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
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 towns 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 ones 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 Yorks ashes beneath
its young boughs (there is a photo in Lelas 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 others 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 Canadas 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
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.