Sunday, November 29, 2009

Influence, Inspiration and Six Degrees of Separation: Stow Wengenroth, Andrew Wyeth & Charles Sheeler

Three of the strongest and most enduring influences on my work are the lithographs and dry brush drawings of Stow Wengenroth, the drawings of Charles Sheeler and Andrew Wyeth’s drawings and paintings.

"Down East", 1958 Lithograph ed. of 40, by Stow Wengenroth (Stuckey #249)

I’m currently reading a book entitled Linked by Albert-Laszio Barab├ísi. In it, he demonstrates how everything is linked by networks of one kind or another and that all networks follow a similar pattern of individual nodes with, maybe as few as two connections, in turn, connected to hubs with many connections, in effect connecting all the nodes with each other. One concept discussed is known popularly as, “Six Degrees of Separation”. In a nutshell, this idea suggests, (with some exceptions), that we are only six links or degrees away from anyone else on Earth. In this blog entry, I will use link and degree interchangeably while discussing the concept of the linkage of individuals.

As I pondered this idea over the weekend, I realized that my three strongest artistic influences were, at most, two links away from me. Stow Wengenroth, who I knew as a friend and a mentor, is one link from me. As a friend of Stow’s, Andrew Wyeth was two links from me, until I met him personally one day while in Tennents Harbor. At that moment, Andrew Wyeth became just one link away from me, as did Helga, who I also met at the time.

Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee

Charles Sheeler, who I never had the opportunity to meet, was another story. How many links would it take to reach him, (figuratively, of course). Then I realized, he was only two links away, because of his friendship with my uncle, the photographer, Paul Strand, who was just one link from me. The art world was becoming smaller, because of the links we are all connected to. You probably begin to see the pattern here. I have a friend, Donna, who is connected to Desmond Tutu through her work as a facilitator in conflict resolution. She is one link from me. That makes Desmond Tutu two links from me and everyone Desmond knows in South Africa and beyond is, in a sense, just three links from me. You can see how the world is shrinking. We may, indeed, be only six degrees away from anyone, anywhere on Earth.

In a future blog I will discuss the ways in which the work of Wengenroth, Wyeth and Sheeler helped form my artistic direction and sensibility.

"On the Rocks", 1984 Lithograph ed. 35, by Gregory Dunham

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