Paul Cadmus and Jon Anderson the focus of "Muse" at Westport Arts Center
Updated 11:07 am, Thursday, November 8, 2012
But even if it was physical attraction that first drew Cadmus to Anderson during a trip to Nantucket, Mass., in 1965, it was their love, friendship and collaboration -- Cadmus the artist, and Anderson, his muse -- that bound them.
"As a muse, I brought something to the situation that worked," said Anderson, of Weston. "I instilled in Paul an excitement to work."
Up until his death in 1999, Cadmus created dozens of drawings and paintings of Anderson -- a collection of sensuous, erotic and often witty pieces featured in "Muse," a new exhibition at the Westport Arts Center.
Opening with a public reception on Friday, Nov. 16, the exhibition takes an intimate look at several artists -- Cadmus, who lived in Weston, Jane Sutherland of Fairfield, Philis Raskind-Anderson of Weston, Pablo Picasso and Chuck Close -- who found inspiration in the forms of their lovers, friends and other subjects.
"I'm interested in what drives an artist to obsessively and compulsively render someone or something over and over again," said Helen Klisser During, director of visual arts at the Westport Arts Center.
For Cadmus, it was love. But it didn't hurt that he had found the ideal male model. In the 35 years that Cadmus and Anderson were lovers, the two men experimented with a variety of complex poses, some of which were suggested by Anderson, that became the blueprint for Cadmus' narrative compositions.
Their relationship was a fruitful one. As Philip Eliasoph, professor of Art History at Fairfield University and curator of Cadmus' only national touring retrospective, noted, "Cadmus and life model Anderson almost single-handedly resurrected figurative art.
"(Cadmus) choreographed the graceful movements of Anderson in the same way that George Balanchine directed his male ballet dancers," he said.
Anderson, who met Cadmus when he was 27, described his role this way: "I took modeling very seriously; I tried not to just be a lump; I always tried to bring something to a pose and make it exciting."
Now 75, Anderson shares the same relationship with Raskind-Anderson, his wife of six years. The couple first became friends in 1970 at the National Academy of Design where Raskind-Anderson was a student and Anderson was a male model. "She got a petition going to have the male models remove their posing straps," Anderson recalled, laughing. "She wanted to see it all."
While Cadmus and Raskind-Anderson casted their gaze on a real-life human figure, Sutherland found her muse in a work of art: Edgar Degas' "Little Dancer of Fourteen Years." A bold realist statement that was initially panned by critics, the life-sized wax sculpture depicts a young student of the Paris Opera Ballet school in mid-pose.
Sutherland's rendering of the subject in her painting suite, "Recasting Little Dancer," employs appropriation from multiple posthumous castings of Degas' now-iconic three-dimensional work, interpreted from an array of angles on two-dimensional surfaces.
"I've always been fascinated by the sculpture," said Sutherland, who first saw a facsimile of the original work at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston when she was a child. "I thought it was beautiful, even though it was viciously attacked."
She added: "She was a little girl, just like me."
Citing "Landscape: Scene/Re-seen" and "Foodies," the last two shows at the Westport Arts Center, Klisser During noted that artists focus on a multitude of subjects. But, she continued, there is a "pure honesty between model and artist" that doesn't always exist in other forms of art.
Anderson, who has been a model all his life, echoed those sentiments, attributing the phenomenon to our shared sense of humanity.
"Is there anything more beautiful than relating to than another person?" he said. "It's not necessarily physical, but there's a life, an essence that comes out of every person, and we're all drawn to that in one another."
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The Westport Arts Center, 51 Riverside Ave. "Muse" is on view through Jan. 13. Hours: 10 a.m.-4 p.m.; Sat 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; Sun noon-4 p.m. Opening reception: Friday, Nov. 16, 6-8 p.m. 203-226-1806, www.westportartscenter.org.
Artist & Muse -- Jon Anderson and Philis Raskind-Anderson invite questions about what it is like to be a muse and to be inspired by one, while creating a sculpture in the main gallery. Saturday, Nov. 17, 1-3 p.m. Free.
Cadmus Conversation -- Dr. Philip Eliasoph and Dr. Jonathan Weinberg discuss Paul Cadmus as a hero in the figure-drawing world. Includes brunch. Sunday, Dec. 2, 11 a.m.-1 p.m. $10.
Drink n' Draw -- Jane Sutherland leads an evening of drawing from a live nude model in a relaxed and informal environment. Thursday, Dec. 6, 7-9 p.m. $10.
Also on exhibit
"Pen Pals and Dreams," on view through Jan. 13. Opening reception: Friday, Jan. 11, 6-8 p.m. An exhibition of pen pal letters and drawings inspired by the Copper Pot Pictures' documentary, "Brownstones to Red Dirt." The film and letters follow the developing friendships between sixth graders from housing projects in Brooklyn, N.Y., and their pen pals, war orphans living in Freetown, Sierra Leone.