Sharing Steve :: New Stuff
Sunday, May 04, 2008
Steve, April Gornick, and Eric Fischl talk about art in connecticut
Ridgefield, Connecticut Times-News
Knock-knock. Who's there? Steve Martin!
Actor-comic and pair of artists help Aldrich raise $150,000 at dinner
By Deb Keiser
Article Last Updated: 05/02/2008 05:00:20 AM EDT
You can count on Steve Martin to take what could have been a very staid evening at the Aldrich Museum in Ridgefield and lighten it up.
Not that the actor doesn't take art seriously, he most certainly does. Actually, he's a passionate art collector, which is how he came to speak at the museum's patrons' dinner on Saturday in the first place.
With two friends, Eric Fischl and April Gornik, both contemporary artists, he spoke for about 45 minutes on a topic that usually wouldn't get too many laughs. But in his inimitable way, Martin delivered ad lib from a podium in a museum just as smoothly as he would from a stage in any comedy club.
His arrival at the cocktail reception could have gone unnoticed, but his height (about 6 feet tall) combined with his trademark white hair gave him away. But there was no slapstick, no loud laughter. He skipped the appetizers (which were mouthwatering little creations catered by Abigail Kirsch), and instead of a glass, he held a cap in his hands.
He looked all the serious art collector -- very understated in a beige sports jacket, quietly mingling with a group of people he seemed to know well. But his humor never lies too far from the surface: He could be overheard saying (if you got quite close to him), "Did you hear the one about joining a gym in France?"
The punch line was diluted by the ambient noise, but his privacy was completely respected as none of the event supporters approached him. There were no autographs this night. But there were quite a few laughs.
After a short introduction by museum administrators, the panelists stepped up to the podium. Fischl and Gornik (who are husband and wife) first; Martin followed and they all were seated.
Martin took the lead. "I was pleased to hear what it is we are here to talk about because I thought we were supposed to talk about Scientology."
When the laughs from the audience died down, he continued, "OK, so we are talking about art and art collecting. And Erik, why don't you take it from there?"
It became immediately evident that this was an impromptu discussion that was evidently unscripted. But there were no lapses in conversation and the audience -- approximately 140 attended -- enjoyed it.
Designer Alexander Julian, of Ridgefield, called it "a perfect combination of intellect and star power."
Amanda Martocchio of New Canaan said it was a fun, engaging evening.
"The panel discussion had moments of great creative insight, silliness, and relevance," said the architect. "Relaying between Steve Martin's seeking authenticity on stage or in words and Eric's or April's striving for what's real and meaningful on canvas was exhilarating."
Clearly, the three have been friends for many years, and Martin's art collection reflects his support of their work.
Fischl is considered this century's Edward Hopper, and he has been prominent in the art world since the '80s for his poignant representations of psycho-sexual dramas and suburban ennui.
Gornik is a landscape painter, who brings a modernity to the genre that was later discussed by the panel. Both she and her husband have had a long-standing relationship with the Aldrich, having exhibited there in the '80s and '90s.
Martin continued to deflect the spotlight from himself, asking the couple the most basic interview question, "Why did you two become artists?"
Maybe he wasn't really expecting a response, but he got one. Fischl responded quickly by saying, "Boredom. Art is a way of staving off boredom."
"Collecting is that way, too," said Martin. "It's a form of shopping!"
The conversation casually ambled as the artists discussed their work and how their sensibilities developed.
Martin explained that his interest in art began in college with friends who were artists. Since that was the mid-'60s, it was an exciting time in the art world with movements like abstract expressionism, color field and pop all in the forefront.
Yet what he began collecting first was 19th-century American landscape painting in the luminism style that captured the American unique landscape and light.
"Then I got interested in the backs of the paintings which became as interesting as the front. Authenticating a painting -- it's like detective work. Then I got interested in art in general"; and then I met you guys!" he said, indicating his two friends.
Martin enjoys Gornik's landscapes because, he said, "You can look at them for years; they don't evaporate. I think of certain pictures as 'never letting you down' -- something that keeps you looking at it and is always a pleasure to walk by."
Fischl observed that Martin's art collection is a reflection of his creative mind. "Steve Martin is unpredictable in his collecting of art. He is able to collect obscure artists ad well as the big ones. Yet his collection is cohesive."
Martin replied with humor: "My collection is what was available and what I could afford!"
The Patrons' Dinner raised $150,000 to benefit the museum's exhibition fund. It is one of two major museum fund-raisers for 2008. The second is a secret art sale, Aldrich Undercover, scheduled for Friday, Nov. 21. For more information on the Aldrich, visit www.aldrichart.org.