Artist of the Month: the “living legend” Harold Garde

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Artist of the Month (June 2011):  the “living legend” Harold Garde
By Josh Garrick

Artist Harold Garde, who we may claim as a Florida Artist for half of the year, (the other half spent in his home in Maine) is a legend of American abstract expressionism.  This “you-would-not-believe-he’s 87-year-old Artist” has RECENTLY had a work added to the Metropolitan Museum in New York City, is the subject of a documentary film, had his work celebrated in a retrospective exhibit at the Museum of Florida Art, along with the publishing of a major catalog. Garde’s compositions engage the viewer, promote thought, and evoke emotion. The works feature acrylic paintings on canvas and paper, and works in Garde’s own ‘strappo’ technique of dry acrylic transfer. 

 

Harold Garde

The Swimmer

 

Collector Bill Hohns, a man determined to ensure that Garde’s works are preserved over time, says, “Harold’s work, epitomized in his landmark 16-panel mural, Iconoclass, spans the entirety of the Abstract Expressionist movement in America, and represents some of the finest work from a master of this provocative 70-year expansion of American artistry.” Hohns recently added five additional Harold Garde canvases to his personal collection, which spans an extraordinary seven decades of Garde’s creativity. 

Garde says he was privileged, following his active duty in World War II, to study with the leaders of the American abstract expressionist movement of the mid-20th century.  These ‘influences’ helped create his unique style as a painter. In addition, he personally created ‘strappos,’ a self-invented process of transferring dried acrylic paint from glass to paper or canvas.  

 

Harold Garde

 

Harold Garde

 

 
Garde was inspired at an early age to create by both of his craftsmen parents. He completed high school in New York City at the prestigious Stuyvesant High School and pursued a college education on the GI Bill after his military service. Completing a BA from the University of Wyoming and an MA from Columbia University, he began a teaching career and also worked as a designer while pursuing his art. A contemporary of many of the ‘celebrated’ artists in New York during the 60’s, Garde fulfilled his responsibilities as father, husband and teacher until he was able to devote himself fully to his art. After years as a professional artist, his studios and homes in Maine and Florida are full, and this prolific painter continues to fill them with Art.

Harold Garde is as active today as he was in his 20’s creating works that range in subject matter from figuration to pure abstraction. Garde says, “Over the years I have used the images of chairs, single and in groups. I have a pinnacle series, a series with still-life references; there are some series that have figures and faces, puppeteers and puppets; and a group related to the ‘T’ shape of the kimono. Such subjects are familiar, readily recognized, capable of being rendered with many variations. Whether they are presented subtly or boldly, small or large, I want my works to be capable of engaging the eye, the emotions and stimulating the mind of the viewer.”

 

Harold Garde

 

Harold Garde

 

In a recent interview, this is what the Artist had to say about seven decades of being an Artist in America:
 
1.  Tell us a little about yourself.  How did you get started?
Abstract expression was emerging and exciting, but the masterful post impressionists grabbed me tight and fast, including van Gogh, Picasso (GOD), Matisse, Cezanne, and other makers of wonderment.

 

Harold Garde

 

Harold Garde

 

 
2. Please use your own words to describe your art...
I now work exclusively in what I believe is the least demanding medium, acrylic paints. I aim for a dual response, a gut response to the image and a considered response to the formality of the presentation, how I have structured the painting. Show two heads and, behold, psychodrama! Perhaps my favorite response and quote is, ‘Garde gives other artists permission to explore courageously.’ Critical reviews often echo the same view.

 

Harold Garde

 

Harold Garde

 

 
3. What happened to first make you think of yourself as an artist?
 I am a painter who spends hour upon hour in front of my canvases. It is what I do. Then, when the work is on exhibit, I am deeply pleased to accept the label when it is given: Artist.

 

Harold Garde

 

 
4. What inspires you NOW?
 There is the realization that variants to what has been done before may be worth exploring and that may lead me deeper or in another direction. I am curious to know where the path goes.

 

Harold Garde

 

 
5. What do you enjoy about the act of creating?
 I take some pride in having learned a degree of socially acceptable behavior, but when I paint I don't want to, nor do I think I need to be polite -- that is not the function of Art as I see it. It is a lonely occupation, and it has to be that for me, but while I relish the time and opportunity to work in my studio, I often bemoan that it is such a lonely effort.

 
6. Describe the “perfect” Harold Garde painting.  Have you achieved it yet?
My most perfect painting is the one that forms in my head at about 2:30 am when I am somewhere between sleep and awake. It still amazes me how rapidly the vision disappears when I am at work in my studio.

 

Harold Garde

 

Harold Garde

 

 
7. Painting takes a lot of creative energy.  How do you “re-charge” your batteries?
When I was younger I often resented the family and work obligations. Now I realize just how fulfilling those 'chores' were. I still delight in time with good friends and with my 4 children, and their children, 5 in number. My progeny and those few close friends are a priceless gift. I am also blessed that even at this advanced age, I have made so very dear new friends.
 
 8. How can readers find and purchase your art?
The Museum of Florida Art and the Kaplan Foundation support has been gratifyingly helpful in getting my work into collections. The Courthouse Gallery In Maine is a commercial gallery that represents me and I am certain that they are knowledgeable and would prove to be extremely helpful. There will be solo showings at the Courthouse Gallery in Ellsworth, Maine in September and at the Gallery in Memphis, Tennessee in October.

 

Harold Garde

 

 
9. What’s your hope for the future of your work?
There can never be enough venues for showing. I have had marvelous curatorial support in the past, and I would like that to expand. There can never be enough interest in recognizing the lifetime of effort.
 
 Harold Garde may be reached through his website:  haroldgarde.com

 

Harold Garde

 

 

 

 

Josh Garrick is the Florida Arts Editor for Wandering Educators

 

 

All photos courtesy and copyright Harold Garde

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