Then & Now: Exhibit shows how artfully New Yorker ‘covered’ Westport
The latest exhibit at the Westport Historical Society is the “Talk of the Town,” in more ways than one.
At least 250 people attended last Friday’s opening reception for “New Yorker Covers Revisited — Talk of the Town,” an exhibition featuring poster-size replicas of cover art from early editions of The New Yorker magazine, which are matched with current photographs by local photographer Mike Goss of the Westport places that inspired them.
Visitors to the exhibit talked about the places they recognized and shared their surprise that so many New Yorker covers sported images of Westport, and that so many of the magazine’s covers were created by Westport artists.
“I liked the juxtaposition that Mike captured against the drawings of so many years ago,” said Claire O’Connor of Westport, who was among those at the reception.
Eve Potts, co-author of “The New Yorker in Westport” (Art Book Printing 2015) with Andrew Bentley, talked about the impetus for the book and the resulting photographic project. Potts, a 37-year resident of Westport who now lives in Essex, said her husband gave her “The Complete Book of Covers from The New Yorker, 1925-1989,” when they moved from town in 1990. Flipping through the book, Potts realized she knew many of the artists from Westport, 17 in all, responsible for 767 New Yorker covers.
Potts also noticed the number of covers featuring Westport scenes and landmarks, some still standing today, such as the Westport Country Playhouse, Bridge Street bridge, Saugatuck Congregational Church, and Compo Beach pavilion, and others that are long gone, like Rippe’s Farm Market, Allen’s Clam House, the Daybreak Nursery greenhouse and the original Christ Episcopal Church.
One of her favorites is of the beach pavilion. It was painted by Alex Hubbell and appeared as a New Yorker cover for the Aug. 20, 1973, edition, Potts said. “Down at Compo Beach I could see the pavilion in that poster. I could see that from my porch,” said Potts, a member of the historical society’s Honorary Advisory Council. She curated the society’s first exhibit of New Yorker art about two years ago.
Dean Van Nest, formerly of Westport, now of living in Bridgeport, said his favorite was the July 13, 1935, cover of the Westport Country Playhouse interior. “The balcony is identical and the draping is similar,” Van Nest said, adding that he grew up in New York and enjoyed reading the New Yorker cartoons.
Westport artist Judy Katz said she appreciates the book and the exhibit. “I love what Eve wrote about each cover and its relationship to Westport. She tells the whole history of Westport through the covers. If you open the book to any page you’ll see what I mean,” Katz said.
Potts and Bentley spend about a year compiling the material and writing the book. Goss said his portion of the project took about six months selecting the 16 covers to replicate photographically and then setting up the shots. “I had to wait for the proper season, the proper light,” he said. The Compo Beach pavilion photo took several weeks to capture because he had to wait for clouds to appear in the sky. Potts said Goss’s photo is so close to the original that even the configurations of the clouds are almost identical.
Clearly, The New Yorker resonates with local audiences, according to WHS Executive Director Susan Gold. She said the first New Yorker exhibition was one of the society’s most popular shows and Friday’s audience was one of the largest that an opening reception has attracted. Gold said the book is a wonderful resource and testament to the town’s creative heritage. It is also providing a revenue source for the WHS to continue its programming, she said.
The coffee table-size “The New Yorker in Westport” features 50 full-size covers of Westport scenes by local artists including Charles Addams, Perry Barlow, Whitney Darrow, Jr., Edna Eicke, Arthur Getz, Alice Harvey, Helen Hokinson, Albert Hubbell, David Preston, Garrett Price and Charles Saxon.
Copies of the book can be purchased online at www.westporthistory.org or stop by the historical society. The price is $40 and the first 1,000 copies are signed and numbered by the authors.
Eve Potts, Andrew Bentley and cartoonist Lee Lorenz will appear at 7 p.m. Tuesday at the Westport Library for a conversation in conjunction with the exhibit. For details, visit www.westportlibrary.org
“New Yorker Covers Revisited — Talk of the Town,” runs at the Westport Historical Society, 25 Avery Place, through Mon., Oct. 26, Monday-Friday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Saturday, noon to 4 p.m.