The first phone call I had from Thomas Hoving was after my first art exhibition at Forum Gallery in about 1988. Tom opened with " Well, John Russell finally got something right! " This was his response to a lucky rave review by Russell in the NY Times which ended, " A whole show by this artist would be worth waiting for ". But Tom opined, "All the good ones were gone ! Next time I want first pick!".
Thus began my treasured friendship with Thomas Hoving.
The beginning presaged it's continuance , with someone who was so much fun, because so original, outspoken, unpredictable, generous...someone who did what was unexpected.
Oddly enough , the critics , whom he did not always agree with, got some things right about Tom too. Danto's "ROCKIN WITH THE MINISTER OF FUN" *(review of Making the Mummies Dance, in the NY Times) where he captured both the boyish enthusiasm and great vision and scholarly side of Tom,,,was right. And Michael Kimmelman's remembrance of Tom's exhortation to " amaze me" seems very right to me.
As an artist and as a person I felt seen and recognized by Tom Hoving. And you wanted to amaze him...to meet his speed and lightening observations and insights , with strength ,,,with paintings that could "amaze".
Over the years I knew him...he wrote a beautiful catalog introduction to my show called "A NEW SHADE OF BLUE".(this essay will be on the web site by May 2010) And also introduced some of my exhibitions,,,arriving right there , on the scene.
Tom was a beautiful, beautiful writer. and in his words, my paintings lived in the air that I wanted them to live. While at first, galleries questioned the small size of the first monotypes , Tom saw in them the chance to have "some of her diminutive pieces stashed in
my wallet,,,when I want an occasional artistic hit, I open it and leaf through several small and highly charged masterpieces by this gifted artist, it's amazing and fulfilling to be able to make a bus or subway car into an art gallery ...I am especially enamored with the one inch by one inch, 'the figure you' with its bursting red and white -rimmed clouds of joy. I look at it and am lifted very high. At times, flying alone in my plane, I pull out one of her clouds just before entering a real one. I have a similar sense of anticipation and excitement with both." (from A NEW SHADE OF BLUE, THE LYMAN ALLYN ART MUSEUM, CT )
This is the context in which I wanted my art to be seen. And As Goethe once wrote in talking about this phenomenon : " In ( his ) presence I felt myself to be more than I was because I was everything I wanted to be "
That's how I felt with Tom.
Over the years , Tom and I went to museums together,,where He knew so much about the work we were looking at, the iconography, the history of the piece,,,and told the most amazing stories behind each work. He was a great reader and carried his kindle everywhere. We shared our love of books together too. ,,from Conrad ( where he told me of a book, I'd never read , "The Arrow of Gold" ) to Michel Houellebecq, an author we both read and loved.
Once we had so much fun at a Picasso drawing show trying to decide if any of the works were fakes. Tom had just written a book on fakes, called "False Impressions".
Also, I loved his novel, romantic/ James Bond ,,art mystery love story novel, "Masterpiece". And of course the memoirs,,and "Making the Mummies Dance" about his time at the Met.
At the same time of "False Impressions" Tom flew down for the opening of "Singular Impressions:The Monotype in America", a show that I was in at The Smithsonian in Washington DC. He was so attentive,,,and generous. I felt privileged ,,and loved. He went overboard, that's for sure.
The first letter I received from Tom was in 1991 :
Dear Wendy, he wrote
The splendid "Farewell to Florida" arrived safe, sound and much loved.
The arrival came as a pleasant surprise, since I had neglected to remember that I was to receive the work which is strong and engaging.
Thanks so much and highest hopes for a shining future and a bright success, which I am convinced will continue....perhaps not as easily, as quickly or in the precise form you may want , but it's here and will increase.
I am very sad now , that I had to say farewell to Thomas Hoving.
very sad,,,overwhelmingly sad,,,and impossible to say. It's as if lightening had left the world..."dazzling and tremendous" as Whitman describes the sun. And also ,as the sun,,,this warm presence filled with love.
But if" happiness ", as Orhan Pamuk describes it in THE MUSEUM OF INNOCENCE ( and perhaps Walter Pater before him) "is in reliving those unforgettable moments, treasuring our time for its deepest moments, each in turn. " then I can say that I am also happy, or I am happy to have had these privileged moments.
I have been given many perfect moments , and some of the deepest moments of my life, by Thomas Hoving.
So, I am very grateful to him for making me happy. In this way he will continue to deepen my life.
I loved Tom Hoving,
And Tom Hoving made me very happy.