammy’s Beach Series” paintings and Bill’s distinctive, humanized sculpture.

We explore how the artist couple was influenced by their home & workplace on the East End of Long Island, through the visceral connection with their natural environment, and support of the vibrant creative community that surrounded their studio sanctuary in Northwest Woods.

Through my work (as co-founder of video production, marketing & brand strategy agency The Star Room) a new short film will accompany the exhibition, pieced from archival video collected over the years.”   ~Levin Chaskey

Connie Fox, an abstract painter, and William King, a figurative sculptor, created this sensational body of work inspirited by their shared experiences on Sammy’s Beach, the shoreline of a special tidal bay close to their home and studios in the Northwest Woods area of East Hampton, NY. They went to Sammy’s almost every day for decades; swimming, walking, talking, exploring, socializing, relaxing, contemplating, ruminating, meditating…finding their bliss. The impact of ‘place’ on Connie and Bill is undeniable in this body of work.

“Place, or memory of place, is important to me.  I’ve moved around a lot and I bring these places with me…They remain not as images, but as support.”  ~Connie Fox

We live in a unique place here on the East End of Long Island, many of us drawn by the magical light quality and the sublime beauty of the natural environment – all of us connected to one another, and connected to those who came before us, by this place.

Connie Fox and William King ~ Entangled is an homage to this land and sea.  An homage to Sammy’s Beach and by association all of our beloved beaches, bays and

the unique natural gifts that surround us. We are all entangled with this place, this mesmerizing habitat, with each other, and with those who came before us.

“The most significant thing I did at Sammy’s was to just be there.  I walked, sat, looked.  Most importantly, I swam.  Why is this so important? Hard to say, but it has to do with getting “carried away” by physical energy that gives me back more than I put into it.  It

took thirty years of going (there) to want to do a series of paintings with reference to Sammy’s Beach – not to paint what I saw vis-à-vis the landscape.”  ~Connie Fox

From Connie Fox – Reckoning with Triangles, In Women’s Art Journal, 2013, by Joyce Beckenstein.

Connie Fox’s Sammy’s Beach paintings are a passionate endeavor to capture the essence and energy of Sammy’s; those persistent impressions that form her memories and dreams, the vibrations, the moods, the atmosphere, the vibe.

“The moments of the past do not remain still; they retain in our memory the motion which drew them towards the future, towards a future which has itself become the past, and draw us on in their train.”  ~Marcel Proust

It is through Fox’s memories of her experiences on Sammy’s Beach, melding with our memories of our own beach escapades, that we recognize not illustrations of sites we might have seen, but feelings, thoughts, memories, dreams, tastes and smells we recognize and respond to.  Surging tides, the warmth of the sun on our skin, the howling breeze, the pungent smell, the salty, seaweedy taste, the hypnotic sounds, the freedom, and the frenetic energy of the phenomena that make up our shared remembrances. There is something of Connie’s soul that comes across in her mark-making that is captivating and poetic.

Connie Fox and William King never compromised on their own unwavering vision of the world. With artistic movements that were all the rage throughout their lives, it would have been easy to dive into the mainstream, but they each held fast to their unique artistic voice.  And even though they lived their lives, and worked in their studios, side by side, they did not sway each other’s unique artistic voice.

Author Joyce Beckenstein writes “Fox and King’s stylistic differences consistently bow to one another. The figurative elements she embeds within her energized brushwork attest to her own grip on representation. King’s proportions, simplicity of line, and play of negative and positive space affirm his keen eye for the abstract structure of things as underpinnings to character.”

On view in this exhibition are touching works by William King made to honor Connie Fox and their time on Sammy’s Beach; Connie (1984), a piece that King lovingly carved of Connie in her swimsuit perhaps on her beloved Sammy’s Beach, Jolies Fleurs (2007), a piece inspired by a photo taken of Connie and Bill, possibly by Elaine De Kooning who was with them at Sammy’s at the time the photo was taken, and an endearing, carved balsa and polychrome diorama of Sammy’s Beach (2013), complete with sun, clouds, beach plum bushes and their silver Volvo.

Premier Art-critic, Hilton Kramer writes “The sculpture of William King is a sculpture of comic gesture. It is sculpture that choreographs a scenario of sociability, of conscious affections and unavowed pretensions, transforming the world of observed manners and unacknowledged motives into mimelike structures of comic revelation. Often very funny, sometimes acerbic, frequently satiric and touching at the same time, it is sculpture that draws from the vast repertory of socialized human gesture a very personal vocabulary of contemporary sculptural forms…” ~ The Age of the Avant-Garde: An Art Chronicle of 1956 – 1972, Hilton Kramer.

William King’s Lifeguard watches over the exhibition with the focus and skill of one who is tasked to keep safe all in their orbit. With its long lanky physique, one wonders if this is in fact Bill King faithfully watching over his family and friends.

Lifeguard shows exactly why William King’s work is so special. His keen ability to portray with perfection the spirit and soul of his subject is wondrous. His brilliant skill in capturing the quirkiness of the human condition, is mesmerizing. He is a master at conveying the essence of his subject, through posture, gesture and body language. His sharp observation breathes a breath of humor and even empathy into all of his works.

You are invited to our Opening Celebration on Saturday, July 20 at 4pm where Levin Chaskey will discuss the captivating lives and Art of Connie Fox and William King, and where he will screen a new film that he has created about these extraordinary Artists.

I am so very grateful to Megan and Scott Chaskey, two creative powerhouses and huge figures in the East End community, for their assistance, and for our many hours of conversations about William and Connie. Their experiences and memories have been invaluable to the exhibition. Their suggestion to include the enchanting William King

pieces inspired by Sammy’s Beach, and their loan of these pieces to our show is a curator’s dream!!

Please join us on Sunday, July 28 as Megan reads from her beautiful book of poetry, “Birdsong Under the Wisdom Tree, Collected Poems, A Book of Hours in the Life of a Poet”, featuring a painting by her mother Connie Fox on the cover, and highlighting her life growing up in this extraordinarily creative family.

We are also thrilled to have Scott Chaskey read from his recent book, “Soil and Spirit, Cultivation and Kinship in the Web of Life” on Sunday, August 11 at 4pm.

Megan and Scott will both be sharing stories of Connie and William, their life, love and art.

I would like to thank Levin Chaskey, Megan Chaskey and Scott Chaskey for sharing their stories of Connie and William, and for loaning works from their personal collections for the exhibition. We also thank April Gornik and Eric Fischl for loaning Sammy’s Beach III, and Guild Hall for loaning “Swimmer”, both important key works that make this exhibition complete. Thank you as well to Genie Henderson, longtime archivist at LTV, for her historical knowledge and assistance!

Connie Fox (1925-2023)

Born, 1925,  and bred, in Fowler, Colorado, a small farming community surrounded by flat, wide prairies and a distant view of the Rockies, Connie Fox pursued her BFA in 1947 at Un. of CO, and afterwards attended Art Center School, LA for a rigorous program of drawing, perspective, rendering, and composition. She received her MA at the Un. of NM, Albuquerque in 1952, where she then taught and met artists Elaine de Kooning (1918-1989) and Robert Dash (1931-2013).

Connie’s work was shown in the 1950s through the 1970s in Albuquerque, San Francisco, the Richmond Museum of Art, and in Manhattan at the “Tenth Street” type Camino Gallery, FAR, and later at Ingber Gallery and Brenda Taylor Gallery.

Connie’s works are included in the collections of many major museums across the country, including the Brooklyn Museum; the Albright-Knox Art Gallery; the Parrish Art Museum and Guild Hall, as well as National Museum of Women in the Arts, Washington DC; the American Academy of Arts and Letters; and the University of Florida, Gainesville.

Her Sammy’s Beach series, painted between 2007-2014, formed the body of work in her most recent solo exhibitions with Danese/Corey Gallery, NY and the Heckscher Museum. 

Fox’s paintings can be set in context with, but were also freed by Abstraction, yet she defies the Abstract Expressionist tag, old or new, and has been described as a “modern classicist” whose paint gestures and compositional elements are part of a “comprehensive formal vocabulary.” She herself spoke of her affinity with the European Surrealists, not just in art, but also in the use of visual imagery as in the avant-garde films of Cocteau and Fellini, to which she was exposed as a student at the Art Center School in LA. 

Having started her family in New Mexico and Berkeley, California, she went east as far as Pittsburgh in the 1970’s and then, on the encouragement of Elaine de Kooning, she arrived in East Hampton, NY in 1979. A foray into larger and larger paintings spanned the 80’s and 90’s and into the first ten years of the 21st century, once she built her new studio not far from Elaine’s home and studio, and Sammy’s Beach. Throughout these decades Fox progressively created her own artistic identity as a painter. “I can relate anything to anything,” she said, in relation to her use of composition, texture, and surreal images. “I’m more interested in what things do than what they are,” said Fox. 

Amei Wallach wrote, Fox was “a super collider of painting…[who] accelerates particles of line, shape, dimension, improbable hue…into emanations of energy. The integrity and sheer exuberance of her life in art is exemplary and it is rare.”

Connie Fox and her husband, sculptor William King (fellow inductee into the HFAF 2024 Hall of Fame), made their home together and worked in the studios they built in East Hampton’s Northwest Woods through the last 40 years of Fox’s life. 

William King (1925 – 2015)

William King was a pivotal figure in American sculpture. Born in Jacksonville, Florida, in 1925, he grew up in Coconut Grove, Miami. He arrived in New York in 1945, enrolled in Cooper Union, and upon graduation in 1948, won a scholarship to the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, in Maine. He traveled to Rome on a Fulbright scholarship, and later to Athens, and to London. His first solo show was at the Alan Gallery, in New York, 1954, and he continued to show his work, both at home and abroad, for the next 60 years. King’s art is in the permanent collections of the Guggenheim Museum, the Hirshhorn, the Whitney, the Met, among many others, and his public commissions are placed in 18 locations throughout the U.S. A member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, he also served as president of the Academy of Design, 1994-98. He received Lifetime Achievement Awards from Guild Hall in 1997, and from the International Sculpture Center, 2007. He lived with his wife, Connie Fox (2024 Hall of Fame inductee), in the Northwest Woods for 33 years. Hilton Kramer wrote: “The sculpture of William King is a sculpture of comic gesture.” He appeared in three of the now famous Stable shows (1955-57).

Levin Chaskey  

“Manifested by our cyclicality across generations, Connie entrusted me to steward her legacy, and to share it. This presented the honor to shine a light on her lifetime of essential and under-appreciated artwork, centered in the Ab-Ex movement with surrealist influences and figurative threads. Connie’s request carried with it both her notable historical past, as well as the path to the future, the responsibility to create new chapters of our story. As I navigate my deep sense of purpose to further her artistic recognition, I feel her guidance and presence daily. Throughout my entire life I have felt profoundly proud of, inspired by and connected with Connie. As illustrated through Connie’s ‘Self as…Levin’ self-portrait that hangs in my office, I believe she felt the same.”   ~Levin Chaskey

Megan Chaskey  

Birdsong Under the Wisdom Tree, Collected Poems, A Book of Hours in the Life of a Poet.  The book combines a lifetime of poems, journal entries, and memoir that “traces the development of her poet’s sensibility and voice grounded in her experience growing up in an artistic family in the various places she has lived including New Mexico, Vermont, and Cornwall, England to the East End of Long Island.” Its cover showcases a painting by her mom, Connie Fox.  She also pays tribute to her stepfather, William King, who inspired several of her poems. “Bill King was such a warm supporter of my poetry,” Chaskey explained, “and the inspiration for this book from the beginning.”

Scott Chaskey  

Soil and Spirit, Cultivation and Kinship in the Web of Life. As a farmer with decades spent working in fields, Scott Chaskey has been shaped by daily attention to the earth. A leader in the international Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) movement, he has combined a longstanding commitment to food sovereignty and organic farming with a belief that humble attention to microbial life and diversity of species provides invaluable lessons for building healthy human communities. Along the way, even while planning rotations of fields, ordering seeds, tending to crops and their ecosystems, Chaskey was writing. And in this lively collection of essays, he explores the evolution of his perspective – as a farmer and as a poet. Tracing the first stage in his development back to a homestead in Maine, on the ancestral lands of the Abenaki, he recalls learning to cultivate plants and nourish reciprocal relationships among species, even as he was reading Yeats and beginning to write poems. He describes cycling across Ireland, a surprise meeting with Seamus Heaney, and, later, farming in Cornwall’s ancient landscape of granite, bramble, and windswept trees. He travels to China for an international conference on Community supported Agriculture, reading ancient wilderness poetry along the way, and then on to the pueblo of Santa Clara in new Mexico, where he joins a group on Indigenous women harvesting amaranth seeds. Closer to home on the Southfork of Long island, he describes planting redwood saplings and writing verse under the canopy of an American beech. “Enlivened  by decades of work in open fields washed by the salt spray of the Atlantic” – words that describe in his prose as well as his vision of connectedness – Scott Chaskey has given us a book for our time. A seed of hope and regeneration.

Also on view at The Leiber Collection, ‘Judith and Gerson Leiber ~ Over The Top’ and Our 5th Annual Garden of Friends Exhibition through November 30, 2024.

The Leiber Collection is located at 446 Old Stone Highway in the East Hampton hamlet of Springs. For more information see the website at www.leibercollection.org, email info@leibercollection.org or call 631-329-3288.

 
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