Helen Frankenthaler’s Valentine Art

by Barbara Anderson on January 11, 2023 · Art of the book

Helen Frankenthaler, a dominant figure in the abstract art world watered my plants when I went away for the weekend.  She lived diagonally across the street from me on a point of land surrounded on three sides by Long Island Sound.  We were neighbors sharing the same street address.  I don’t remember how we started to walk together, but somehow when she was in residence, we galloped (Helen set a brisk pace) across Shippan Point.  Our conversation included the mundane events of everyday life.  Maintenance was a favorite topic of Helen’s for she was frugal, and the cost of running 2 households, one in New York City, the other in the Country was costly.

She was famous, I wasn’t, and, yet there were common threads between us.  She went to Bennington, I went to Sarah Lawrence.  I loved art and the arts.  I wrote surreal, short stories rarely published.  Occasionally she critiqued them. At one point in her early life, she had debated whether to be an artist or a writer.  I had the patience to listen to her recount the chore of opening a new show for her work.

Our interest in nature and the nautical terrain was obvious—we loved it.  Helen would frequently eat on her beach—- a blue and white checked tablecloth fluttering in the breeze.

Like two kids, we traded:  she could use my pool when I went to Vermont for the weekend, if she watered my plants hanging from the back of my house.

Early one summer evening, as I relaxed by my pool, Helen joined me.  Her strokes were swift and strong.  Before she stretched out on a lounge chair, she decided to water the plants overhead.  As she gathered one in her arm, a hose in the other, a bird’s nest was taking shape in the pot.  She looked up at me, shook one hand “Italian style.” ”Multi fragile,” she whispered.

Thanks for the memories, old friend.



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