February 16, 2006

Death of an Artist

I haven't been writing because a friend of ours has been dying of pancreatic cancer. She has been a friend and fellow professor with my wife, Rickey, at Vermont College, Union Institute and University. I was lucky to know her.

She passed last night at home with family and friends. Only a little while before she died, Hannah, her ten year old daughter, who has been struggling as only a child can with this kind of unreal thing, came to her and sang.

Charlotte Hastings was a woman of great strength, independence, and generosity. She was an artist of amazing breadth, a professor and mentor, and a woman of big laughs and unbridled humor. She started and was involved with artist cooperatives in New York City and Vermont, and has had shows all over the country. But her humility never allowed her to brag about such things.

Inquisitive to the end, wondering how she could beat these vicious cells that she could only imagine inside her, metastasized, it was not until five days before she died that she accepted the inevitable, stopped eating, and let go.

So many people were around her through these last days -- family, friends, neighbors, colleagues, fellow artists -- but it wasn't really until this last week that she fully understood how many people would be there to give support and comfort to her husband Brad, and, especially, her beautiful daughter, Hannah. I think that is what finally gave her peace and concession.

As I was looking through some of Charlotte's works of art, I was captured by the one above, her husband and daughter, pointing, reaching out to a beautiful, fanciful bird flying off in the opposite direction. It is such a stark picture of them in this last week, a poignant and prophetic work she completed in 2003, perhaps the year that deep inside her the cancer was laying its seed.

Here is a link to her work and here is a link and here also to some of her words about herself and her art.

Here is Charlotte, in her own words, summing it all up:

Art isn't about talent. It's about loving yourself enough to cultivate your inner sensibilities, your intellectual and political awareness, your visual acumen, until process takes over and begins to make the kind of decisions that determine what will happen in your life.


solitaire said...

Thank you for this loving tribute.

Anonymous said...

This is a wonderful piece. I like that you included the quote and the art samples. A nice tribute...thanks Stephen. Kyle,VCU

Anonymous said...

I just heard the news and at the moment I'm feeling cheated and miffed that I won't get to see Charlotte in the flesh again. She was my advisor, twice, so I know first hand what a wonderful artist and teacher she was. She had the exceptional quality of knowing just how to support creativity. I think it was because she was secure with her own work and the love of her family. Many of us "creative" types are pretty relationship challenged and I think this may appear as selfishness to some. Charlotte told me over and over how I should find someone just like Brad. How she had made a conscious decision that she wouldn't give up her life for her art career and had gone out to look for him. And then when it came to her lovely daughter Hannah, well, there really aren't any words, her whole face lit up. She truly had it all.

I just want to say that this wonderful woman will continue to be an inspiration to me and my work and that right now I am suffering only because I want "more" Charlotte. I also know that she continues to "live" and can never be diminished, especially in our hearts.

Lily said...

I'm sorry.

enigma4ever said...

What a beautiful piece..truly a lovely tribute to a lovely being....thank you stephen....namaste...

Dicky Neely said...

Very sorry to hear about your friend.
We just have to do our best while we are here and try to appreciate and take of each other.
John Lee Hooker had an album with a title I always took seriously.
"We'll Never Get Out of These Blues Alive."

Kvatch said...

My condolences on the loss of your friend. It sounds like she was quite a person.

Take some time off and regroup. What's blogging compared to the loss of a friend?

Nat Kinney said...

Dear Stephen,

Looking through your blog, I am shocked to see that Charlotte Hastings has died. Charlotte was a teacher of mine at Vermont College. I did not concentrate my studies in the arts, so I did not get to spend a lot of time with her. I have to tell you that the time that I did spend in a classroom with her was life altering.

Among other things, she introduced me to the work of Alexander Calder. Shortly thereafter, I traveled to Denmark specifically to see some of Calder’s work that she showed me. It was an incredible experience, and one that I would not have had if it were not for Charlotte. Alexander Calder is still one of my favorite artists and an artist that makes me think about the world in exciting new ways.

That summer, I went with a friend to NYC to see one of her instillations in a Soho gallery. Bizarrely, when we got there, the street that the gallery was on was closed because of a fire that was in a nearby building. We never got to see it.

Charlotte will always live in my memory as a person that had a significant impact on the way I think about the world. I truly doubt that she ever knew it.

The news of her death is very, very sad.

My thoughts are with her, her family and her friends.


Bonnie said...

*crying* I am in shock after finding out that Charlotte has died. During my ADP, she was my first introduction to the Vermont College "process" and was my advisor for 6 months. She introduced me to the concept of "just trust the process," "women and art," and installation art and impacted my work through encouragement, honesty, and kindness. During my semester with her, out of the blue she sent me a postcard. It was a close-up picture of colored, pastel chalks. It was vivid and eye-catching and the minute I saw the card, it made my day and I loved it. Her simple words were on the back were, "I saw this and thought of you." This is the kind of person Charlotte was...thoughtful and in touch with those around her. I will miss her.

Anonymous said...

So much sadness. Charlotte was a dear friend and a wonderful advisor, I'll never forget her encouragement. I imagined a long friendship, the world lost a gem.

Anonymous said...

I am so sad to hear of Charlotte's passing and my heart goes out to her family. Since having her as an advisor and mentor at Vermont College I feel like I stand in the world in part, as one of her installations. I know that the rest of my life is forever impacted by her unique and much appreciated spirit. What a gift the brief time we had together, what a gift.

Nat Kinney said...

From today's Burlington Free Press:

CHARLOTTE HASTINGS MAHER BURLINGTON — Charlotte Hastings Maher passed on peacefully at home Feb. 15, 2006, after a brief struggle with cancer. Born Aug. 12, 1944, Charlotte was the oldest daughter of Betty and Seth Hastings of Minneapolis, Minn. At an early age, she discovered an artistic passion that would direct her entire life, devoted to artistic discovery and creation. With beginnings in New York City, she spent years experimenting with various media, presenting her work in galleries and shows that ultimately brought wide recognition to her work as innovative and unique, conveying deeply emotional meaning as she drew from her family ancestry. Charlotte's work has appeared in major exhibits nationally in museums, colleges, retail and corporate venues. A graduate of Vermont College, she received her M.F.A. in 1998 and has since served at the college as an esteemed faculty member and professor of art. Charlotte's finest work of art was her family. Married in 1990 to Bradford Maher, they have shared a life devoted to each other and to their daughter, Hannah Elizabeth, 11 years old. Her career as an artist and teacher was second only to that of a wife and mother. The past weeks of her illness have borne testimony to a life of tremendous generosity, as her friends, neighbors, colleagues and family came forward to assist and honor this incredibly dynamic woman. Brad and Hannah gratefully honor Charlotte's life, as do her brothers, Bruce (Cheri), John, Roger (Gail), sister Bebe (Rick), sister-in-law Wendy (Tom), and brother-in-law Todd. She is also survived by nieces and nephews, their spouses and children, cousins and other relatives. A service will be held Saturday, Feb. 25, in the Williston Federated Church, 44 N. Williston Road, 878-5792, with reception following. In lieu of flowers, memorials may be given to an art scholarship being set up in Charlotte's name at Vermont College. Please call 8288817 for further details. A tremendous loss is alleviated by the even larger memory of a life lived with such purpose and energy. We love you, Charlotte.

Sam Kolber said...

Thank you for this beautiful tribute. I have been struggling with how to evaporate my greif over Charlotte's passing, and I've come to realize that it will never leave me because she impacted my life so profoundly. I loved having her as a mentor; her encouragement and "mothering" of my ideas and creativity helped me see myself as an artist, helped me define myself in a new way. She was an inspiration, the way she lived in harmony with her artist self and her family self. I am truly sad that cancer took her from her family and from guiding future students. I am sorry Hannah has lost her mother, and I wish she have angels, both living on this Earth and in other worlds, to show her the path to womanhood. I know Charlotte was such an angel for me, even only breifly for a semester at VC.
Peace and love,

Anonymous said...

It has been one week since Charlotte's memorial and I find myself checking back here for news. Not sure what I hope to find, perhaps more comforting chatter about Charlotte.

The memorial took place in a white church with a tippy steeple. Outside It was snowing lightly, but with enough insistence to let you know it meant business. The inside of the chapel was simple but not austere, the only visuals being two speakers built into the wall on either side of th altar. I thought of an Agnes Martin painting and couldn't remember if Charlotte and I had discussed Agnes. I was sure if we hadn't we would have eventually. A tall terracotta urn sat next to the podium with a picture of Charlotte next to it. I wondered if Charlotte's ashes were inside. I wanted to ask but was too shy. I'm sorry now because if they were in fact Charlotte's, I could have hugged them.

Emotions are a funny thing, I often feel betrayed by mine. When I want to express them the most I am often speechless. Thankfully others weren't and were able to share Charlotte stories and anecdotes with us. Hannah sang two songs with her angelic voice and I rememdered last spring when Charlotte had first described her daughters talents to me. They were in town to see "Fiddler on the Roof" and we were walking through Times Square, (following Hannah actually she chose to go forth boldly about 5 paces in front of us) and Charlotte was describing Hannah's interest in theater and how they would be making many trips to see shows and how when she had her break we could all go to museums and shows and...

Hannah's voice carried up through the church, through the steeple and the snow, and I thought of a hand game I used to play every Sunday in church when my mind was wandering. It was a simple one, you clasped your hands inside out and recited "Here's the church, here's the steeple, open the doors and see all the people" at which point you unfolded your hands and god why was I thinking of this now and worse my hands were moving into position. It was because my heart was trembling. I knew how much joy Charlotte experienced watching her daughter sing and how proud she was at that moment that Hannah could stand up in front of all of us and share her voice bravely and without false modesty. Others spoke and I could go on and on they were all so wonderful. Ricky spoke of being "in cahoots" with Charlotte. John, her brother, described one of Charlotte's first paintings, a landscape that had morphed into a surreal kind of f*ck u "lady of the lake" because of her art teacher's criticism that the painting was boring. I stole looks at Brad and tried to send comfort though the room. The photos that hung in the reception room along with some of Charlottes work was such a testimony to their love, a rare thing. Charlotte spoke of it oftn to me.

I had to leave quickly after the service, the snow had stepped up, big flakes were now floating about and I had a drive to contend with. I would have liked to have visited more. In the lobby, saying goodbye, John pointed out a name pinned on a bulletin board. Carol Lewis. Charlotte loved "Alice." We both laughed and took it as a sign — a wink and a big smile.

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for this beautiful tribute and for every response. I am Charlotte's sister, Bebe, and I feel hungry for each word written about Charlotte, each picture. Charlotte was a very LARGE PRESENCE in my life and still is every day. At her service, Roddy O'Neil Cleary read a poem (anonymous) that ends,
"Love doesn't die, people do
So when all that's left of me is love
Give me away."
Charlotte was so full of love and gave it freely to others in many ways. She inspires me to continue - in her honor - to be as kind, generous, tolerant, caring, supportive and loving as she was. She was an incredible sister, always protective, always advocating, pushing and promoting. She saw more in me than I ever have. I have felt unbearably sad, but am now documenting many coincidences since her passing that
tell me she is still with me, teaching and nurturing. Thank you again for blessing my day today. Your love of Charlotte makes me so happy and proud. Much love to you all. Bebe

isculpt said...

Thank you for your kind words about a wonderful person. I have blogged about Charlotte as well. and posted a few pictures of her.


Robert Roth said...

Over the last couple of months I remember things from long ago. Yestrday, I flashed on the time Charlotte and I were walking through Washington Square Park sometime in the late 1960s when suddenly a man was stabbed in the neck. Bloud was spurting out of the wound. Saving the man's life, Charlotte, without a second of hesitation, ran over to him and placed two fingers over the wound and kept them there until help came.

Sheila said...

Thank you so much for all that is written here. Charlotte and I were close during high school and then the first two years of our undergraduate work. Then we sort of lost track of each other.

I am profoundly saddened to learn of her death. I remember you and John, Bebe, and wish you both so very well.

Please contact me through my website if you would like to say hello sometime. I would so love to buy a painting by Charlotte if any are for sale.

Blessings and love,

Sheila (Frost) Van Houten

Kathy Callaway said...

Ah, Char! I learned a year too late that you were no longer on this earth. You were a dear friend for a very long time a very long time ago, in Minnesota before New York. Our other soul-buddy Lois is now gone too, same reason, as of last fall 2011; her daughters arrive from the U.K. and from Sydney to release her ashes over the Wisconsin Dells, at her request; but what times we had together, Char. I still have the tiny painting you gave me in the 1970s in New York, and cherish the day you took me round to meet your neighbor and she took us in to walk around her giant black wooden constructions in her loft; it was Louise Nevelson; just a neighbor. I met up with Lois on Bali in 2009 and told her; she cried to hear that you were gone. Now she is too. And Peter. And MaryAnne. I see Robert Roth is well. But you were a terrible loss, Char, with your quiet passion, that chortling laugh with your head thrown back and sideways; and even long ago you just kept painting, painting, painting. Wonderful letters from Mexico, and from New Mexico.
We love you. We miss you.

David Wallman said...

Char: It's a great memory of you and our youth that I still carry around. And it's all still fresh: the beautiful young woman I met at a party on Greene Street; the warm brown eyes; the face so expressive and grave I could hardly look at you sometimes. The penetrating mind that seemed to occupy a space outside of yourself, intently observing the world and yourself at the same time. Something very good happened to us all when we met you. Love, David