The Modernist’s Basketball Court

The Modernist’s Basketball Court

The Modernist's Basketball Court

The Modernist’s Basketball Court

I have been making prints with artist Michael Williams. At the entrance of his studio is this basketball court.  I knew that years ago, besides working with Ken Noland, Michael also worked with sculptors Isaac Witkin, Willard Boepple and Tony Caro, or should I say Sir Anthony Caro. He also assisted Jules Olitski, when he made sculpture. My guess was that this was an Olitski. Yup, its an Olitski.


Sculpture by Jules Olitski




Matisse on Maillol


Aristides Maillol


We never discussed sculpture. For we could not understand one another.  Maillol worked in masses like the ancients, and I worked in arabesques like the Renaissance sculptors.  Maillol didn’t like taking risks, and I couldn’t resist them.   Matisse



Henri Matisse


Books of Interest:

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Was it Rodin who influenced Matisse, or Rodin’s model?



Matisse, “The Serf”


Matisse’s  second sculpture, The Serf, was a direct confrontation with France’s greatest living practitioner, Auguste Rodin. Its subject was  César Pignatelli, nicknamed Bevilacqua, a favourite model with Rodin, who cast him over 20 years as a handsome, wolfish young John the Baptist, a gaunt, death-bound Burgher of Calais and the homicidal Count Ugolino, driven by starvation to devour his own sons. In 1900, when Pignatelli first posed for Matisse, he was simultaneously modelling for Rodin’s abortive study of the mad king Nebuchadnezzar.



Rodin, “Saint John the Baptist”


Rodin said of Pignatelli:

As soon as I saw him, I was filled with admiration; this rough, hairy man expressed violence in his bearing… yet also the mystical character of his race. I immediately thought of a Saint John the Baptist, in other words, a man of nature, a visionary, a believer, a precursor who came to announce one greater than himself. The peasant undressed, climbed onto the revolving stand as if he had never posed before; he planted himself firmly on his feet, head up, torso straight, at the same time putting his weight on both legs, open like a compass.The movement was so right, so straightforward and so true that I cried: ‘But it’s a man walking!’ I immediately resolved to model what I had seen. (Dujardin- Beaumetz, 1913).





Matisse, "Male Model"

Matisse, “Male Model”


Rodin, "Head of John the Baptist"

Rodin, “Head of John the Baptist”



Matisse, “Pignatelli”


Video of Rodin:!

Video of Matisse:
Books and Videos of Interest:

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Or order from your local independent books seller. Mine is Battenkill Books. Find the independent bookstore closest to you at


Brower Hatcher and the New Paradigm

Brower Hatcher, "Crucible Ann Farrand"

Brower Hatcher, “Crucible Ann Farrand”

In 1973 I spent a winter as Brower Hatcher’s sculpture assistant, when he was teaching at Bennington College. Today, 27 years later Brower dropped by to catch up. It seems that our ideas are more in alignment now than they were then, even though we haven’t seen each other in the intervening years.  It is not that our artistic ideas are so aligned, although one could find some interesting parallels in our interest in light and the desire to envelop the viewer with our artwork, but our ideas about community and how to be an artist in the world are.

Brower Hatcher

Brower Hatcher

We both came out of the tradition of object based art with the artist as the maestro — remember Picasso was still alive in 1973. The way to your public was through the dealers, and in those days they served as gatekeepers determining who was in and who was out. There were two prevailing views of what art was — what Clement Greenberg said it was and everything else. Bennington was ground zero for Greenberg’s view. Both Barnett Newman and Jackson Pollock had significant exhibitions at Bennington. Although I think Tony Smith organized the exhibitions, Greenberg was somehow at the center of all that.

When Brower came to Bennington, sculpture seemed to have a linear progression from David Smith to Tony Caro to Isaac Witkin. Caro and Witkin were connected through Saint Martin’s School of Art in London.  Brower was recruited from St. Martins. But he arrived on campus as the anti-structuralist. His work at the time were fields of color made from wire. It was as though someone captured the skeins of lines from a Pollock painting and colored them with Jules Olitski‘s spray paint.

Brower Hather, "Color Monolith"

Brower Hatcher, “Coor Monolith”

I came to work for Brower just when he was transitioning to pieces that remained open and expansive, but for which there were points of connection and the beginning of an internal structure. Looking back on the work now it was an obvious move. Being in the middle of the process the move was not remotely evident.

Brower Hatcher

Brower Hatcher, “Untitled – 1979”

I spent my days bending metal fencing in the sub-zero weather of Vermont. Then I welded pieces together with a Mig welder, which instead of welding rods had an automatically fed wire that was charged at the tip. If I missed my mark, which was easy to do when aiming at the joint between two wires, the feed wire would shoot out about a foot and have to be cut off to start again. One time the lead wire shot up my welding gloves into an artery in my wrist. Blood spurt from my wrist about a foot into the air. If you could have seen this fountain of blood and some of Brower’s subsequent sculptures, you might see a correlation.

When I recently came across Brower’s work on the internet it was thrilling to see how the work had progressed. Following his own visual logic he was able to expand the field’s of color and turn them into complex structures that span huge areas of space. These huge webs of interconnectedness is the paradigm that we live in now. But it was not something that we envisioned at the time I worked with Brower. It was a very monolithic world back then. And that was reflected in everything, including how art made its way into the world.

Brower Hatcher, "Aurora"

Brower Hatcher, “Aurora”

Brower was not comfortable in that monolithic world and found that through public art projects he could bring his vision to the public directly — a way that was more inclusive of community. He is very interested in how art intersects with community both in the process of making it and in how the community interacts with it once it is made. His public pieces tend to become the center points of the communities in which they are built. Just as the Eiffel Tower or the Fountains in Rome become a symbolic center in their respective cities, so do Brower’s sculptures in his. It becomes a place of interaction, and the surrounding areas become vital commercial centers. A sense of place, an identity, and a corridor for interconnection is born.

Brower Hatcher

Brower Hatcher, “Tillie”

You may wonder how this relates to me and my work. I am still pretty stuck in the object oriented art world. For me the shift is in my sense of community. I have believed for a long time that there is a fundamental shift in how the world operates. The old paradigm is the “dog eat dog world”, “survival of the fittest”, “what is mine is mine” . The new paradigm is all about connectedness, mutuality, sharing and enhancing one another’s lives. One does not win now by cornering the market, one wins by expanding the market to include like minded people.

Brower Hatcher

Brower Hatcher on Bridge

So the next time Brower and I work together, it will be in the spirit of mutuality and I will not be the art slave out in the frozen tundra shooting welding rods into my arteries.

Artist biography: Brower Hatcher was born in Atlanta. He attended the Vanderbilt University School of Engineering and received his degree in Industrial Design from Pratt Institute in New York. He studied sculpture at Saint Martins College of Art in London with Sir Anthony Caro and William Tucker. He was on the faculty at Saint Martins for several years and returned to the United States and joined the faculty of Bennington College where he taught for 13 years. Hatcher left teaching in 1986 and has since has built more than 35 public art projects throughout the U.S. Hatcher is a recipient of three National Endowment for the Arts Fellowships, a Guggenheim Fellowship and an honorary Ph.D. from the State University of New York. He works at the historic Steel Yard in Providence, R.I., as the artistic director of Mid-Ocean Studio, Inc.

Brower Hatcher’s artist statement: My goal, and that of Mid-Ocean Studio, is to create culturally relevant 21st century public art projects. Mid-Ocean is a collaborative group of artists, scientists, fabricators and technical personnel. Our work reflects an ongoing interest in the underlying geometry of organisms and living systems. Our works are typically powder-coated stainless steel ‘cellular matrixes’ built from computer-designed, multi-layered geometric frameworks. Our works often contain various combinations of relevant embedded objects, in this case glass and LED lights. Nature is a strong inspiration in Mid-Ocean’s work and we continually strive to find new ways to incorporate aspects of the natural environment into the work itself.

Brower Hatcher’s Website



Michelangelo Revealed

Michelangelo, "David", detail of David's hand

Michelangelo, “David”, detail of David’s hand

Every once in a while someone makes a comment about a piece of art that changes the way you perceive it forever.

Looking at photos of Michelangelo’s “David”, Ashley Hollister, sculptor and set designer, remarked,  “Look at the weight in that hand.”

Weight, in deed, to say nothing of the swelled veins. This is David before battle, whose intention is read both in his hands and his face, yet contrasted by his relaxed body.

Michelangelo, "David"

Michelangelo, “David”

Both the hands and the head of “David” are disproportionately large, probably because it was originally commissioned as one of a series of statues of prophets to be positioned along the roof line of the east end of Florence Cathedral, the statue was instead placed in a public square, outside the Palazzo della Signoria, the seat of civic government in Florence, where it was unveiled on 8 September 1504. [Wikipedia]

The statue stands over 17 feet high. Watching a BBC documentary on the Medicis I found out that the sculpture was carved on its side. Michelangelo had made a small wax figure of the model. To help him enlarge it, he place the wax figure in a container of water. Each day he let out a bit of the water and carved his way down to that level.

Demonstration of Michelangelo's wax sculpture emerging from the pool of water.

Demonstration of Michelangelo’s wax sculpture emerging from the pool of water.