Last night Ellie and I hosted the second of our now annual parties, when we bring together our two artists' groups for a summer celebration. Here they all are (with apologies to those who didn't quite fit in the frame, and to those obscured by plants!) on the deck outside our living room, overlooking the Hollywood Hills; and with George, of course, taking center stage.
One of the pleasures of the evening was for artists in each group to get to know the other. As one said, the Tuesday group is always a little curious about the Wednesday group, and vice versa. We enjoyed a communal feast, a glass of wine, and conversation.
The centerpiece of the evening, though, was unquestionably the unveiling of Ellie's own art work. She has been immersed in contemporary art since her young years, when her father's house was chock-a-block with art, and subsequently famous artists were his frequent dinner guests: I recall sitting down at the table with Claes Oldenburg, R.B. Kitaj, Ed Kienholz... She opened her own gallery in the early 1970s--a time when Los Angeles artists were fleeing to New York because they had such a weak support base here on the West Coast--and showed a roster of artists so well regarded that eight of them, as I recall, were included in one of the noted Whitney Biennials. When her gallery was closed on a city zoning violation, she made the transition into a successful career as an art consultant, helping to shape both corporate and individual collections.
By the early 1990s, Ellie had begun to weary of the relentlessly commercial aspect of the art world, and made the choice to return to her original passion for working contact with artists and their challenges in the studio. She carved out a unique niche for herself as an adviser/mentor/coach to artists (you can find out more about the work she does at her new website EllieBlankfort.com), and has been working with them in individual and groups sessions ever since. The evidence of her success in this work is in the loyalty of those who work with her and their commitment to their art.
And then just a couple of years ago she decided that it would not be a bad idea to get into the studio herself, and get her own hands dirty in the difficult business of making art. With the generous help and support of one of her artists (below, second from left)--and the hospitality of her studio--Ellie started to make pictures of her own. Last night, for the first time, she unveiled the portfolio of work she has put together over the past one and a half years--to the amazement of those she has supported with her love and enthusiasm, as well as with her critical eye.
What a wonderful response! And rightly so. It seems that, while she has not been actually making art over all these years, she has been looking at it with a peculiar intensity, and the results of that looking are unmistakable in what she has produced. It's surprisingly mature, confident--several of those present used the word "bold"--and successful work. The dozen or more pictures show her to be experimenting with a wide variety of approaches, perhaps not quite sure yet of her own individual vision; but with a strong, instinctive feel for color and composition. Here's one of my favorites:
...and a detail
Pretty nice, no? She was widely--and loudly--applauded for her efforts, and is much encouraged to pursue them.
So, a great evening. Good food, good company, good conversation... and good art. We closed with a check-out circle, and with good wishes all around for a wonderful summer.