Paul Duval Book
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Tribute by Leonard Brooks
Travel Itinerary

Tribute From An Old Friend and Fellow Canadian Artist

(Extract from York Wilson: His Life and Works, 1907-1984, by Lela Wilson, Carleton University Press and Carleton University Art Gallery)

Leonard Brooks

Seventy-five years ago two young boys were busy selling daily newspapers on opposite street corners in Toronto, Canada. They did not know each other. It was only in later years that they recalled those days, their mutual backgrounds. Sons of English immigrants, they went to the same public schools and found their ways to receive an education and a modicum of art instruction before they began their lives, dedicated to becoming, almost to their astonishment, artists.

It is not surprising that floods of nostalgia sweep over me now as I read the book by Lela Wilson, who has put down her recollections of memories of 51 years of her life and times with my best friend, and compadre, for us to know the wondrous world which opened up to those newsboys, as world that only artists live and know, in which she shared, enjoyed and suffered with so many personalities – famed or unknown – throughout the world.

If you would follow the patterns set out in her pages you will, creative person or not, understand the complications, the frustrations and the joys of becoming a renowned creator of art in its many forms.

Although predicated on the Canadian art scene, it ranges far and wide, and for many in San Miguel and Mexico the pages will add to their understanding of the background that made San Miguel de Allende what it is today – growing from an unknown village to a world-renowned cultural colony – where music, art and writers have made their lives or began their careers and talented people ask constantly about the town’s history. What happened here in those days, or in Paris, London, New York? What drove you people with such dedication and faith in the arts as a way of life?

The Wilsons made frequent trips to San Miguel, York coming one year to meet and work with Rico LeBrun from California. I rented a house for them, “one of the finest in town,” for US$50 a month. They bought a house and studio in San Miguel and joined the permanent resident artists. Oddly enough, both my house and studio of those days, and his nearby on Pila Seca, are bed-and-breakfast hotels today.

From her personal archives Lela Wilson has brought us some of the answers about the art colony here: tales of the in-fighting, the rapidly changing art scene with its new ways of thinking, seeing, feeling.

How I (and I am proud to be a transplanted Canadian artist in San Miguel) survived the years of neglect and indifference in Canada and less so internationally, is part of history. The personal inward search for one’s own voice, the influence of great men we loved and respected, the constant disciplines and hard work which nourished the talents of those times reveals itself with truths and documentation. The thrill of sometimes coming near the fulfillment of those early dreams comes through the recorded memory of one “who was there.”

Some of us survived! Others despaired and disappeared in the mad world of change and commercial realities, or a too successful legacy in magnificent murals, paintings, writings and experiments, and their influence carries on the great flow of what art is all about: the presentation of intangible and sacred values of humanity, love and faith in our world and fellow beings.

It is not easy for me to write these words. Outside my studio window stands a pomegranate tree. It is larger now than when Lela and a few friends scattered York’s ashes beneath its young boughs (there is a photo in Lela’s book of this day) 14 years ago. It is a symbol to me of the vitality and growth I shared with York over the years in Mexico, Europe and the United States. The leaves are brown now, but soon the blossoms will return, the crimson fruits appear. Life will be brighter and begin over with new joys and sorrows of another generation.

Some years ago when York was ill I wrote:

“It has been a privilege and a joy for me to have spent the time we have had together, never competing, enjoying each other’s success and failure to paint something good, worthwhile, a little better than the last one, and nearer to what we hoped and knew could be the real thing – a work of art. Braque said: ‘Painting is a compromise with the impossible.’

“I salute York, whose work over this lifetime has made that ‘impossible’ less formidable for himself, for us, and others to come. He is fulfilling himself as a genuine, creative spirit and has contributed a legacy of work which has added luster to Canada’s image to the world.”

In this spirit I salute Lela Wilson who has, with her book, added to our understanding of what that “luster” means, and has for us all, artists or not, done her part to make this mad world today a bit more human and livable.

Lela Wilson, who was visiting in San Miguel launched her book with a signing on Sunday, March 22, 1988 from 4 to 7 p.m. at the former Moody residence at Hernández Macias 108. Proceeds from the book signing went to CASA.

El Independiente [Bilingual Periodical]

Volume 2 Number 14 1988 - March 17-30 – Local History
Editor: Sareda Milosz

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