April 20, 2012
Monhegan Island exhibit comes to SU gallery
Susquehanna is the last venue for the exhibition, which has traveled from the Monhegan Museum, Portland Museum of Artand the Palmina F. and Stephen S. Pace Galleries of Art, all of which are located in Maine. The director of the Monhegan Museum, Edward L. Deci, was in attendance and provided a presentation on John Hultberg and his relationship with Monhegan Island for spectators prior to the opening..
Hultberg first visited Monhegan Island in the summer of 1961 with his friend Martha Jackson, a prominent art dealer from New York. At that point in his career "he was just a bit shy of 40 and he was at the very top of the art world, the international art world that was centered in New York," Deci said.
Hultberg was born in 1922, in Berkeley, California to Swedish immigrant parents as the first of four children. His mother died when he was 12 and his family was separated when his younger siblings were sent away to live with other relatives and he was left with his brother to live with their father. As a young boy Hultberg was heavily influenced by art and although he did not become a writer, he wrote poetry throughout his life. His book of poetry, "Sole Witness," was published in 2004 shortly before his death , as well as a memoir titled "Vagabondage: A Paris Odyssey" published in 2011.
Hultberg studied at the California School of Fine Arts in San Francisco, now named the San Francisco Art Institute, where Richard Diebenkorn, a well-known 20th century American painter, mentored him. Hultberg's work was featured at exhibits in various locations where he won many prizes. By the time he would take his first visit to Monhegan, he had work displayed in museums and art galleries across Europe and the United States including the Museum of Modern Art and the Whitney Museum in New York.
According to Deci, when Hultberg arrived in Monhegan, he was "bowled over by the place." Deci said that the island reminded Hultberg of the San Francisco Bay area where he grew up which made him feel at home. With Jackson's help, he bought an angler's home on the island and kept it for more than 40 years.
Deci said: "He formed a very incredible intense relationship with Monhegan that wasn't always positive but it was intense."
When explaining the paintings selected for the exhibition, Deci said that he saw three distinct groupings of paintings.
"They're all intermingled but they fall into three categories," he said.
The first category is autobiographical paintings, where each painting depicts an event in Hutlberg's life. The second group of paintings has to do with Monhegan and landscape, ranging from representational to abstract. The final group, Deci refers to as "dream paintings." To Deci, they are the most important paintings as they are the most mature of Hultberg's work and have gained the most recognition.
"These various images from what he had seen before somehow put themselves together in unusual ways in a way of representing feelings or emotions that he had going on at the time," he explained.
He went on to say that many images that you don't think have anything to do with Mohegan actually do because they have imagery that represent his connection with the island.
After the presentation, people were guided to the gallery where the paintings were up for viewing.
Junior Su Sandi Aung said the painting "Swing Memory," was her favorite piece. The painting, explained Deci is a portrayal of Hultberg, which features a person bathed in light and seeming to be moving as if swinging on the light, highlighted by a dark red oval against a dark black background.
Deci recounted a writing of Hultberg in which he wrote of a time when he was two years old and his mother pushed him in a swing in the Berkley Hills. He described how, as he swung forward in the swing, he sailed up to the moons and stars then back into the safety of her waiting arms. This, Deci said, is what he senses in the painting. Aung appreciated the story behind the painting, though she admits she thought the meaning of the piece was different, she liked the unpredictability of it.
Senior Marlyn Flynn said she liked that the paintings were familiar.
"There are two pieces called Lobster Cove and it reminded me of when I went to England and Scotland and stood on beaches and there's something comforting about looking at it,"said Flynn
Junior Gabrielle Robbins liked the overall feeling of the paintings, and said, "I think the paintings are amazing and really surreal."
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