Memorial Gathering at the Hartford Art School on June 26, 2005
Good afternoon. On behalf of Mom and Toby, I want to send our appreciation to everyone at the Art School who helped plan and promote this show, including Power, Tom, Monica, Mikki, and Cheryl. Toby planned and hung the show, with help from Hiro, Greg and Peter. Credit also goes to Dave Robbins and his daughter who produced the postcard you all received.
Our gratitude also extends to our family, including Dad’s brother Tim and his family, and Mom’s sister Lorraine and her family. Thanks also to my wife Allison, who one month ago gave us Dad’s first grandchild. Lucas Christopher Horton is in the house. Today is also Mom and Dad’s 40th wedding anniversary. Thanks to everyone who wrote letters to Mom and to the Hartford Courant’s Online Guest Book. Finally, a special thanks to all of you who have taken time out today to honor Dad with your presence. The fact that we have so many guests here, including Dad’s friend from Venezuela and his cousin from Alaska, is a testament that Dad’s great impact went beyond the Hartford Art School. (Dave Robbins also made the trek here today from Granby, Connecticut.)
If you visited our house during the 1970s or 80s, you were a witness to a number of Dad’s artistic signatures. From the outside, there were the purple front and back doors, and Dad’s art studio on the top floor of the barn, which Dad restored with the help of the art school crowd. Most conspicuous was a large boulder sitting 20 feet up in a maple tree in the front yard. The rock was paper mache, but it looked real from the ground. This prop showed Dad’s sense of humor, and perhaps his ability to poke fun at himself for his unique obsession. This object caused me some problems, however. Kids on the school bus would say, “there’s a rock in your tree,” as if I hadn’t seen it. “How did it get it there?” “My Dad put it there,” I would explain. “He’s an artist.” The other kids found this explanation as unsatisfactory as I did.
Entering our house, you would have been greeted by another rock, Dad’s “Front-Back” sculpture, which is here today. It’s a painted rock that sits on top of a wood column. One side of the rock is labeled “Front,” but below it the column says “Back.” The other side of the rock is labeled “Back,” but the column below it says “Front.” At one time during my childhood I pointed out Dad’s labeling error to him. “Dad, how come the rock says “Front” but underneath it says “Back?” Dad explained, “It’s art.” “Well, which way is right?” Dad said, “either way.”
As you entered the living room, you would have seen another contradictory piece, Dad’s “Large-Small” table, which is also here. The table displays a series of rocks, labeled “small” “medium” and “large.” The problem with this piece is that some of the “large” rocks are smaller than some of the “small” rocks, and vice versa. I also sought out Dad for an explanation of this piece. “Dad, how come this large rock says “small” and this small rock says “large”? Dad said, “It shows how what you see changes, depending on what’s next to it.” I didn’t understand, I was just glad that this one was indoors.
There were other rocks in and around the house; a rock inside of a welded metal casing. Another one covered in stitched felt, and one protruding from the stereo speaker cabinet. Some rocks had stamps and mailing addresses on them; these were gifts that Dad’s students sent to him from around the world. And many paintings of rocks. One watercolor shows two rocks thinking about each other.
Why were rocks so interesting to Dad? I came up with a few possible reasons:
Dad’s artwork, spanning five decades, has been selected and arranged for us here by Toby and Peter. These works used to confuse me. Now they are living memories of our thoughtful, humorous, and creative, father, teacher, and artist. I read something recently in Dad’s files that said “explanation ruins art.” Dad taught me that lesson well.
Next to speak is Peter McLean. Peter and Dad were friends and colleagues at the Art School for over 30 years. In this environment, it was Peter who probably knew Dad the best.