Visions On Twain: Artists' Reflections Of An Author's Loves, Life
Artists Reflect Author's Travels And His Love Of Cats, Billiards
By SUSAN DUNNE
October 11, 2011
Mark Twain loved cats.
"Some people scorn a cat and think it not an essential; but the Clemens tribe are not of these," he said once, and another time, "A home without a cat — and a well-fed, well-petted and properly revered cat — may be a perfect home, perhaps, but how can it prove title?"
Mark Twain also loved billiards; he called them "the best game on earth."
Pat Tanger took these two loves of Twain, and used them to create the painting "Eleven Ball in the Side Pocket."
"I thought of Samuel Clemens telling stories about cats to his girls, the cats playing with the balls on the billiard table … cats asleep and awake in the chairs and in the conservatory," Tanger, of Newington, said. "Toward the end of his days, after all the losses he had suffered, I am certain Clemens would have found comfort in the companionship of a familiar cat."
Tanger's takes on Clemens and cats are part of "Visions on Twain: Work Inspired by the Author's Home, Travels & Hartford's Gilded Age," an exhibit on display at the Mark Twain House & Museum in Hartford. Seven local artists were asked to create works inspired by Twain quotes, Twain's personality, Twain's house, Twain's life, any aspect of Twain's persona.
Other artists represented are Francie Bergquist, Rozanne Hauser and Lou Mazzotta of Bloomfield, Jo McGinnis of West Hartford, and Flora and Sandy Parisky of Hartford. The artists in met several years ago to form a group called Visions: A Gallery Without Walls, with the purpose of exhibiting their work collectively.
Bergquist took her inspiration from a more covert area of the Twain house: Twain's wife's closet.
"Olivia Langdon Clemens … was a very important character in his history and her story is told throughout the house from the interior decoration, furnishing, table settings and floral arrangements to the linens and all of the household inventory," Bergquist says. "Her values and personality are reflected in many of his female characters."
Bergquist's painting "Flattering for the Middle Age" shows a ladies' hat elaborately decorated with feathers and birds. (This also could be interpreted as a reflection on "Hartford's Gilded Age.")
Lou Mazzotta, like Tanger, was inspired by Twain's love of billiards. "He played it day and night. … 'Billiards at 2:00 a.m.' … could be what the billiard ball looks like after 48 hours of continuous play."
Jo McGinnis is inspired by flowers, both the Victorian-era love of flowers and the flowers found in Twain's own garden. Hauser and Sandy Parisky take inspiration from the house itself.
Parisky focuses on Twain's billiard room, his private study — of Twain once said "there ought to be a room in this house to swear in. It's dangerous to have to repress an emotion like that" — and the portico. He also takes inspiration from the city of Hartford, of which Twain wrote "of all the beautiful towns it has been my fortune to see, this is the chief." His depictions include the Butler-McCook home, The Linden and other city landmarks.
Flora Parisky, the show's only photographer, also is inspired by the house, but also has more far-flung inspirations: Twain's travels out west and, later in life, to Europe. Her photo of the Sierra Nevada Mountains take their cue from Twain's journeys during the writing of "Roughing It." As quoted from a 1961 letter to his mother: "We are surrounded on all sides by such prodigious mountains that when you gaze at them awhile and begin to conceive of their grandeur and next to, feel their vastness expanding your soul and ultimately find yourself growing and swelling and spreading into a giant."
"VISIONS ON TWAIN: WORK INSPIRED BY THE AUTHOR'S HOME, TRAVELS & HARTFORD'S GILDED AGE" will be at the Great Hall at Mark Twain House & Museum, 351 Farmington Ave. in Hartford, until Nov. 3. A reception will be on Sunday, Oct. 16 from 2 to 4 p.m. All work is for sale; a portion of the proceeds will benefit the Twain house. Details: http://www.visionsagallerywithoutwalls.com
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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