Written by Danny Campbell
Edited and packaged by The Little Rebellion
Students in Professor Lindsay Lennon’s Feature Writing class were assigned interviews with SUNY New Paltz alumni who were featured in Wired Gallery’s “Golden Age of New Paltz” exhibition. Here’s what they found:
Ed Samuels has seen it all. Growing up in the Bronx during the 1940s, Samuels was influenced by his artistic family who inspired him pursue a career in the arts. His creative journey started as a boy. He later enrolled at SUNY New Paltz and continued on at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. Then his career took off in New York City. In 1982, he got in his 1964 Mustang convertible and traveled to Santa Fe, where he currently resides and continues to do what makes him happy.
As a boy growing up interested in art, what did you find to be worthy of painting, drawing or sculpting?
As a child, I remember picking up a piece of plaster and drawing on the sidewalk in the Bronx. That was my first memory of making an image. I was always encouraged by my aunts and uncles who were art students themselves. In school, I haunted the art room and even had private art lessons. Harpi Rosi was my instructor, a Hungarian artist who had me do designs for his work. My first commission was a drawing of Marilyn Monroe for a neighbor when I was 10. In high school, I learned everything my art teacher could teach me.
Why did you decide to attend SUNY New Paltz and how do you think that influenced your art passions?
When the war broke out I wanted to sign up as a Navy fighter pilot, but my mother wouldn’t sign the paper unless I took the last of the SAT tests. If I got a scholarship I would enroll in college. If not, I’d enlist in the Navy. I got scholarships to all three schools I applied to. I chose New Paltz because it was closest and I was only 17 so I could hitchhike back and forth. I was in my glory when I first landed there- enthralled with each new concept and material. The arts almost blinded me with excitement.
Being that you were immersed in the culture of the ’60s and ’70s growing up, did the music have any influence on your work?
I hung out with so many different artists during my period I can hardly remember. The 1960s and 1970s were a fucking pot of creation for new art formats. I was best friends with musicians, like Adrian Guillery, so I got to meet and hang out with Frank Zappa, who was a real gentleman. I knew other musicians like Lightnin’ Hopkins. There were artists everywhere during the time.
What was it like working with noted New York City art dealer and collector Allan Stone?
There was a mad man that was a student with me at New Paltz, Danny Basen, who haunted Manhattan for shows. He showed Allan some of my work, and Allan reached out to me asking me to bring some work to the gallery. Soon after bringing it in, I got a call from him asking if I could get a show ready in two weeks. A dozen large charcoal drawings were framed and delivered, along with some jewelry and ceramics. He bought the show and threw in a New Yorker wagon so I would have dependable vehicle. Allan Stone was giant in the art world. He was a great man, always trying to help artists in so many ways. I wish I treated him better, but when I was young I didn’t know any better. I was too caught up thinking I was the best.
How did your art technique and style change upon moving from New York City to Santa Fe?
Moving here to New Mexico was not too different from where I grew up in the Bronx. There were cliffs everywhere and wild areas for miles. The cliffs often reminded me of New York before reinforced concrete changed the face of the Bronx forever. This was a time before highways were built on the vast miles of beaches along the Hudson River, where I wandered as a child.
Considering your love for nature art, do you plan on ever returning to the New Paltz area to make new works?
I have returned to New Paltz, and intend to do so many more times in the future. Recently, I painted the Black Mountain area, just near Newburgh. Life is so full of beauty. If I lived to be 100, I still will have just scratched the surface of the possibilities of self-expression.
Throughout the years, what has been your most rewarding experience in the world of art?
I doubt there’s one aspect of my life in art that stands out more than others. Making my family proud with my success, teaching at NYU and the many successes I’ve enjoyed have all been incredible experiences. But the main joy of all these years was the total disappearance into the act and the surprise of what I accomplished in stone, silver or mostly my paintings. That was the best of it all from the time as a child to the mature, successful artist I have been blessed to be.
Read about other #GoldenAge artists here:
Fern T. Apfel is a text-based illustrative artist who constructs collages using various mediums. An alumna of SUNY New Paltz, Apfel reflects on her growth, inspirations and favorite artists.
Jo-Ellen Trilling is an artist from the era of protest art in 1968 to 1971 who intertwines magical realism with art to reflect life within the political climate at the time.
Bruce Pileggi is an alumnus of SUNY New Paltz who delves into his past and explores themes that motivated him to pursue a career in art.
Jerry Vis is an architectural designer who, at 79 years old, still remains creatively curious when it comes to making art.
Ed Samuels began drawing early in his childhood after being influenced by his family of artists. He found his niche during the ‘60s and ‘70s after seeing the beauty in all environments, from New York City streets to Sante Fe’s cliffs and beaches.
Jon Ellis Stevens is an award-winning photographer and New Paltz alumnus. He discusses his desire to show that photography is more than capturing still images and how the radical times of the ‘60s inspires his artwork.
Sevan Melikyan is a native from Turkey who journeyed with the dream of becoming an artist to America, where he became enthralled with the rich artistic history of New Paltz.
Eileen Cowin is a multi-medium artist from New York who creates politically charged work inspired by the 1970s and today and connects them in abstract ways.
Shelley Davis is a woman of many art forms, including a style she created herself as a graduate student. Her groundbreaking “photo fusion” art has travelled the globe, featured in galleries across Europe and the United States.
Robert Crimi is an artist from the Bronx who is inspired by jazz music and creates colorful oil paintings with techniques his muralist uncle taught him.
Rosalind “Roz” Zarr creates wearable art. Her jewelry is the only of its medium featured in the “Golden Age of New Paltz,” a testament of her prolific experience at the university in the late ’60s.
Rosalie Rossi, an alumna of SUNY New Paltz, has taught art to students from preschool to the college level. She believes every student she teaches should do a self portrait.
Michael Velkovich, an alumnus of SUNY New Paltz, uses printmaking to express his artistic vision. He reflects on his journey as an artist, how he faced critics and how he has given back to the arts community.
Aletta Vett is a costume designer who defied rules and honed her craft at New Paltz. Her art designs prove just how creative and talented she has been over her decades-long career.
Win Bottum-Morgan took a drawing class hoping to learn the mechanics of art but was instead taught how to see the world in a different light. This perspective ignited his passion for painting. He continues to pursue art while practicing as a clinical psychologist in Corte Madera, California.
Larry Audette, not only an artist but a Jazz musician, talks about his memorable time at New Paltz with an array of artists who felt like family to him.