Two David Campbell Pieces For the Price of Meaningful Art History

CampbellToledoLow
Print by David Campbell: Toledo 1964. 28 x 22″

On Saturday I visited an estate sale a few doors up the road and discovered two works by David Campbell, professor of art at the State Teacher’s College at Oswego, and colleague to Roy Lichtenstein from 1957 to 1960.  A signed print (48/49), titled Toledo, and a lithograph, titled Loch Ness, both from 1964. On Toledo, the owners cut the signature, date and print run and pasted it on the back to fit the frame. I am thrilled by this great luck. I shall auction Toledo off at the Lichtenstein exhibition in October. All sales from this and my paintings will go to a one time local high school senior enrolled at SUNY Oswego, and intending to major in art history or studio art. The Tyler arts building is going through its second stage of renovation and this will give something back to a place that has been a mentor house for my family for thirty years.

David Campbell is a fine painter. He has a website and prints available for those Oswego affiliations who wish to be as lucky as me. The bulk of art history is lost to the cult of celebrity. Roy was no dummy. He must have known his fame and fortune was lottery-like luck. No one passes through Oswego without humility. Van Morrison has mentioned time and again that his world recognition, and wealth stemming from it, is owed to his early departure from obscurity. He left the small town for the big city, and never looked back.

That is brave, but it isn’t art. Art is work, and like Van Morrison, Roy got recognition in a busy city and then worked very hard to keep it.

To me it always seems like unnecessary struggle, often making a circus or a brand out of a person. To please myself is a daily exercise sweating determination and will power. I cannot imagine any sanity found needing to please an entire world.

This discovery of David Campbell work hanging on lower middle class walls next door in small town, 2019 is true art history because it touches my own story in some real way, far beyond fame and money. No one really wants to possess a painting by Lichtenstein for any other reason besides fame and money—whether that be a museum or a mountebank. No one besides members of his family, friends, descendants, subjective hobbyists and connoisseurs, and the occasional historian who feels the need to tell a story, without all the wild speculation and false promotion, should be interested in another person’s art. A museum can hold paintings if they have contributed towards the uplifting (or degeneracy) of civilizations. However, art movements are never art history if promotion was the only reason for their coming to recognition. That’s art marketing, and mostly an industrial invention.

Leo Castelli was a rich art marketer in 1962. Larry Gagosian is one today, and Christies and Sotheby’s, Inc. are the banks of lies. None of it is art like David Campbell is art, yet to express this more clearly, I’ll need another 35 pages of time.

You can buy the book at the opening on October 11th, 2019.

CampbellToledoBackLow
Backside of “Toledo”. Buyers cut out signature and pasted it on back.

CampbellLochLow

sheldon1959
Sheldon hall (“Old Main”), from Washington Blvd.
gregorystreet
Sheldon Hall from estate sale.
1960 faculty photo
Roy, David and other wonderful people.
DavidCampbellLow
My painting: David Campbell Painted “Lewis Bluff” in 1958, and Roy Lichtenstein Did Not 2019. Acrylic on paper, 15 x 23″

Roy Lichtenstein and Vernon Tryon Share a Stink

Splinter
Looking north through Splinter Village at Oswego State Teacher’s College, 1959.

This 1959 photograph shows temporary buildings that were constructed at the end of World War II, and used initially for housing to accommodate the influx of returning G.I.’s, and then as classrooms when enrollment went back to normal levels. They were called “Splinter Village”. Roy Lichtenstein shared one of theses boxes with Industrial Design professor Vernon Tryon. I met the latter last Tuesday afternoon in a local restaurant. He told me a story about the time an animal died under their classrooms and it smelled real bad.

The students used to ask, What is that stink, Professor Tryon?” I broke into Vernon’s reminiscing to quip, “Probably Roy’s ambition”.

 

In 1957, Joe Shoenfelt, Jewelry Professor at Oswego State Teacher’s College, Went On Sabbatical to San Miguel de Allende to Expand His Horizons. It Worked.

JoeShoenfeltLow
2019. Acrylic on paper, 17 x 22″

From a letter sent to students dated October 30, 1957:

“Tomorrow is the Day of the Dead and the streets are filled with candy skulls—little candies, big candies, candies of all shapes and colors, candy animals, skeletons, dolls, and baskets. They are the most lovely candies I have seen. But they all taste like plain sugar.

We went to one cemetery this afternoon and preparations were already being made for the celebration. A cemetery here is a very grim place. The people do not buy the lots:they just rent them, so that when the rent is not paid, the bodies are dug up. As we walked around we saw lots of skulls and human bones. Some of the skulls still have hair on them.

The Indiand will have picnics at the graves of the recently deceased on Saturday, and that seems to be the reason for all the elaborate candy for which San Miguel is famous.”

In 1958, Miss Frances Oler Did Not Frequent the Opportunities Offered to the Art Department Boys Club

FrancesOlerLow
2019. Acrylic on paper, 19 x 25″

Frances Oler is seated in the 1958 art faculty photo for the yearbook. She was allowed to teach future teachers how to teach art to elementary school children. Cans of safety scissors, crayons, and dream potential squashed because she peed sitting down.

This painting is how Roy and the other boys probably saw her in the flesh.

Roy1958Faculty

David Campbell Painted “Lewis Bluff” in 1958, and Roy Lichtenstein Did Not

DavidCampbellLow
2019. Acrylic on paper, 19 x 23″

If Mr. Campbell showed this painting alongside Roy’s piece that year in the faculty exhibition, he would have outclassed his struggling colleague. Roy was confusing himself and others by abandoning his “feel” while making a leap in style from figurative to abstract impressionism. We only know this because Roy went Evel Knievel a couple years later to land somewhere completely new. And new can win in New York if you have the support and backing of a millionaire who knows many millionaires who have nothing better to do than buy a work of art for the price of a house. So Roy got paid a fortune copying comics, and David Campbell got close to zilcho making beautiful paintings.

No one said that life is fair. Certainly not Leo Castelli then, nor Larry Gagosian today.

David Campbell has a website where prints are available. Give his genius a try! Lord knows we could use something new for the rest of us.

Roy Was So Jealous of Harvey Harris Because He Went to Yale and Looked Like It

HarveyharrisLow
2019. Open Acrylic (Golden Paint) on paper, 17 x 21″

Harvey Sherman Harris (1915 – 1999) was a painter and teaching colleague of Roy Lichtenstein at Oswego State. I imagine professional jealousy was a persistent worm in the minds of artists in 1958 as it is today. I think that’s because artists in America think individually (at times) that they are great with verve and originality—better than the rest even—when really, what they’re privately pining for is an Elvis Presley fame with a Wayne Newton effort at expression. Truth is, everyone is free to achieve the inner peace and realization that there was only one John Coltrane, and we all should be happy enough with that satori, making things and drinking beer.

Roy1959

Hoyt Sherman, Mentor to Roy Lichtenstein, Used Art to Garner Military Contracts

HoytFlashLow
2019. Oil on board used as palette for last few weeks, 11 x 14″

The story is that on Monday, December 8, 1941, Hoyt Sherman arrived on the Ohio State University Campus to find the art department gathered in a meeting to discuss how art and design could help in the fight against the Japanese. Later that day Sherman briefed the Chairman of the art department on an idea that came to him several years prior while reading about Rembrandt van Rijn.

One day as a young man Rembrandt was studying the interior of his father’s windmill and while looking out a window, noticed how the revolving windmill blades created strobe-like effects, alternately blocking and letting light into the room. While looking at objects throughout the interior of the windmill, he experienced a unique way of seeing a whole space within a sequence of separate views. According to Sherman, this was a red-letter day for Rembrandt, and instrumental in changing the way he would see and compose future paintings.

Sherman believed he could replicate Rembrandt’s method to teach Navy pilots “how to see”. The U.S. Navy accepted his proposal at first, but a few weeks in, scrapped the deal because Sherman was having students stick clay on ship models that the Navy provided to the university, which apparently made a top naval officer very angry that his little kill toys were being muddied.

A year later while working on another military contract with the Navy Reserve Officers Training Corps, Sherman oversaw his experimental course where thirteen male students (all with no drawing experience) were set in a dark room while a tachistoscope (a rapid fire slide projector) flashed an image on and off the screen in a tenth of a second, and then each student had ten seconds to draw the image onto paper in the darkness. This would better equip their eyes to detect enemy aircraft symbols and shapes in a split second.

Sherman called it his “flash lab” where Roy Lichtenstein took classes and entered the war seeing good enough to kill people, yet fortunately, never got the chance to.

All in all, jingo Hoyt Sherman taught Roy Lichtenstein how to see. Roy thought Hoyt was the bee’s knees, and several years later, brought the peace time concept of the flash lab to Oswego. Also, after hundreds of successful World War II sorties bombing the b-jesus out of civilian populations (enabled in part by the practical applications of art used in wartime) , the Joint Chief of Staffs of the U.S.military now control money flowing in and out of psychotic bureaucracies such as Ohio State University.

Professor Sherman was an imposter artist carrying a stupid be-a-man-chip on his shoulder. I pity you Roy Lichtenstein for being misled by a charlatan. I pity your innocent future that began with the help of a loser Hoyt Sherman to lead you astray.