Milton Teichman

Milton Teichman

I‘ve experienced a double passion in my life: I spent forty-seven years teaching literature and writing on the college level, and during that period I also actively pursued my interest in painting and sculpture.During my adolescence and in the years that followed, I was drawn to the paintings of Picasso, Matisse, and Braque. I loved their visual simplifications, their deliberate and creative distortions of factual reality. In my early years, I was intrigued also by the work of Kandinsky and Mondrian. Their work struck me as a form of visual music, stirring the feelings through the eye as music stirs the feelings through the ear. In Mondrian, I also saw the beauty of two-dimensionality and the exciting dialogue between form and space.

In the 1960′s, partly under the influence of the abstract expressionists (Gottlieb, Motherwell, Kline, and others) I turned to non-objective painting and collage, treating the canvas not as a window though which one views a scene but as the glass itself, on which the pure elements of design–form, space, color, texture, and line– are brought into harmony. My constructions in wood, styrofoam, plastic, and found materials, were likewise nonobjective compositions.

Living in the Hudson Valley of New York for many years, I exhibited my painting and sculpture in juried shows at the Woodstock Art Association and the Poughkeepsie Art Association (Barrett House). I appeared in juried shows also at the Art Students’ League in Woodstock and at the Albany Museum of Art. I had one-person exhibitions of my painting at Bennett College, Millbrook, N.Y. (1975) and at Marist College, Poughkeepsie, N.Y. (1970, 1985, 1996). As a longtime member of an artists’ cooperative, Summergroup, I exhibited in group shows throughout the Hudson Valley of New York. My works in painting and sculpture are in many private collections.

Over the years, I have published on literary subjects, including the poetry of Wordsworth and Coleridge, the teaching of writing, and the literature of the Holocaust. My college courses frequently explored the interrelation of literature and visual art; and I experimented with workshop courses in which students created both poetry and painting, often incorporating their own writing into collage paintings. More recently, I have written and published short fiction.  My collection of short stories entitled A Teacher of the Holocaust and Other Stories is scheduled to appear in January 2015.

I became a resident of Cape Cod in 1999 and began to experiment with paintings that reflected the influence of the Cape landscape. In these paintings I abstracted and simplified the ever-changing appearances of ocean and bay, marshes and sand dunes. The colors I employed were poetic rather than naturalistic. Today, I paint such quasi-representational landscapes as well as nonobjective paintings and collages which show my continued interest in the interplay of form and space on a two-dimensional surface. In my three-dimensional work, I now focus on table-size sculptures in wood, sheet brass, fired clay, and bronze. Many of my pieces reflect the influence of the primitive art of Mexico, where I have spent several winters.

Since settling on the Cape, I have exhibited my work at the Provincetown Artists Association and have appeared in its juried shows since 1999. In the fall of 2004, I was Artist in Residence at Cape Cod Community College and showed a selection of thirty-five years of work in painting and sculpture in the Higgins Gallery.

My bronze sculpture has been exhibited in San Miguel, Mexico, at the Galeria Diana (2006), Galeria 19 (2007-8), and Galeria Mero (2008).

In the spring of 2010, one of my bronze sculptures appeared in a juried show in Boston of the New England Sculptors Association.
Later that summer, the Cape Art Review published an article in honor of my 80th birthday.

In the summer of 2011, the public library of Mashpee, MA, purchased my bronze sculpture “We Are All One” for display in the Library lobby.

The Cape Cod Museum of Art showed a selection of my painting and sculpture in February-March, 2012.

The Cahoon Museum of American Art showed a selection of my painting and sculpture in May-June 2013.

 

“Questions People Ask Me”

1. How do you begin a painting or sculpture?

I begin in a number of ways. Sometimes I start without knowing what I want to create. I go where my feeling or intuition leads me. In this way, I discover my painting or sculpture. Conscious ordering enters the process at a later stage. More often, however, I start with an ink or pencil sketch, etc. The completed work is seldom identical to the original sketch or doodle.

2. How do you know when a work is finished?

I know a painting or sculpture is finished when I see an order or harmony–sometimes a precarious harmony–that surprises me, not only as I am working but the next day and the day after that.  The work has what I call “life”.  I know a painting or sculpture is on the way to being completed when I have simplified it and I have nothing more to eliminate.

3. What do your abstract works mean?

My works are not experiences for the head.  They are experiences for the eye, and through the eye for the feelings.  We do not ask what a Beethoven quartet means.  It is an experience for the ear, and through the ear for the feelings.  We do not ask what a field of flowers means.  It is a visual/emotional experience.  For abstract art, a better question than “What does it mean?” is the question “Do these images which I see convey some emotional truth for me, ambiguous as that truth may be?.”

4. How can I better appreciate abstract art?

I can offer two suggestions. The first has to do with giving ourselves a visual experience. It is true that art appeals simultaneously to all our human faculties–to our senses, intellect, emotions, imagination, intuition, memory. It’s not surprising, then, that when we look at an abstract work of art we are quick to convert our visual experience into some idea, or narrative, or feeling, or memory, or viewpoint, or metaphor. But this tendency can interfere with how and what we see. Let’s allow ourselves the sensory experience before we rush to transpose it into other things.

I like what contemporary sculptor Edward Tufte has to say on this subject: “In looking at abstract art works, once words and story-telling starts, it’s hard to see anything else….Abstract artworks represent themselves and should be first viewed for themselves….A focus on optical experience does not deny stories; it postpones them….For a while, then, let the artwork stand on its own….Your only language is vision.”

My second suggestion is that we begin to question some of our assumptions. One assumption is that faithful representation is the purest form of art and the surest sign of artistic talent. Such an assumption ignores a century and a half of great artistic work. A related assumption is that abstract art does not require much in the way of knowledge or skill or talent— that anybody, a child, even a primate can create it. The truth is that creating abstract art is a challenging discipline, a strenuous search for harmony and unity requiring knowledge, skill, imagination, and talent. The great abstract painter Vassily Kandinsky put it this way: “Of all the arts, abstract painting is the most difficult. It demands that you know how to draw well, that you have a heightened sensitivity for composition and for colours, and that you be a true poet. This last is essential.”

Education

  • Ph.D. in English, the University of Chicago (1966)
  • M.A. in English, Duke University (1953)
  • B.A. in English, Brooklyn College (1952)

I have studied with the following artists: Max Schnitzler of New York City; Evelyn Fisher of Poughkeepsie, NY; William Pachner of Woodstock, NY; Ati Johansen of Millbrook, NY. On the Cape, I have studied with Bob Bailey, Joan Pereira, Paul Bowen, and Jim Peters. In Mexico I have studied with sculptors Jesus Mendez, Mario Rangel, and Francisco Contreras.

You can contact me with any of your questions at milton@teichmangallery.com or by using the form below.