Wednesday, January 18, 2017

More Bravos, More Joy

The news came this year just the same as the year before, in an email from the American Watercolor Society, this one time-stamped 6 January 2017, 2:57 pm. The subject line said it all: “Congratulations! Your work has been accepted.” The jury of selection (Antonio Masi, Don Andrews, Linda Baker, Pat Dews and Paul Ching-Bor) had voted unanimously to include Jim Carpenter’s painting, Eminence Claire, in the annual AWS exhibition at the Salmagundi Club in Lower Manhattan.

Jim Carpenter, Eminence Claire
Less than 20 minutes later the phone rang. It was John Patt, the Executive Director of the American Watercolor Society. The AWS had just learned that Jim Carpenter had died in 2016. It was not the policy of the AWS to include posthumous works in the annual exhibition. “It’s not that kind of show – not an ‘in memoriam’ show.” I mentioned that some posthumous works had been included in the past, and we spoke briefly about some of those cases, but he made it clear that the AWS was withdrawing Eminence Claire from the show.

Different people will take away different things from this story. Most of us will regret that the thousands of visitors to the exhibition this April, will not get to see this extraordinary painting there. (Ironically, it is perhaps the one Carpenter acrylic that is most difficult to capture in a digital image; it seems to be a case of “you had to be there.”) And I hope that most of you will share in the enormous joy with which Jim Carpenter, the artist and the person, would have received the news of the unanimous vote of the jury of selection to include Eminence Claire. He was, and for me still is, a master of joy. Let that joy be contagious.

See Jim Carpenter’s blogpost A Question of Eminence for his thoughts on the painting itself and the process that produced it.