Land, Sea, and Light…How do artists like Charles Burchfield and John Marin translate these essential elements in their art? They capture elusive, ever-changing impressions of their surroundings through a personal lens. They paint with symbols and innovative techniques that present us with dynamic visions that make us appreciate Nature with a fresh perspective. John Sacret Young, a television and film writer, director, and producer, was drawn especially to Burchfield and Marin, among other American artists. His life experiences, with an East Coast upbringing, triggered his seeking out landscapes that connected with memories and fed a desire to live among art that communicated with him. The Burchfield Penney Art Center is pleased to present selections from his collection.
John Sacret Young acquired many significant works spanning Burchfield’s career. In an exhibition catalogue essay, he wrote: “In his lifetime Charles Burchfield liked little better than to walk in the woods. He would tromp beyond where paths were broken, carrying his umbrella in case of rain. Where the woods were complete, cocooned in Nature’s reverie, he would set up his easel, get out his brushes and paint… what he did with watercolor was groundbreaking, eventually creating ‘large scale watercolor paintings with more complex surfaces than have ever been achieved before or since’.”
Young also connected with the artist’s gift for writing about his multi-sensory relationship with the land, weather, and seasons, quoting Burchfield’s desire “… to paint the roar of the wind in the woods… the trees about me clashing and swaying majestically… wind-blown leaves dancing over the floor of the woods, and big rain-drops hitting them with a great clatter. Bits of sunlight entering into ‘windows’ of the woods…” No wonder that Young became a member of the Burchfield Penney Art Center’s Burchfield Advisory Committee, and later, a trustee.
Another watercolor genius that caught his imagination was John Marin, whose depictions of land and sea provided an equally compelling interpretation. In “John Marin: The Edge of Abstraction,” Young wrote: “His finest work carries his rough-hewn lyricism and quivers of emotion; it is full of feeling. His finest work most of all finds the shoals and beauty and surprise of that territory that is real and not real and that dances movingly and elastically along the edge of abstraction.”
Art by Charles E. Burchfield and John Marin are featured in this exhibition of selections from the John Sacret Young Collection. In addition to Burchfield and Marin are works by Milton Avery, Oscar Bluemner, Charles Demuth, George L. K. Morris, and Norman Rockwell. Joseph Rusling Meeker, who had a studio in Buffalo from 1849-1852, has the earliest luminist landscape in the exhibition.
More contemporary, light-filled works and California subjects are by Robert Ginder, John Koch, Kenton Nelson, Eric Sloane, and Andrew Stevovitch. Many of the black and white photographs by Sid Avery, Robert Doisneau, George Hurrell, Jean Kallina, Louis Stettner, Alfred Wertheimer, and Frank Worth feature famous people, such as Colette, Marlon Brando, Gary Cooper, James Dean, Elvis Presley, and Elizabeth Taylor, among other subjects.
Robert Cottingham’s “Sacret” marquee painting fittingly pays homage to Young’s other passion: television and film. Writing, directing, and producing a wide variety of subjects, Young attracted a national audience and received seven Emmy nominations (one for “The West Wing”). He received two Writers Guild Awards: one for his 1980 miniseries “A Rumor of War” and a second for an episode of “China Beach” which he co-created. He wrote and produced several feature films, including “Testament,” which was nominated for an Oscar, “Romero,” featuring Raul Julia, and “Thanks of a Grateful Nation.”
Young received critical praise for his novel The Weather Tomorrow. His memoir Remains: Non Viewable, centered around his cousin’s death in Vietnam, was on the Los Angeles Times bestsellers list, and his “artoir” titled Pieces of Glass reveals his lifelong love of art—including works that will be on exhibition. He wrote frequently for the Los Angeles Times and was a panelist and moderator at The Los Angeles Times Festival of Books. His final novel, Pieces of Tinsel, about his time in Hollywood, will be published in 2023.
This exhibition, curated by Burchfield Scholar Nancy Weekly, would not have been possible without the collaborative friendship of Claudia Sloan, John’s widow, as well as Jeannette Penick, Rachel Jankowski and Brian Grunert at White Bicycle, and Burchfield Penney staff and trustees. Land, Sea, and Light: The John Sacret Young Collection has been generously supported by Paula & John Reinhold/Joy Family Foundation, John & Candace Darby, Mrs. John Kociela, Janet & Richard Wetter, and the Charles E. Burchfield Foundation.