Point Lookout, Long Island, New York, U.S.A.

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Voices from the Past

As my friend Lou and I set up the tents along the beach fence just west of the beach house, I began to feel the strange presence of the departed artists whose work I had gathered from various residents around town. It seemed as if they were there in the subdued light of the tents...guiding my hand as I hung their pictures on the fence and screens within the tent...happy to again be a part of the annual event at the beach. Their lives have become a special part of the history of our town and their works speak to us of that history. In some, we see an image of how it was, in some we glimpse a personal note of family or favorite spot and in some a look into the personality of the artist.

As the afternoon wore on and the people began to file through the tents, I sat in the open door of my car and listened to the "voices from the past" ... They spoke to me in the familiar voices of friends and neighbors of today. ..in stories and recollected memories evoked by the sight of the pictures and the thoughts of those who had created them.

Two grandsons who fondly remembered their grandmother and her love of art, a young couple and their child, who were photographed beside an oil of a sister, joyfully painted by her grandmother in a field of flowers, whose love for the little girl still shines through in the oil and canvas she used so many years ago. There were copies of a Monet and a Millet which said that the artists loved these painters who pull us even further back in time ... a daughter who, when asked if we could use her fathers' paintings; simply replied "my father would be honored to be in the art show again ".

An oil of a solitary figure walking in a shaded gravel path beneath a canopy of trees spoke to us of private times, which each of us share with no one but ourselves. Two paintings of spots in Maine, seemed actually to reflect the artists memory of Point Lookout, where she had lived before moving north.

The voices from the past spoke to us in stories about the painters, the pictures and the places. A large painting of a dock and fish house revealed a story about a long gone snack shop on our main street, a site now a Chiropractic office. The painting was created to replace a window which was to be closed in by the building of the present day Library. The artist, who was a regular breakfast patron decided one morning to paint the scene on a piece of wallboard over the darkened window to bring it back to life. This painter was a well known figure in the world of Broadway in the forties and fifties. He was a master scenery painter and did sets for Oklahoma, the Sound of Music and I was told even sets for the Metropolitan Opera .. Point lookout was his refuge from the City.

Someone spoke fondly of a recluse who had been a ballet dancer in New York, who spent the later years of her life here, whose paintings of figures in blacks and browns put us in mind of people in the paintings of Lautrec. A water color of wash on crisscrossed lines behind an apartment building evoked many thoughts of big city life; the roots of many of us.

From a series of different copies of a single etching of Reynolds Channel, from just beyond the bridge, the artist spoke to us of the beauty of the bay side of our town and the familiar look of the buildings and fishing boats along the channel as you approach from the north. The spoken memories of seeing the artist sitting side by side with "Doc" on a bright summer day, both painting the same scene in their own styles made that time live again for me. In another etching we caught a glimpse of several fishing shacks on the north side of the Channel, now gone forever, evoking a story about Burl Ives. It seems he was a fairly heavy drinker and his managers used to regularly put him out in one of the shacks for some days prior to his performances to keep him " dry".

A most unique painting of a well known restaurant which stood at the north end of Parkside Drive for many years brought numerous stories from the past..."I remember how we used to take the bus out from Long Beach on Friday night and we'd walk from Lido Boulevard up to Lauders and have a wonderful seafood dinner for a $1.25" "V-J night there was big party and everyone was there celebrating the end of the war ... I don't recall a similar feeling about life anytime since that night!" ..."I was a child when it was there, and wasn't allowed to go at night; but everyone loved the place, it seemed to be the local point of life here" ... "I remember, that it used to catch on fire every New Years Eve, and then one New Years it burned to the ground; a lot of us sat in the dune, with drinks from their bar and watched it go ..they never rebuilt it after that night. "

At 3 O'clock when we took the paintings down and put away the tents, the stories and memories still whirled around me and I think I heard happy voices saying; "that was a fun afternoon, we should do this again sometime. ..."

The artists of the past who shared my Sunday afternoon were Dr. Carl Wertheimer,Kitty Black, Dorothy Carlaw, R. Bergman, Ivy Thompson, Rita Julianna Ball, Len Gussow, Jessie M. Schneider, Mary Hanrahan and Helen Davis.

with thanks to all of them,

Tom Bauer
Point Lookout Beach Art Show -August 28, 1994