view smaller drawings view larger drawings
Long May She Fly
by Mark Koslow
What follows are my personal reflections and the reflections of a few others on Lynn Szalay, who died in November, 2012. I hardly know everything and found that no one does. She would make a great biographical study for someone as there is such disparate opinions about her. But there was no one who was looking out for her and her art in immediately previous years to her death. So, as the person who had helped her make this website of her work, I feel some responsibility to Lynn to tell what I know of her story. So this will not be your usual, sappy eulogy, nor your standard Wikipedia article that gives edited, promotional information and nothing else.. There will be those who disagree with what I might say here. Lynn and I shared a certain unashamed and outspoken quality and were not afraid of speaking our mind. So here I celebrate her with an opinionated and loving eulogy. The first part deals with her art with some comments about her life and the second with her death and the future of her art, which I consider to be problematical. This essay is divided into these sections:
is an attempt to begin a scholarly inquiry about her work. Lynn and I shared a
willingness to speak our mind, even if that meant alienating those who might be
complacent or who listen mostly to the status quo. So here I celebrate her with
an opinionated and loving appreciation that is in depth and does not scorn the
critical. As Lynn knew and practiced, critical thinking is essential to art and
democracy. I won't be hiding facts or covering up for her, except if I am
specifically asked to do so by an informant. Lynn's personal life is part of
her art. and she willingly gave up much of her personal life to art. She was
conflicted about doing this and left mixed messages about what she wanted to
leave to the world. There are those who wish to silence things coming out about
Lynn. I am not one of these. I will tell the truth such as I know it here. I
understand there are those who wish to be distanced from this effort. Lynn was a
controversial woman and did things even her family and friends found difficult
She herself would want a baby and said that she owned three cats, one of whom crawled away some months before she died, to die herself. Gizmo and Mr. Big were left and Mr. Big had a horrible accident in which he had to have his leg amputated. Lynn was a strong and no-nonsense artist and teacher in the Cleveland area. She got her Masters in Art at Kent State. An early friend, who prefers not to be mentioned, tells a story that Lynn was going to major in Childhood Education at Kent state, and was in an art class for teachers. Her drawing teacher thought her so good that he recommended she transfer to fine art. So Lynn got her Master's in fine art at a time Kent State still was strong in art. It is not much good at it anymore and mostly turns out Computer and marketing 'artists' or what we used to call "commercial artists". This is more advertising than art. Advertising is merely propaganda of a capitalist kind.
Lynn and I talked a lot about education and teaching art. It is important to
understand what has been happening to art education in the U.S. to understand
Lynn's unique gifts as a teacher. The Kent State of today has betrayed
artists like Lynn Szalay or Doug Unger, who was a good landscapist teacher at
Kent for many years, as well as one of the best makers of banjos, mandolins and
guitars in the country. If Lynn was young and studied at Kent. If she studied
there now all her painting teachers would be the current crop of vacuous
abstractionists, who cannot draw. Lynn would have gotten no useful education at
Kent beyond fashion, computer graphics and empty abstract art. In short, art has
been utterly corporatized and the faculty at Kent makes mindless abstractions,
indeed, it is hard to tell the work of one 'professor' apart from that of any
other.. If she studied there now they would seek to undermine her skill and
deform her mind with dogmatic 'post modernist' ideology from Art Forum magazine.
This self-destruction of art schools is occurring all across America.
Lynn was an educator and taught art in many venues after graduating from
Kent, including Tri-C (Cuyahoga Community College), the Cleveland
Institute of Art and Beck Center. Tri-C was her home in a way and the place
where she felt the most comfortable. She worked there with Paul Miklowski, Carol
Demiray and others. Lynn worked at Beck for something like 30 years. Lynn
lived within walking distance of this school. She loved to draw and could draw
anywhere, but she also liked being home and Lakewood was her home. That is why
she worked at Beck center, a school for which she was really overqualified. She
told me once that "No one takes Beck seriously", meaning no one who knows
anything about art takes Beck seriously. Part of the problem with Beck is
the administration. Lynn wanted me to work there and she got me a job that
I held for two years, teaching painting and life drawing. It was a good
place primarily because Lynn was there and it was great to be near her and
discuss the world and art. As Chomsky points out administrators are the main
problem in today's higher education. They take too much money. When Lynn
died I was very alone at Beck and no longer felt at home there. The latent
mediocrity in the administration asserted itself strongly and so I left a few
days after she died. It was clear they were glad to be rid of her, and me too.
The loss was theirs.
"When Lynn and I met [ in the late 1970's] the one thing we had in common, other than being headstrong singular Artists was we both were also active photographers. She made beautiful small jewel like black and white prints, while my photographic work was primarily larger grainy infrared work. However, we both primarily photographed subject matter to be used in our more substantive work. For her, drawings, while mine at the time was intaglio. We modeled for one another and critiques were ongoing and spirited. Our work and our natures couldn't have been much more different yet our admiration and respect for one another never in question. On average we talked, at length, almost every week for over thirty years. I respected her and cared about her from the onset of our relationship and am comforted only by knowing that she knew that." ---Al Aitken
Dave Dreimiller says that Lynn's photography really precedes her drawing and
that he witnessed the first of her drawn works and how they grew out of her
photography. Indeed, she composed most of her large compositions first as
photographs and then made large drawings out of them using a graph system,
basically copying the photo rather than drawing it by eye. Some people think
that this involved less skill, which may be so on the one hand. But she did it
extremely well. If you see these drawings in person, you cannot fail to be
impressed with the amount of sheer work involved and skill in rendering. It is
not that easy to draw from photos. She also taught life drawing and was good at
drawing from models, indeed, many of her smaller notebooks are life drawings.
Today Lynn is widely acclaimed for her incredible ability at drawing. However back in the late 1970s and early '80s, her primary passion was photography. She freelanced photos for Sun Newspapers at the time, and devoted spare time to her own creative photography. Lynn worked exclusively in 35mm BW format. She processed all of her own film and printed enlargements in a home darkroom. Lynn disdained studio work and preferred instead to work on location under natural light. She rarely used flash equipment, and only then to create special effect. There was no digital photography back then. And Lynn, being a purist, avoided darkroom trickery. She composed everything through the viewfinder and that was it. Whatever she captured was what was printed, she told me. She wouldn't even crop an image during enlargement.
Her favorite settings were abandoned farm houses, dilapidated structures and cemeteries. She had a sixth sense for finding such locations and constantly scouted out new ones. One of her favorites was a ramshackle homestead out in rural Lagrange. We spent countless hours at this place and some very striking images were captured there. Posing for Lynn was no picnic. She was very demanding and often impatient. A session could end at any moment without warning if she wasn't feeling the mood, or sensed I was distracted. Since so much of Lynn's work (even into her later years) centered on the facial expression of her model, this last point was particularly important. Lynn seldom verbalized what exactly she hoped to gain from any particular session. She was not given to explanations of her thought process while working. Typically once she entered her zone, any conversation was largely limited to instructions on positioning. But she did offer encouragement and would exclaim "perfect" or "hold that", "don't move" once she felt a pose had been dialed in. On many occasions it was pure magic; she often knew if she had captured a good image the moment the shutter clicked. She was driven by her desire to create art, and let nothing stand in her way.
Technically Lynn was a master of light and shadow as well as composition. But there was something much deeper in her photos. They often captured a mood that seemingly reflected her mental state at that moment. Lynn was conflicted and you can read this in her images: sometimes soft and gentle, other times ripped by a feeling of stark grittiness. Her photos often evoked darkness and ultimately sadness; full of emotion yet utterly devoid of joy or happiness. The use of run down old buildings as backdrops further accentuated the forlorn quality in her images. An enduring aspect of Lynn's work was the ability to fit the facial expression and pose of her model with its environment. It provides a sense that the subject somehow belongs there, and makes the images feel more cohesive. One can see this time and again in Lynn's work.
Each weekend she would share with me the prints she had made from the prior session, having spent countless hours in the darkroom making enlargements. She brought forth only the images that she felt succeeded or held some meaning. And her idea of success was likely to change from week to week. Something that she loved one day might be regarded as utter crap the next. Lynn constantly shifted her goal posts and this might help explain why she was never fully satisfied with her work. ....Images she considered unworthy that anyone else might think ought to be on display in a museum. ... Each one tells a story, and helps me recall the circumstances of the day it was created. Time has not diminished the impact; its as if the photos were taken only yesterday.
As powerful as the
photographic prints were, she thought that they could be taken a step further.
Thus was born her large format drawings. I watched her create the first one,
working entirely from an 8 x 10 photograph. She scaled it up on paper using only
her eyes and hands to work out the proportions. From there she began to define
the contours and fill in tones. I believe the very first image was of the two
little girls that lived next door to her parents house in Rocky River. Work on
this drawing went on night and day until it was completed. The finished drawing
had even greater impact than the original photo. The sheer size was impressive,
and the drawing somehow conveyed more depth and dimension than the photograph
from which it was based. "
Her favorite photographer, she once told me, was Ralph Meatyard, a man from Kentucky who did photos of men, women and children in strange mid-West towns, often wearing masks. Meatyard liked weird focus and abandoned buildings, giving his works a surreal and dislocated ordinariness. Lynn imitated him and also loved masks, dolls and the theatrical. Lynn's interest in Masks and Dolls always mystified me, but made much more sense after I looked up Meatyard's work. As photographer Emett Gowin said of Meatyard: " he was so many people all mixed up in one." This is true of Lynn too. All her subjects in her art and photos are her in a way, but not her too.
Al Aitken took this composite photo in the late 1970's of Lynn in a pose very much reminiscent of Meatyard's photos. She was using masks to try to explore social relations both as a positive phenomena, and as a critical way of addressing or compensating for her own social frustrations. I remember Lynn talking about Diane Arbus, years ago. Lynn explored issues of identity and sexual identity too. Lynn was a woman of many contradictions. She did not like men much but could be forceful and demanding in a very male way. Also, most of her drawings are about intimacy but she often shunned intimacy in her own life. She rejected ordinary life in a certain way, yet in later years she recognized that ordinary life is really all that matters. She knew she was dying and one day said to me that she is only 62 years old and she thought she would live to be 90, like her parents. When she said that she only had a few months to live. It was said with a realism and a matter of fact recognition of regret that is not forgettable.
Al Aitkin also pictured Lynn and some of her drawings in 1984. If you notice in the upper third of the painting there is another is another image of Lynn somehow projected onto the photo, looking up. Interesting photo, with Lynn seeking beyond herself.
I proposed her for this website and was glad she got into it. Some of the best drafts-people in the world are on there and she belongs there too. Lynn was an artist who wanted to turn photography into painting, and that is fairly rare. She literally tried to make dark photographs resonate with the same energy you see in a Renoir. She wanted to do drawn photography, realism mediated through charcoal and rendered into film noir images of humanities beauties and sorrows.
would not be inaccurate to describe her as a feminist artist, insofar as nearly
all of her large drawings are about women or girls. There are a few notable
exceptions. This concern with seeing the world as a woman, came quite natural to
Lynn. Indeed, I expect some of her works will one day hang in the Women's Museum
in Washington D.C. One day she told me that she did not consciously avoid men in
the large drawings, she just preferred to draw women, as that is the world that
she knows. There are no doubt thousands of drawings of men in her notebooks from
Life Class. But it was the world of women that especially concerned her in her
larger drawings and self-portraits.
Lynn was anti war. Not only Vietnam but latter wars too. She was very much concerned about norms in patriarchal societies that men control and kill and women grieve. Notice how, in the drawing above, Lynn has written the words "WOMEN GREIVE" in heavy authoritative letters carved on a rock or tombstone. She contrasts the grim tombstone which condemns women to a passive life of suffering to this smiling woman who wears bird feathers or leaves on her shoulder, suggesting flight or fecundity. Lynn is fighting the convention of woman as passive sufferers. This drawing suggests resistance to acceptance of the idea of women are grieving victims who are passive in their own lives.
I take from that Lynn is saying in this drawing that women should not grieve, live life as best you can, smile, reject to the tomb of conventional wisdom that tells women what to be and how to feel. Lynn was certainly anti-war, as she lived through the violence at Kent State. War is the largest creator of women's grief. Lynn was not one to think that women should sit home and passively let their son's be killed for an unjust government. Of course, I don't know exactly what Lynn's thought processes were in this drawing, but I am sure she thought about it and meant it to be provocative in some way. This is a good example of the suggestive richness of Lynn's imagery. Various interpretations of the same piece might be equally valid.
The smile of the woman in the drawing is the smile on a Greek sculpture or Da Vinci's Mona Lisa. Indeed, I would say that the overall meaning of Lynn's work is in just such a smile. You can see it in many of Lynn's women, often the ones with eyes closed, but children in her work share a similar expression. Here is a face from another of Lynn's drawings that also expresses this affirmation of life and the importance of inwardness in understanding our common humanity. This is a drawing about the feeling of existence, the affirmative awareness of being alive.
Someday an art scholar of unusual skill will begin the task of deciphering Lynn's works. There is much more to it than might appear at first glance. Finding about who all the models were would be helpful as would tracking down some of her romantic partners.
She was also a also a very good teacher. Writing about her own teaching, Lynn said:
"Another aspect of my role as an instructor is to share my passion for the creative process. To give a student just the technical foundation of technique is not enough. Motivation and inspiration are also an essential part of the process. Every moment that I am in the classroom I am a role model of an artist. [The creative] process enables students to not only enhance their critical thinking skills, but to promote independent thinking through the continual process of evaluating their own progress. I also believe that the cultivation of aesthetic awareness does elevate mankind. Furthermore I believe that the discipline required to develop visual perception creates a more sensitive individual. This will enable this person to form a deeper connection to humanity, therefore they will have more to contribute to society."
Below is a quick drawing I did of her and one of her students during a drawing class I took with her. This was done less than a year ago and shows Lynn being the "role model of an artist".
Lynn was an idealist and strove to picture people with depth and heart, not merely as abstractions. She hoped to make people better through her art. She hoped they would see the beauty in people through her drawings. Her drawings were deeply about caring for one another, caring for nature and so were ultimately about love of people and nature. Comments by her students suggest she succeeded very well as a teacher. Here are a few of her students accounts of her class I have gathered
From Wally Kaplan:
From Sally Price Ross:
I have known Lynn since we were both art students at Kent State University. We studied with an incredible, outstanding group of artists teaching there in the late 60`s-early 70`s, and lived through the time and events surrounding the May 4th killings. I'll always carry the image of Lynn having charcoal smears on her face at that time, and often sitting on the floor by herself, completely focused, drawing directly in front of the model stand! She remained that same intensely passionate person 40 plus years later, who was to become a master draftswoman and outstanding teacher. Lynn always remained true to herself and her craft, and she worked hard and cared deeply about her work and for her students. We all knew her compassion for animals and nature and especially her cats, taking time to listen and learn from them (on her bike or on foot). I will always admire her dedication and devotion to nature and to life itself, so I say "Rest in peace Lynn, love you and miss you".
Her student, Sarah Wean, wrote that
Lynn's beginning life drawing classes at Tri-C Metro provided me with a rigorous start to a life-long love of drawing the human figure. Lynn put a full size human skeleton in the middle of the room and we'd study and memorize the names of the bones, then the muscles. Only after we knew the basic workings of the body did we put conte crayon to newsprint. Lynn's unbridled and infectious enthusiasm for drawing a body was a big part of her appeal as a teacher. In the long silences during drawing, she'd suddenly step up to the live model and point out a particular muscle, or some small delicate bone or curve, that we might want to see, that clearly stuck her as amazing. And so we'd find it amazing, too. She always drew along with us, allowing us to view her sketches and drawings at the end of the day. She was approachable, kind, and smart. And she connected with people and their desire to learn. I was honored to have known her.
George Kozmon writes:
I understand that you're gathering some thoughts in
celebration of Marilyn's life. Here is my contribution, and I appreciate your
I started teaching art two years ago in the same school as Lynn. Lynn got
me the job. She was very sick already and I felt she had slowed down quite alot
as a teacher. I did go to a few of her night classes in the 1980's at Beck
Center. They were not really teaching classes. I would have liked to have
experienced more of Lynn's teaching at an earlier stage, as her teaching was
stressed by her illness when I was in her classes. I discussed this with her and
asked her why she does not teach the students much, and she said that she found
teaching life drawing very hard, and that each student had to find their own
way, and all she could do was be an example for them. She said many of the kids
in her class were unlikely to do creative work at other times in their life and
her job was to help them have time to create in her class. She said that even if
they were not very good at it, at least they were trying to create something. I
thought she sounded somewhat defeated when she said this, and I hoped I would
not feel that defeated. I did teach her class for awhile. I found it very
difficult to teach and admired her even more..
Being a new teacher I had a great deal of passion for it. Lynn and I discussed
teaching often. In life drawing she liked gesture and feeling for form and
slowly learning to mass a figure based on informed feeling. I found it
incongruous that someone who was so precise in her drawings, held to this ideal
of gesture as the foundation of art. In actual practice she was very exact and
precise. Her life drawings are very different than her large format drawings,
though, as she was sometimes primarily about gesture. But she knew allot about
anatomy and that informed her drawings too. But she was especially inspired in
her teaching by Kimon Nicolaides' book the Natural Way to Draw. I showed
her other life drawing books I have been studying, such as that of Anthony Ryder
or Juliette Aristides and she said she preferred Nicolaides. I did not agree
with her. My own views on life drawing were more experimental, trying many
different methods. I am especially attracted to a more classical approach and
she thought that was unteachable in most of the schools in Ohio. I doubt
she is right about that.
At one point I asked Lynn to put together a selection of her life drawings representing the 40 years she had been doing and teaching it, but by that time she did not have the energy to do it. We went through some of this vast work one day at her townhouse apartment and she wanted to date it all and organize it. I offered to help. She said she would do it. But she just couldn't do it. She was not good at accepting help. She did not have the energy of will. Someday, if her work is not broken up and sold off irresponsibly, I hope someone will put together just such collection as it would be a great teaching aid. I got a good glimpse that day of the vast array of her work. I may know more about her work than anyone, but that is not saying that much. There is much that I do not know. There is much that will be lost about her work. I tried to get Lynn to write down everything about each piece, but I am sure she did not have the energy to do it. She could be a very difficult person to deal with, and was not prone to talking much when she did not feel like it. So much of the lore that might have been known about each of her works, will probably not be discovered or known. The same goes for knowledge she might have shed on her technical excellence. The technical brilliance of many of these works escapes thorough analysis. Anecdotes an Lynn writing about each major piece would have helped a lot.
Her life drawings are very different than her other work and I regret not being able to see many years of her life drawings. It would be interesting to see years of changes in her style and methods. In later works, in the last few years, she worked in pen and ink and her drawings exhibit a stylized linear shorthand that is based on curves and hatchings. There are hints of this in the self-portraits, but in the life drawings this is reduced to a shorthand that is curvilinear, as it were. Here is a life drawing that is relatively recent, the last 5 years, but done in conte or charcoal, perhaps both. This was one of her favorite models. Notice the strength of the gesture while she is never far from consciousness of structure and form. How beautifully the nose is drawn and the planes and structures of the mouth are delineated.
Unlike her large drawings, which were done from photos with use of an exact grid, the life drawings, and various portraits she did, contain allot of gropings and imperfections. In her last self portraits she used many techniques in her drawings that one has to go back 100 years to see used. Some of her hatching, massing and shadowing techniques can only be found in 19th century engravings on even further back in Rembrandt's etchings. Some of her things evoke Raphael or Pontormo. She was a great admirer of Renaissance Italian art and went to Italy to view great works. The brilliance of her skill was not understood even by some of her students and teachers who worked with her. She was aware of this and we talked about it more than once. She knew she was very good at what she did and had a pride in it.
At the same time she was unfortunately rather secretive about it, rather like the Guild masters of old, and as a result many of her technical skills died with her. Part of this was because her methods were largely 'intuitive' as she was would say. But part of it was just stubbornness, shyness, false pride and a will to be secretive. She should have taught them to others. I tried to get her to teach me and she did teach me many things, but she was very hesitant to teach her own knowledge about her own work. She taught me some things, but it was hard to get her to explain beyond a certain point. I wanted to get to know what she was doing better than I was able to. Maybe one day some intelligent person will reconstruct some of her processes. She did not leave students behind who know exactly what she was doing. She was too possessive of her knowledge just as her family is now possessive of her work. This is a great shame. Someone who has as much mastery of a craft as Lynn, has an obligation to pass it on. Lynn did not understand this and held on to her skill with a selfish pride that will not help her work be opened to others easily. Of course, there is in her work, as in any really great artist, a fluidity and a skill or 'genius' that cannot be taught. It is mysterious and connected to the deep inner life Lynn led. Lynn's own proscription for doing great drawings was simple, 'draw, draw and then draw some more, every day if you can'. Of course this is a somewhat facile prescription. Her knowledge of classical drawing techniques was considerable, but as far as I know she did not try to explain it very often..
Regarding Lynn's conception of her own drawings, she once told me that she thought she did her best work between 1998 and 2002, particularly closer to the latter date. Some of these drawing are so well done you would think they are paintings in charcoal and indeed, that is exactly what they are. I thought that some of the drawings even looked like Renoirs. She agreed. Her use of charcoal starts to approach the luster and depth of oil colors. This is a section of one her of her best drawings. Notice the perfection of the placement of light and dark such that they planes of the hair and face are exactly placed, and spatial relationship are perfectly maintained.
If you look at some of the drawings from that period Lynn had partly given up using charcoal implements and had started using powdered charcoal which she applied with her fingers. She still used pencils for detail and precision, but much of it was done with fingers and erasers.
She told me she gave up combining conte crayon and charcoal in 1984 and after that used only charcoal. Her mastery of her craft was thrilling and solitary. Rather like Chopin who became such a master of Piano that his music goes beyond piano, Lynn goes beyond her medium into the subject she portrays with great beauty. She did not like modern art much and tried to create an art of content and depth. She is going beyond the graphite, as Van Gogh recommends going "beyond the paint", which means reaching out to the subject itself, as a realist
Over the years Lynn said that these artists were particularly moving to her. Pontormo, Michelangelo, Proudhon, Lucian Freud, Kathe Kollowitz, Gregory Gillespie. Lynn and I discussed these artists often. I wished we had discussed Phillip Pearlstein as her compositional style of cropped figures resembles his. She loved Michelangelo's drawings. I never liked Michelangelo that much, and preferred Da Vinci, and Lynn and I once agued little about that in a friendly way. I do like this one, however, for much the same reasons I like Lynn's drawings: it has finely executed shading, and turns form in a vivid way. I am only referring to the body of the baby, not the mother.
Otherwise I find Michelangelo too Platonic and otherworldly for me and his
figures tend to the grotesque. The mannerist style he developed morphed from
services to an autocratic Church to service of the autocratic absolutism of the
aristocrats. Lynn liked mannerism and exaggerations. But she felt "drawn in" by
Michelangelo, whereas I felt repelled by the gigantisms and the propaganda for
the Church. She had gone to Italy some years before she died and gave me a full
report on "The Sistine Chapel", which she was overwhelmed by. I do feel drawn in
by the beauty of the above child, but most of his other drawings do not interest
me much, though I can see their skill. Da Vinci interests me far more, as he
does not negate nature as does Michelangelo, but rather revels in it and his
drawings are more about accurate inquiry and science than about either the
Church or the upper classes. Lynn and I also discussed artists like Paula Rego,
Kitaj and many others. She liked the former but had misgiving about Kitaj, as
his drawings were often less good then they could have been, but at least he
could draw a little, almost alone among artists of corporate/gallery markets.
Lynn hated abstract art, in general. We talked about that more than once as students often want to do abstract things in class. I asked her if I should let them and she said no. She said that she thought students like to do abstractions because they are easy and they do not have to think. They learn no skill, do not learn to use drawing as an inquiry about reality and learn nothing about beauty or humanity. Most recent art has tried to destroy skill, beauty, inquiry and meaning as criteria in art. This anti-intellectual tendency is suffused through the entire art world and Lynn was opposed to it, as am I. Henri Matisse speaks approvingly of having heard Toulouse Lautrec say that "at last I don't know how to draw". ( Quoted in Deanna Petherbridge's The Primacy of Drawing pg. 415 ) Picasso says that when he was young he "could draw like Raphael, but I have spent all these years learning to draw like [children]". First of all, though Picasso did some pretty good drawings in his career, however inconsistently, no drawing by Picasso comes close to Raphael. Indeed, while Picasso did a few fine things, many of his works are very hard to take seriously, and are superficial and frankly, childish and silly for an adult. Second, neither Matisse, Lautrec or Picasso knew much about children, much less about why or what children draw.
Art for children is not blissful stupidity, but an attempt to understand reality. As they learn more their drawings become more and more sophisticated and concerned with reality and problem solving. I spend my days with a couple of young drawers and their attempt to grasp reality can be very concentrated and intense. The idealization of childhood is a misunderstanding akin to the ideology of the "noble savage". Empty color, vapid design and meaningless, ugly scratches are the ideal corporate art. The more meaningless and inhuman the better. Modernist and Postmodernist art endeavors to be anti-intellectual and vacuous, and erect an "atavistic", "primitive" art proud of meaning nothing, inquiring into nothing, telling no story, not understanding reality and proud to be about itself alone. Beauty is banished. Such empty art is perfect for corporate lobbies as it signified nothing yet takes up space and entertains without any thoughts to think. For me, and I think for Lynn, drawing and painting are above all an attempt to understand our world and our place in it, and as such they are basically one with the scientific project, with inquiry and further, with understanding.
Drawing is generally not a descent into madness and the idiotic, the childish and the worship of art's own processes and materials. Drawing actual children is a different thing and Lynn was a Maestro at this.
Art is better in devotion to reality and actual beings and things. The rampant subjectivism of much art now leads to bankruptcy. The search for authentic "outsider art" is itself an admission of the inauthentic insider emptiness of the art world. Addicted to "irony", the true irony is that the art world as it now exists has very little to do with art. It is really a fashion business run by gallery owners and effete, servile critics dogmatized by their own pronouncements. They know almost nothing about real art or its history. It is a scam for the ultra rich to get them to part with some of their not-at-all-hard-'unearned' money.
Petherbridge concludes her great book on Drawing(2010, pages 413--414) by
stating that recent art has rejected intelligence and "differentiated skill
based systems of drawing" in favor of expressive irrationalism,
"atavism" and "primitivism". The dumbing down of art for corporate culture has
required art to become as stupid and vacuous as possible, empty of content.
Recent art "enshrines Robocop rather than Rembrandt as the graphic model for
young artists". Most recent art has tried to destroy "skill and technical
considerations" and has a 'fear of literalism" or realism, as well as a notion
of drawing as an "interrogative practice" or art as a method of study.
Study or inquiry, intelligence, beauty and the seeking of meaning in the reality
of things is the criteria or art. Recent art abandons the very things I
consider to be art and it promotes meaningless geometries or ugly scratches
which are the ideal corporate art. Art in the galleries of New York and the
university art schools in our time endeavors to be anti-intellectual and
vacuous, and erect an art proud of meaning nothing, inquiring into nothing,
telling no story. Such art is perfect for corporate lobbies as it signifies
nothing yet takes up space and entertains without any thoughts to think.
I think Lynn would have liked Petherbridge's book and agreed with her ideas.
Lynn's feeling of disjuncture or alienation was real in her own life and is
conveyed in her drawings and photos. Few seemed to know her. Indeed at the end
of her life she was largely alone. Her relationship to nature is shared by very
few, as was her devotion to animals. Politically she was also out of bounds,
being anti-war and wanting a world in which art was not about money. She felt
herself a sort of pariah sometimes and mourned the fact that some people who she
hoped would love her saw her only as a "hippie artist who lives in dreams".
These are Lynn's own words.
Lynn did not pursue the ordinary course expected of women and she definitely got flack and disapproval for this. There have been many women artists who did not have to abandon art for children and men. There are also women artists who choose to be with women and some of the have children, Lynn was neither of these, exactly. But, for whatever reason, she could not see herself ever being married and yet she so wished she could be married and loved the idea of it. So she did some drawings that explore girls ideas of marriage in a seemingly innocent way, yet there is something satirical or tragic in these works, expressed with a surreal sadness. Girls playing with dolls and dressing up in wedding dresses, unaware of what the future will be. There is in her work and life a certain tragic quality. The subtle element of satire in her work is never overt as in Goya or Daumier, but she does sometimes mock the conventions that were expected of women, including marriage. She was proud of her achievements in art and the workplace. She paid for this pride and willingness to experiment dearly in her personal life.
Lynn often turned her personal life into art. Indeed for Lynn's generation of women the "personal was political" , Every artist like Lynn who deliberately makes an intensely personal art, gives up much right to her personal life. How much of Lynn's art will appear in public remains to be seen. Lynn's art is some ways questions her family and her own gender stereotypes, including herself and those close to her. No one with any knowledge of art will approve any silencing of Lynn's voice and creative commitments, of course. Lynn struggled with the personal and public in her art, and it is even an overt theme. The relevant facts of Lynn's personal life will eventually be known better and will cast light on the motivations of her art. It remains to be seen how much Lynn's family will or won't cooperate with any deep inquiry, ----so far the signs don't look good. That means that attempts should be made to talk with models and friends and anyone who can shed light on individual drawings Lynn made.All her work is in some way autobiographical, but there is also the subject and she cared about her subjects. I met Lynn in 1981, and influenced by Meatyard and Diane Arbus then, she was playing with gender ambiguity and a sort of light surrealism. Her series of self portraits with animals evoke Frida Kahlo's and like Frida she is not really a surrealist, but deeper than that. ( see below) The series of self portraits she did show her as a great naturalist, which she was.
She liked that as she herself felt both a man and a woman sometimes and you can see that in how she dressed and behaved at times as well as in her work. You can see in the following drawing that Lynn is again playing with gender ambiguity. She told me this was a woman too, but it sure does look like a young man. I told her I thought it was a man, and she laughed one of her knowing laughs. The pose with the male deer skull also looks a bit daunting, in the sense of trying to adopt the male deer persona, or 'totem' as some might call it. It recalls the Trois Freres antlered man, sometimes called the sorcerer or Shaman in ancient art.
Lynn drew herself with these antlers in this sort of pose too.
Her late self-portraits grew out of this kind of imagery where male and female and animals are all mixed. I think she was striving for a universal image, as well as an image that celebrated deer, which she loved and spent time pursuing. (see below for a few of the self-portraits.)
Photo by Mark Koslow
It is part of the tension of her work that she questions those who accept
conventions. She seeks the meaning behind myths and expectations that parents
and siblings might force upon their children in childhood. Her fascination
with barriers, like mimes seeking to find the end of invisible box, are
certainly part of this. She often places a figure against a glass or with hands
or even lips on glass to suggest the desire to go beyond social norms, physical
enclosures, boundaries, or resistances. She felt judged and condemned by
people in her past, her family or bad lovers and hiding behind the theatre of
her art, behind the masks and dolls, was one strategy where she could preserve
her own dignity and still express herself.
The use of run down old buildings as backdrops further accentuated the forlorn quality in her images. An enduring aspect of Lynn's work was the ability to fit the facial expression and pose of her model with its environment.
There is a sense of danger in it too, a feeling of imprisonment, perhaps, or frustration, as of being denied what one loves or left behind. Hence the title "Edges" which puts emphasis the broken glass. She did not have a happy history in her relations with the opposite sex and this work may also be about that. The image is fraught with contradictions. There is peace in the face and anguish, longing and frustration. The relation with this man seems to have been both wonderful and terrible. This drawing was completed in 1996, some 15 years after they separated. Since it is Lynn's drawing it is not out of the question that the loss and other emotions expressed here are hers. Indeed the face has an intentional androgynous character that makes it unclear if it is a man or a woman. Lynn clearly wanted it to be read as a female since she told me it was a female. So while it is clearly a portrait of this person Dave it is also a picture of Lynn, in a way. Gender confusion is part of the image and I think deliberately so. But it hints at a love with a man that was shattered. I do not know why they separated, but she was evidently still haunted by the relationship 15 years later, though she never spoke of it, for reasons that are mysterious. So, perhaps this is partly too a picture of nostalgia and disappointment for a lost love, or disappointment in men in general. It may be a picture of one of the a times she had good chance at love with a man. But the broken glass suggests this was never to be and it ended in tragedy for Lynn, as it did more than once. It is a picture that raises many questions. But it is a great drawing, one of her best, deep in feeling and marvelously rendered.
Another great drawing by Lynn is the "Sadness of Miss Jane",
which may be based on the novel called the
Sadness of Jane Pittman, though I doubt it, as that is about a black woman
and the drawing appears to be a white woman. It is more likely that Lynn used
the sadness of Miss Jane, by Brad Watson. This is about a girl who is
deformed and cannot be married, have sex or control her own urination. Lynn
never talked about this drawing to me and I never saw it, till recently, (2019)
but it has some resonance with Lynn herself, who I thinks saw herself as an
outcaste, sometimes, as well and a stranger in a society that did not understand
her. I do not know enough to say that this is what this drawing is about, but it
makes sense, and it may be correct to say that is what it is about. The courage
of facing up to disability and the aloneness of seeming deformed to others who
If you look at the drawings, even her life drawings, you can see that this is true. She draws all kinds of people with no preference for the pretty ones and each is accorded respect and care. She saw beauty where few others saw anything at all or condemned what they saw. This is true of animals too. Indeed, in her great final series of self-portraits this Whitmanesque ideal of the essential dignity of us all is extended to animals. Lynn does self-portraits with every animal she can think of. Each animal is being put on the stage equal to her own ego, equal to her ego and as worthy of presentation as herself. The only other female artist that I can think of that has tried to do something like this is Patricia Traub : see
Lynn and Nature
A man who modeled often in her life class, Jim Solotko, and Lynn used to wander around natural areas looking for antlers shed by deer and I would often see them together in that pursuit. She had a collection of deer antlers found in the forests. Here is an example of both Lynn's care for animals and her deep involvement with nature. She was terribly upset that the park was killing individual deer both she and I had personally known and interacted with closely, for some years. In 2001 she wrote me that:
" I have seen no does in the wetlands, but on the North side of the Lorain bridge, in the conifers I've seen doe and fawn, whereas uphill a bachelor group has been residing. Saturday, as I biked past I was overcome with sorrow for the matriarch [deer] and cried so hard that I had to get off my bike.[ I did a painting of myself and this deer and her fawn] I wandered on the other side and things got worse as I came upon a starving buck, with a broken front leg. She was part of my seasonal awareness and that cycle is now broken. She was the first deer to communicate with me. However on Sunday I was walking deep in the woods in Millstream, near Pearl, and scattered a substantial herd. Awhile later I was walking and heard some rustling behind me, when I turned I was being followed by a string of 8 browsing deer, which I don't think realized that I was something different until I turned. I also saw a barred owl in there. The long eared owls were at the edge of Stinchcomb, not facing the river but where there are a few short conifers. Yes, spring is great but I always mourn the passing of winter's peace and tree forms. I love the Spring nature sounds."
She said she wanted to make a memorial to the deer that were killed out of all the deer horns she collected over the years. I don't think this ever came to pass. She kept all those deer horns in her bedroom. perhaps Jim Solotko should have been given them and he could have made a memorial for Lynn and the deer she so loved.
Lynn with Barn Owl at the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo
Her drawings and photos are largely unknown now, but I'm sure will be come more widely known as time passes. She was not a perfect person, as is the case with many artists. But she had a deep understanding of nature and the human body. In her work there is great love of the dignity of humanity, children and animals. She loved light and the pure beauty of innocence. Her devotion to animals and nature was real and down to earth.
I took the above very imperfect photo with a camera that was malfunctioning. My
kids, wife and I took Lynn to the zoo that day by train and it was a great day.
She had more energy then and could manage such a long day with us. She
looked so at home with the gorgeous Lion I could not resist a picture of them
both. A major part of my own relationship to Lynn, was sharing nature between
us. She would call me up and tell us she saw a Hummingbird's nest and did we
went to watch the Hummingbird nests with her. We went and saw it wit her.
Another time we went or saw a Screech Owls in a tree hole. Lynn, my wife and I
watched Warblers feeding and Orioles building nests at Heroes wetland together.
She saw fish jumping at the river at dawn and owls flying at twilight. She
watched hawk nests and saw their babies with glee and happiness. We knew the
same deer who died and loved the same spring birds migrating up Rocky River
headed for Canada. She got to know Heroes Wetland and other places very well.
In drawing of our mutual friend Michele Anderson, she shows Michele under
a lovely veil. While it seems to have religious association actually it is
really about light and inner warmth, the feeling of inner completeness. Lynn was
fascinated by hidden things, as well as revealed things, and even did a number
of photos of herself all blurred and disappearing in her photographs. Lynn
struggled to make images that suggested more than they spelled out. There was
nothing religious about our friend Michele, nor was she ever married as
far as I know. So the veil is really a sort of prop for Lynn to explore light
and radiance, as well as to comment, perhaps ironically, an the institution of
marriage itself, which both Lynn and Michele contended with and had mixed
feelings about. It is not a religious drawing, but a drawing about inner
radiance and the questioning of social institutions.
Such a large Bullfrog is very strong and needs to be held firmly, but she is holding it both firmly and with delicacy. She loved anatomy and the body and she loved owls, raptors and nature. The skeleton for her was not about death. Lynn saw the skeleton as a life drawing instructor. It was a framing structure for the whole body and for life itself. Her late drawings are not death obsessed as are the late drawings of Kathe Kollowitz, an artist Lynn loved. I never heard Lynn say anything positive about dying, she very much wanted to live right up the end, and she asked me to do all I could to try to get the doctors to help her. I did try and would have succeeded if the insurance company and other circumstances had not prevented it. It was not her "time" as superstitious people say, it was the greed of insurance companies that forced her "time" upon her. She could have lived longer and wanted to. She told me she wished she could live as long as her parents who are around 90. I wish she could have too.
Lynn was a lover of life and even her vision of death was not morbid awareness of the catholic tomb. Her image of death was a life drawing awareness of skeletons as an image of structure for our existence covered with muscle and skin. She was a realist and fought for realism against the abstractionists who wanted to stultify art with inane self reference.
The late drawings are about a woman in nature, ---a woman among the animals. Lynn loved the women who pioneered the study of Gorillas, Chimps and Orangutans, Diane Fossey, Jane Goodall, Val Plumwood aand Birute Galdikas. Lynn's work is a serious contribution to this heritage of feminism and the fight for environmental and animal rights. He late drawings are an effort to project herself behind the images of countless animals, reptiles and birds. For awhile she tried to do these drawings everyday, but that proved difficult after awhile, because of her illness. She was influenced by the painting a day movement in this. But she completed many drawings, hundreds, and they all have a certain structure. Certainly, there is a desperation in them, in that she knew her illness would be fatal and it forced upon her a wish to draw her own life and face day after day. But the basic form of them show herself behind an animal. Some of the scenes were invented with the help of photos, as is the case with the Red Tail and squirrel above. But in many cases, she found a picture of an animal on the internet or in a magazine and used it in front of her, adapting the animal to herself. This constant effort to identify with animals she loved was partly in an effort to become nature herself and to become nature itself, I think, to be the world of beings that she so much loved. Lynn did not believe in life after death, but she was sure of her own skill in drawing and art. Her last effort seeks to assimilate all her skills into nature.
Lynn and I also were friends on the subject of animal rights. She loved animals and birds with all her being. I admired her courage on certain occasions. She and another person, who I will not mention, dragged and dumped bags of corn into areas outside Cleveland Metro parks to get the deer to come and eat outside of the park. The reason for this was because the park was slaughtering deer in late night massacres behind police blockades and all the deer she could get to eat outside the park would likely be saved from the slaughter. Lynn did not like any kind of cruelty toward animals. She was willing to fight against cruelty by specific actions.
Her late self-portraits all show her with animals and birds, in poses that show her as a champion of all living things. There are hundreds of these and they are a very great series. Eventually these will be seen as a great contribution to the history of drawing as well as an expression of her love of nature. In the late 1990s I would often see her at Heroes Wetland, a pond in Rocky River Reservation where I studied birds and animals for nearly two years. She was into hawks then and I think I expanded her repertoire and got her interested in warblers and other birds. Her love of raptors was pronounced. Lynn wrote this poem about Hawks that could have been about herself:
Lynn was my friend and I did all I could to help her. Now she is gone and I must
say goodbye. Goodbye Lynn Szalay, it was good to know you. There is no one like
you and I miss you.
Mark Koslow with help from others, Nov. 2012. –Aug 2019
Part 2: Lynn's Death and the Future of her Art
Lynn's struggle with Scleroderma was a major part of her last ten years. I was one of the few she told about it. She did not like to talk about it and kept it secret from many people, including her family. Her family must have known something was very wrong, but as far as I know they took no action about it. They should have, of course, as it was obvious she had something very serious. Lynn was very strong willed and she was not going to budge on her silence about her disease. I did not agree with her about this secrecy as it cut her off from options to help her. There was a self destructiveness in it. She said she did not want to worry anyone. But I could see there was more to it than that. She felt anyone helping her would be an humiliation. She had a very stubborn pride and could not admit that she might need help. She wrongly thought others would think less of her because she was sick. There appears to have been a similar bull headedness on the part of her family too, making their relationship to each other dysfunctional. At the very end she gave up all that, as I will show.
Alot of people turned out to her Memorial, but that was not the reality of her
life. Indeed, in the end of her life, before she went into the hospital, as her
body failed, all her friends abandoned her and the terrible effects of her own
secrecy about her illness began to make her suffer. All her friends loved her to
distraction after she died, but hardly anyone was there when she actually needed
it. I suppose this is true of most of our lives. Unlike more socialized
countries, America uses hospitals and medicines to make money for men who have
too much of it, and prevents people from going to hospitals who might really
need it. There is an unfortunate ethic that not going to the doctor or hospital
is virtuous. Those who claim to be friends after death are not. In some respects
she martyred herself, and in other respects she was neglected by those who
should have stood up and insisted she get medical care. Above all, she was
a victim of a corrupt medical system. She had little but her art. It was what
she had lived for her whole adult life. Why she ended in this loneliness and
isolation will be a question for scholars. I have my own opinions about it
which I will share here. I think it was a failure of America.
She did not want her family to know about it and had not told them. I argued with her about this, trying to get her to tell them. I knew I could not get anywhere on my own. But it was clear that there were allot of issues between Lynn and her family. She said she did not want to worry them but it was more than that. They thought of her as an outsider, she said, and there was bitterness about that, I could see. There was a deep and long standing acrimony in the family, and Lynn was the loser in this. I do not know them except from Lynn's point of view, and she regularly condemned them.
So my effort to help her failed. It seems as if she had no friends. I did not
know then she kept all her friends apart and so the few of us did not know the
others existed. Lynn could be very prickly and I could be too. We parted
company for a few months, and I was not happy with that but it was better than
fighting against her very closed mind. She needed to be in John's Hopkins but
there was no way that was going to happen, since she refused to tell anyone
about her disease. That is where she should have gone, I could see that, as
could anyone who cared to look. But there was no one but me.
Lynn's family needed to appeal to the Insurance company to insist they not deny her care and arrange the ICU stay but they did not do it. I asked them to do this. Lynn's family pleaded various excuses. They were too busy to do it. Of course, one could excuse them in that they have no idea how corrupt the insurance business is. Most Americans are propagandized into thinking we have the best health care in the world, when we have one of the worst systems of the all developed nations. In any case, had Lynn gone to the ICU both the aortic stenosis, the necrosis in her fingers and feet, stomach and other things could and would have been addressed. Lynn's death was not recorded as the fault of the insurance company. Most denials of care are not recorded as such. The "appeals process" is a way that insurance companies try to stall treatments for patients. They were also trying to get Lynn to leave the nursing home where she was on the grounds that it provided too much care. In fact they did not even have her on a monitor and they should have. I think that the insurance company was criminally negligent and helped killed Lynn. She might have lived much longer had she gotten proper care.
Various people have not wanted me to talk about this, but that would be wrong of me not to. I feel it is important that people know that our health care system is helping to cause people to die much sooner so that they can save money to feed CEO greed. Lynn knew this was going on and she was extremely frustrated with it. Indeed, no one should have to go through these worries when they are as sick as Lynn was. The American health care system is run by profit and it was clear in Lynn's case as in thousands of others that for-profit health care is immoral. It is immoral to profit from the sick and helpless. They take advantage of the sick when they are weakest and increase their misery as they suffer. To keep quiet about this is wrong. I will say it again, as it is the inescapable conclusion of the abuse that Lynn suffered. Insurance companies should be eliminated entirely from our health care system and 'Medicare for All' put in instead. Insurance companies are parasites that kill people and make millions doing it. They should be removed.
Lynn death was suspicious and sudden. But since her family denied having an
autopsy, no one will ever know just what or how she died. .One of Lynn friends,
Ron Bajbus, claims that Lynn may have died of bleeding out caused by Ambian.
This drug was stupidly given to her to help her sleep on the Thursday before the
Saturday that she died. I talked to her that day and she told me it was the
worst night of her life. Ambian is contraindicated at any dose in anyone
with the sort of gastrointestinal disorder Lynn had. Lynn's friend Ron
claims that Lynn had been bleeding from the esophagus for several months and
because of this she required infused iron and later transfusions of blood. But
the idea that she bled out in the middle of the night is questionable, as her
death appears to have been sudden and she did not alert the staff. Large amounts
of blood in the stomach would probably produce a great deal of discomfort and
My other regret about how Lynn died is I did not think to get her hospice care.
I was too busy trying to fight to keep her alive and really thought she would
live longer than she did. She thought so too. She could have had a much better
last week or two if hospice had been called. I have seen hospice work before and
they were very good.
On another matter, not unrelated to how she dealt with her health, I speculated, a few years ago, that she might have a mild form of so called "Diogenes syndrome" also somewhat unkindly called "Squalor syndrome". This is real syndrome that various people have and is nothing to be ashamed about. If anything it shows that Lynn was a complex highly intelligent person and still had foibles and shortcomings as do we all. Her apartment was untidy to the point of being barely functional. Her kitchen was pretty clean and she ate good food. But she was unable to clear off tables, clean up the floor and other simple tasks most of us do. The result, for instance, was that the kitchen table was piled up with years of old bills, candy wrappers and paper, perhaps a foot thick. She could not get rid of them and disliked the idea of cleaning anything up in her place. I don't know if this was a control issue, her reaction to her upbringing or simply part of this syndrome she appears to have. She told me once she just could not make decisions about a piece of paper that came in the mail. People with this syndrome tend to be very possessive, lonely and to reject help, all of which were true of Lynn to a degree. Her studio was not as messy as Francis Bacon's, however, an artist who tried to make of virtue of this syndrome. Indeed, the one room in Lynn house that was quite neat was where she kept her drawings. There was an entire room devoted to their storage, with a low, large metal cabinet with big drawers for holding large drawings. Her small sketchbooks were neatly stacked on the floor in high piles. It was clear what she valued.
But one detail of her apartment stood out above all the others. About midway between the front door and the kitchen in the living room that was also her studio was a worn hole in the carpet, actually in two carpets, one carpet was worn right though. This is where she drew. Lynn was a floor person and liked to draw sitting down. She drew on this spot for many hours a day over many years to the point that she wore right through the carpet. This always amazed me and showed both here dedication to her craft and he persistence of habit. She was a very dedicated worker and disciplined artist. I am sorry I do not have a picture of this, I should have taken one as I found it moving she worked so much in this one spot.
It was interesting to watch the phenomena of myths and misplaced and well meaning nonsense that grew up after Lynn died. Artists in many communities are not the most scientifically minded or rational people. Various sorts of imaginative nonsense arose in conjunction with Lynn's name. No doubt this will continue to go on. But someone needs to observe the activity with dispassion. There has arisen a tendency to try to make myths and project on Lynn all sorts of spiritual ideas. I won't mention any names here. One woman thought that Lynn was speaking to her as a disembodied sprit on the internet. Someone else said that Lynn became a deer which deliberately hit her son's car and did not get hurt. Supposedly the deer was Lynn and she was sending a message from the other world that she is fine. Another person claimed she saw her riding her bicycle after she died.
The truth is that Lynn and I talked a few weeks before her death and she said it she doubted there was any life after death. She said this in the car after we went to visit Metro General hospital in Cleveland. Life is what matters. I am sure she did not think that deer became messengers of symbols of a hidden god or that the universe spontaneously generates women on bicycles that look exactly like Lynn just to send messages to the bereaved. Indeed, Lynn loved deer as themselves, not as symbols of anything, and I don't think she ever thought that deer are messengers of a 'deeper reality' channeling spiritual messages for chosen humans. Hagiography is not in my line and I doubt Lynn would appreciate these efforts to make a saint out of her. Lynn was not religious and what sense of mystery she felt in nature was not sentimental. She stressed the dignity of beings in her drawing of both humans and animals. The only thing she was sentimental about her was a love of kittens and puppies and baby animals in general. She loved to send me photos of these in the most endearing positions possible. The adorable appearance of infants and children of all species is a natural fact too, as was discussed by Konrad Lorentz and others.
I knew Lynn for 30 years; she was one of my oldest friends. Her most consistent complaint over all those years I knew her was the misunderstanding she felt she got from her family. I have been told that I should not talk about this either, but I don't agree, Lynn talked about it a lot. She was especially unhappy about her father. Shortly before she died she told me that he started being nice to her only recently after his stoke. She blamed his unkindness toward her for her trouble with relationships and men. I don't know her family at all, and have only had a little to do with them since Lynn died. So I now only what Lynn told me and have no way to verify what she said. I wish they would help with this project on Lynn's behalf, but it appears they care more about superficial good appearance than truth.
I was not romantically involved with her, nor did I ever want to be a go between for her family and friends. Indeed, her friends tried to thrust this role on me after she died and I have refused it. I am not Lynn's personal cheerleader and refuse to say mindlessly positive, 'spiritual' positive things about Lynn's life and career. That is not the kind of person Lynn was. Nor am I going to lie and cover up much of the troubles and difficulties Lynn had in her life, which was the primary engine behind her work. Lynn was a radical and lived deep controversies. So am I and she and I understood each other on this level. My role is Lynn's life had to do with her art. Lynn had promised me to get me some writings she had done over the years about her artwork, to put up on her website. She was going to give me these things. Lynn was very interested in scholarship and I was acting very much as a scholar for her work. But now there are obstructions to any enlightened scholarship about her work. I will not be given anything by Lynn to help this site. This again is the fault of her family.
I wanted nothing to do with Lynn's family after I saw they would not help her in appropriate ways when she was sick. I wish they had taken her to Baltimore, but they could not be bothered. But at least they could have come to see her more often when she was in hospital or the nursing home. Or get involved with Metro Health's plan to help Lynn's live longer. Her family inherited her work not by Lynn's wishes but by default. I believe that Lynn's work is in some danger as to how it will be made accessible. It was legally taken over by Lynn's sister who seems to not know what to do with it. It has been archived at Artists Archive of the Western Reserve (AAWR). This appears to be a place one puts ones work if it is not doing well elsewhere. It is a sort of Island of Lost Artists, rather like the 'Island of Lost Toys' in the 1960s Burl Ives movie about Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer. The Wikipedia article about Lynn appears to be trying to sell her work as part of the Art Market. The Metro Hospital who listened to the Insurance company and turned Lynn down, thus killing her, owns a few of Lynn's Drawings. It is clear how corrupt the art market is. They buy art to get more money, not to value the art that is made or help the person who made it. They buy Lynn's art as an investment. The fact of their owning Lynn's drawings did not make them refuse to listen to the Insurance company and let Lynn live. Today's art Market is merely another lottery selling tickets to die.
A good example of stealing from an artist is Ralph Albert Blakelock. He did many lovely works mostly about Moonlight. He was not very good with money and got put in a mental hospital because of that. A woman named Beatrice Van Rensselaer Adams, took advantage of his misery and started making a lot of money off his paintings. She was a sort of flim flam, or con-person. Making money off an artist is always a questionable thing. "Dealers in men", Van Gogh called galleries and art impresarios. Like Slave dealers. They take advantage of those who worked all their lives and make very little or nothing. I would not like to see the shadow of money pass over Lynn's work.
Will those now in control of Lynn's work, who Lynn did not appoint, be open about Lynn's work and life? I doubt it. She kept a great deal of secrets from her family, with whom she was at odds for many years. Anyone who has access to Lynn's work must understand Lynn's motives and purposes, if there is to be a scholarly inquiry about the substance and approach of Lynn's art. I know perhaps more than anyone else about her work, in general, though not her photography. But I have consulted with those who know more about her photography than I. So this is an essay about Lynn and her work that I hope will be a foundation for further studies, insofar as studies can be done, given the circumstances into which Lynn's work has fallen. It is now 2019, and seven years have passed. Lynn's family has done little or nothing to further her work.
That is the problem when artwork falls into hands of those who are not widely
enough educated to understand it. Editing Lynn's work in accord with a limited
perspective will not do Lynn any service. Ted Hughes, Silvia Plath's husband,
destroyed Silvia Plath's last diaries, which was an assault on Silvia of
terrible proportions. It was clear he did this because he had a very limited
understanding of what Sylvia was doing. When Lynn died I asked that someone
photograph her apartment which offered valuable insights into Lynn's work. But
all I heard was that the family was ashamed of show she lived. She had many
interesting things up on the walls that show her interests and concerns. Her
walls were a virtual self-portrait all by themselves, full of things about
animals and landscapes, faces and art. No one would allow the apartment to be
only saw a portion of Lynn's art, though she showed me a larger portion than
most people. But there is much more. So what I say here is limited by what is
still not available for viewing. Unfortunately Lynn did not leave her art to
anyone in particular. She should have left it to a museum or school, and did not
get around to writing a will. Her family should give her art, photos and
writings to a college, perhaps Tri--C, where she worked, or the Cleveland Museum
of Art , if they would take it. It is probably beyond the competence fo Tri-C to
do this, but her work could be left to Kent State, though they are a pretty bad
art school now. Lynn's art is far better than anything done there now, and it
would be good medicine for all that ails Kent to have her work housed there.
Unfortunately, much of her work might be sold off to private owners. It would be
a huge mistake to sell her work, as art can disappear for centuries that way,
buried in some rich people's attics or living room, copyrights dispersed and
left to arbitrary owners. Her works should be kept intact and give it to a
trusted caretaker like a school or museum.
I wrote to Lynn a few months before she died that "When you die I will do what I can to further your reputation as an artist, just as I did when you were alive. I do think you are great…." and then I added that " But this might not be possible as I imagine you will leave your work in the same unorganized shambles it is in now,,, " She did just as I feared, unfortunately. She left her estate in a shambles, with no clear notion of what should happen to it. In fact she did say what should happen to it, in an unconscious way. She expressed to me allot of displeasure with the selling of her work and said she only sold pieces she did not like to do it much. I strongly believe she wanted it taken out of the marketing of art. Her work would be immeasurably enhanced if it were given to a university or museum. I doubt this will happen , but I think it important to record what I think were Lynn's dearest wishes. She entrusted my wife and I with putting her art in the public eye over a year ago when we built her website. We will see now what happens that her work now that it is in not in the place she meant for it to go.
As Joni Mitchel said about her own art work: "I would not enter into the art game with those cherished things [my paintings]-- and put them in a position vulnerability--- I would not exhibit them and subject them to that crap". Lynn felt exactly the same way about her art and did not want it exposed to a corrupt art market. Lynn respected the world of those who are educated and giving her art to a university or museum is to give it to knowledge and culture, safe from most scallywags and scamming profiteers who would exploit it.
I feel it is important to tell the truth as best as I know it, so that one day, when Lynn's art is actually studied by someone serious, there will be this source from which to work. I feel an obligation to Lynn's art and this essay is a testament to that obligation to promote for her work that which is in her works best interest. This is not about making money, and it is a testament to what she was trying to do. I am advocating here the continued existence of Lynn in her work. She wanted it accessible and if possible, kept together as a witness to nature, life, her skill and herself.
Lynn, Photo by Ron Bajbus