sidney simon

THIS MORNING, I LOST SOMEBODY SPECIAL, somebody I’ll never forget who meant the world to me, my dad, Sidney Simon. With all that went on in the world, Sidney never lost his humor or his pride. I remember several things most about my dad. First and foremost how he loved each of his seven children dearly and was happy when they all came to see him and stayed until his passing. Next, he loved Renee, my mom, with all his heart. Never in my lifetime have I seen a couple so in love. His passing will affect her most.

I also remember the artwork, especially the ones inspired by me such as Snapshot. Those were my actual records Dad had me holding, and Piggy’s Back Seat Driver which has an interesting story. My Dad said to me that the sculpture wasn’t going anywhere and he asked me what to do. I said, “make it go, Daddy,” and presented him with one of my toy cars. He used it as a model for the car the sculpture stands in. He was loved by many people as was shown by the many awards and medals he received for his artwork. Most people when they think of art they think of Picasso or Van Gogh, but Sidney was as good as the best of them; a genius in his time.

I also have fond memories of Sidney as a father. Walking in and seeing him at his desk in New York, he would stop me and say “why didn’t you come and say hello?” Now, I wish I had. I remember seeing him in his favorite chairs in the den in New York watching TV or in the kitchen at the counter eating breakfast or on the Cape at the dinner table. On the back of his chair is pasted what’s left of a paper heart. The broken heart will stay on that chair to symbolize Renee’s broken heart.

I remember going to eat at the local diners for lunch and going to the seafood restaurant on Shank Painter Road in Provincetown. I love it – it was his favorite one. One of the most missed places will be the Long Point Gallery. Paul Resika and the rest of the Long Point family will miss Sidney dearly. The show on August 10th would have made him proud.

I regret several things: that he could not hear because he lost his hearing in the war; that I never paid attention to his work except on several occasions; and that I rarely listened to his stories. Most of all, Sidney was my hero, and I remember him for his humor and his unwillingness to slow down. He finished his last piece a week before he died.

In closing, I’d like to say I love you Dad, and I will take care of Mom. I will also try to make sure that your legacy lives on as it should. You were my hero, and you will live on in my soul forever. Amen.

Flash ahead to October. Tony turns 21; Mom’s back from Cape Cod; school has started at my college, and it still isn’t the same. The chairs he used to sit in and the studio he worked in feel empty. Even the Sheraton Square Diner where he used to eat lunch is closed. It’s still not the same; it will never be the same.

I’d like to thank some people who helped me get through this tough time; my sisters Teru, Rachel and Juno, my brother Mark, my brother-in-law, Philippe, and Anna and Francis… to Billy Weir for his fast typing, to Barbara and Gary Sussman – your visit at the time meant a lot to me, to Jeremy, Gallite, and Dan thanks, you really are true friends. Last, but not least, Roz and Pace and the Long Point Gallery, thank you for your wonderful tribute to Sidney and for the help you gave us. I know it would have made him proud.

I just want to say that Dad left me one thing that I am very lucky to have; that is my wonderful family. I know that Renee and the rest of the Simon family will carry on that tradition. I have learned a lot from this experience and have a message for others with loved ones – cherish the time you have, because some day it may be too late.

GOOD AFTERNOON. It is an honor to be asked to say a few things about Sidney, or rather “Idney” as I came to call him for reasons I no longer remember…something to do with the days when I was babysitting for Nicky and Tony. When I think of it, the Simons have been taking care of me on and off one way or the other for almost 36 years, from the house in Rockland County to Bedford Street - Joan, Mark, Teru, Rachel, Juno, Nora, Nicky, Tony, and Sidney and Renee, Farfelle, and Poochie. Aunt Marjorie was my doctor for a while.

I arrived at Bedford Street after Rachel had kindly offered me her apartment in 1971. I ended up staying for 15 years. I’d still be there today if my wife, Sandy, hadn’t pointed out the idiocy of building a double-decker crib. It would have worked – you know, one with a new born baby boy on the bottom and a three year old girl on the top. It was very hard for us to leave the West Village 11 years ago.

With all due respect to other members and staff assembled here, I’d like to think I became Sidney Simon’s perfect studio assistant. Let me explain – outside of being able to identify a hammer and a screwdriver, I didn’t know the names of any other tools, much less how to use them. I had never taken an Art History class – couldn’t paint, draw, or sculpt. I am color blind. I was ideal. Sidney wasn’t going to get any lip from me – and he never did.

His endless arguments with Resika and Renee over the color blue and debates with Jack Levine over light and line were incomprehensible to me. But during my tenure, he patiently taught me how to use my hands. He taught me the skills of bookkeeping, babysitting, and bar-tending. Not necessarily in that order. I hope I repaid him in some small way for his having provided me with a job and a roof over my head through good times and bad. He even agreed to be Best Man at our wedding, and he didn’t lose the ring.

I suspect somewhere in here Sidney would interrupt impatiently with a “yes, yes, these introductions and credentials are all very nice but get on with it – get on with the good part”, but of course, Sidney was, and is, the good part, whether critiquing a student’s work or directing the lighting for a gallery show, or speaking of his wily father’s secret codes or his mother’s wise predictions, or playing tennis, or crossword puzzles, or telling World War II stories, or pretending not to hear, or performing Vaudeville Borscht Belt shtick, make that impossibly corny Borscht Belt shtick, he was constantly and reliably the good part. We all share memories of the cheerful and affectionate man who, in many important ways, provided a roof over all of our heads. Under that roof he was always fun to be with. He still is and will forever be fun to think of.

I’M (CHILD) NUMBER FOUR. As a young child, I wondered why did my dad choose art-making? He had to spend so much time alone. As time progressed, I noticed everywhere he went he was greeted warmly. That’s a good life for someone who loved people as much as he. I know now that the warmth for Sidney was reflective – that he was an artist was a wonderful coincidence.

My father was always teaching – he honored that responsibility as much as his art-making. As an artist, he was sometimes exuberant, sometimes enraged. He was always engaged in his work. As a teacher he was tough and generous. He let you in the common pitfalls of art-making as well as man’s visual nature. He taught by being the springboard.

His time was so precious. He could disappear so quickly but what had been said, the moments spent, were rich enough for months of pondering. He allowed me to find the greatest life treasure, the treasure is finding an intense and personal endeavor that is true and accessible to the larger world.

My father’s hands. He had moved into an apartment in the city and that hand introduced us to his new boxing kitten George. He would take the role of his kitten’s opponent with his fingers matching tiny blow for tiny blow. His hands modeling my head in clay. He wanted me singing. I was ten and too embarrassed to have my mouth left open. He responded as only Sidney could – a quick tap to the clay mouth closing it, and it was done.

To watch the hand pull the brush across the white – the line setting free the images. The rhythm of the mallet and chisel – his hands became as gnarled as the wood he carved. I remember the loving touch of his hand on ancient sculpture in Rome. I know he had heroes. Then there were those times his hands would smooth the cool surface of a table giving me the personal advice as he said “you didn’t ask for.” “Never eat at a place called “Mom’s,” don’t ever play poker with a guy called “Pop,” and don’t ever go out with someone who has more problems than you do.”

He was no nonsense and so silly. One night when we were little, he made a bet that he could shave his beard piece by piece during a long evening party and no one would notice. He won.

Renee’s name “Smoky” fit him very well. During one of our last conversations, he reminded me that light falls on everything. Renee, I know he was speaking of you.

To all of his friends and students, for all of us engendered I’m so thankful that we had a place in that life. There are moments that we had in that life that will sound forever. To Teru, Juno, Rachel, Mark, Renee, Jasmine, Nicky, and Tony, I thank you for knowing when he couldn’t remember who he was and was in tears. You gave him back his beauty. You took him to his studio, you gave him a slab of clay. His hand knew, his face smiled, and his heart was at peace.

OUR FRIEND, KURT VONNEGUT, REMINDED ME several years ago that it was one of the great joys of our lives that we knew a number of first class artists as fourth-rate tennis players. I always regarded Sid Simon as kind of a natural athlete, so I would elevate him to a third-rate tennis player. I met Sid on a tennis court more than 30 years ago. A friend of ours, a mutual friend, Peter Burchard, invited me to visit in Rockland County and promised that we could play tennis on his neighbor’s court. We set out but Peter didn’t call his neighbor, he sent him no notice – there we were hacking away when Sid Simon arrived with three friends and their tennis rackets. It was pretty obvious they were not going on a fox hunt, and it wouldn’t have been really insensitive for Sid to throw the poachers off the court and play himself, but he didn’t. And I think it was an extraordinary way to meet somebody. I always remember Sid Simon with his guests watching us play with great pleasure. He enjoyed our fun.

I know he was a man who had great reverence for space and color, but it seemed to me that he always put friends and family in front of everything, and he was willing even to compromise time.

I later grew to appreciate other remarkable qualities of Sid Simon. It was in this very room one evening when we were discussing the first wife of a friend. That’s always a very subtle and touching subject. I didn’t know the lady, and Sid did, and I asked him to tell me about her. Those of you who knew him well could have probably predicted his response. He made a drawing. I still remember it; I think I still have it. It was two lines with a great cluster of flowers where the bosom should have been and a broad brimmed hat that concealed everything but a kind of almond eye and very high cheekbone.

As a doubles partner, Sid was so much fun to play with, with Palmer Williams, the late Palmer Williams, who we regarded as the greatest club player of all, and Dick Miller the semi-pro and champion of the court, we used to vie to be Sid’s partner. Well Dick usually won, but occasionally Sid was my partner, and I always thought that we made a remarkable combination, because I have a big problem – my mind wanders, and it particularly wanders on the tennis court, and as you know Dick’s mind doesn’t wander, so when he played with Sid it was win time, and when I played with Sid we were very fortunate if we could keep track of the score.

But the moments that I cherish the most were when Sid would misplace a shot or feel some declining sense of coordination, and I would hear him in a very musical voice say, “Oh Sidney, Sidney, Sidney.” My name is Sidney, and his self-effacing statement always seemed to me a great exultation of us both and our friendship. So I conclude, Oh Sidney, Sidney, Sidney, what a great pal you were.

I’M AN ARCHITECT, AND SIDNEY WAS MY DRAWING TEACHER. Some eight years ago, I had asked Sidney to come downtown to give drawing classes to people in my office and for the past eight years on and off, every Monday evening Sidney would come down with a model and would teach us drawing.

Everybody in the office would come; architects, designers, accountant, secretaries, and the best draft persons were not the ones you would expect. And Sidney would come – he would bring slides, drawings, he would talk and talk and would reminisce about the artists that he had met. He would tell us about Matisse or when Wyeth was ejected out of the army. And always he would look over our shoulders with an amazing patience, a very, very sharp eye, we would drink beer, listen to music, and draw. And those were very, very magical evenings.

And now Sidney is gone, and I’m afraid I don’t have a teacher anymore whom I trust to look over my shoulder.

Over the last years, as you know, Sidney pretended more and more that he was very hard of hearing, and he kept talking and talking and sometimes to communicate, we had to write back to him, so we would write with our crayons as big letters and he would look at it and he would say “you don’t have to shout – I’m not blind.” Well, allow me to shout one last time…….

HI. I MAY SOUND HOARSE, BUT I'M NOT CHOKED WITH EMOTION, I’m just hoarse that’s all. Sidney and I were friends for upwards of fifty years and – now no Hallmark stuff – I mean love, love, love or any of that stuff. We didn’t agree about many things but, we were brothers, brothers don’t, and I think we were very brotherly, if I can dare say this without being too outgoing.

We divided mostly on his love for the art world, which was a thing I loathed. And much of that was because he had this infernal curiosity which I didn’t. It was like a phrenological bump on his head. He wanted to know what was going on. I remember that one time, he described this bloody Jackson Pollack was buying some art supplies and he fell and smashed the colors against his chest or some damn thing, and I said my regret is that I wasn’t an accessory to it, and Sidney looked at me very reprovingly, because even that part of the art world he bought.

I asked him not too long ago “how come you are still teaching?” because to me is like factory work. “So what are you doing that for? Just do your work and the hell with it.” I always felt that I don’t owe the kids as much as they owe me, and I don’t have to lift a hand as far as they’re concerned. I was saying this to Paul Breidenback, who I think studied with Sidney and worked for him and is a friend of mine too, and he got very indignant. He said “this is the best teacher I ever saw.” He said he would look at your work and he would see instantly what’s the matter, see what the problem is instantly, and he would give you good advice. And he said, another thing, he didn’t tell you anything more than that. He just told you what you needed to know and he was very clear. So I thought that in some strange way he must be right.

I took a trip to Egypt with Sidney. Just another word about our disagreements is that for the last ten years or so, I’m sure he didn’t hear a word I said – which sort of concreted our relationship. But I used to try to give it to him. I was very upset about this kind of institutional thing that he believed in so deeply in which I did not believe at all. In any case, the trip to Egypt – it was a Cook’s tour and it was filled with Canadians and British – many, many ladies--and it was lead by a padre of the Anglican Church, and he was terribly disappointed that we were heteros, I mean we just knew each other, and he could practically cry, because he thought he was going to get two guys there that he could have a good time with. He couldn’t with us. Well on the last night of this thing, they had some kind of a phony belly dancer and I showed up in a dark suit, white shirt and quiet tie, and Sidney came with a beret and a scarf – that brings up another thing – he loved being an artist, he always loved being an artist, and he thought people would love him because he was an artist and he was right – they did. I never trusted this. I thought an appellation like that would bring me contempt, and maybe a little envy, but mostly contempt.

And so he played it his way, I played it mine and I think he probably did better than I did. In any case, there he was and he has these kids who were absolutely attached to him and he has Renee, and Renee is an angel, and that’s that. Thank you.

THAT'S A VERY DIFFICULT TALK TO FOLLOW because of the risk of sounding saccharine after Jack Levine.

We’re here, on this gloomy Saturday, a wet afternoon, and the place is packed and it’s packed with people who love Sidney. And we love him – it’s not past tense, it’s an ongoing romance that Sidney engendered.

It was Lao Tsu, that spare poet who said once that there are among us those who live so well that they have no death to die. I think that Sidney Simon is the man who proves that point. He was utterly alive and utterly passionate in that life. His great life force and his great curiosity were based, I think, in the security that he had in his remarkable, glorious Renee and his seven children. I mean that love was his foundation stone, and that gave him the freedom and the liberation to take off in his artwork and his sculptures which were remarkable, we all know that, and in the many things he did.

He touched so many lives. He fifty years ago, fifty-one years ago, founded Skowhegan with which I’m very closely associated and there are 3,000 young artists who have come out of Skowhegan. He co-founded that with three other men after the war on the Cummings Farm in Maine and it’s been a life source for generation after generation of artists. That’s going to continue and Sidney is alive and well in all of these over 3,000 artists’ work, not even to speak of all the other artists he’s taught. I didn’t know about his Monday night drawing classes but there’s just dozens and dozens that Sidney’s worked in and touched.

I just want to say for me – I succeeded Sidney as director of Skowhegan—that he was patient with me; he wrote me many, many letters. I wrote him very few. He really sculpted my love for the artist and for art, and I was very proud to follow him in that role and I’m terribly pleased and proud to be here today to speak on all of our behalf about this remarkable man.

SIDNEY INDULGED ME in the happy fiction that he was my godfather, but in the early days, particularly in the early days on the Cape, Sidney Simon was more than a godfather to me, he was a God. He was a grown up who with his hands made human beings from stone, bronze, clay and wood. Not only that, he was fun. He was warm, he was mischievous, he told stories, he loved women, and he loved their bodies more openly and unashamedly than I, as a boy, could believe possible.

He had an eye for the comedy and the sexiness of the world, and he somehow drew it out of the stone and the bronze and the wood. And if that were not magic enough, he got me and my brother, Peter, into the act. One of my earliest memories is of a huge block of wood, a work in progress standing in the sandy woods behind Sidney’s house on the Cape and of being allowed to hold a chisel to a great female thigh as Sidney brought his mallet down on the head of the chisel. My mother is involved with that memory as well as an impression, which I’m almost sure is not factually correct, but which I got from Diana and which, like all mythology, represents a wish that if my mother’s personal history had worked out differently, Sidney might have been my father. Sidney actually looked enough like my father that when my parents’ marriage was breaking up in the mid-60’s and grown-ups commented on the way that Sidney Simon with his high forehead and dark good looks really did resemble Michael Michaelis, I without any irony beamed with pride.

All boys first see their fathers as gods - powerful, deathless, glorious, then one day we find out the truth. And for a while, we look elsewhere. I had no uncles, and my officially designated god father, Joe Kraft, turned out to be a deadbeat, so I signed up Sidney on my own. This was in the late 70’s, and by then I was old enough to know that Sidney Simon would not let me down. He never did. He responded, as he did to life itself, with a roaring embrace. All my life, whenever we met, Sidney embraced me, threw back his head, and laughed. And that laughter never failed.

When Sidney laughed, the world was good, and you belonged. His eyes twinkled; they became actual sources of lights, and he smiled the smile of a man able to find true happiness in those he loved. When Sidney smiled on you, you felt it. You felt whole, you felt yourself again. After my mother died, I always felt I was stepping back into something familiar and fundamental and necessary when I stepped into Sidney’s embrace.

Sidney loved to party, “no real dance parties lately,” he lamented in a letter a few years ago. He had in him a scholarly sense of social geography. He relished people and their doings; he loved hearing that Betty Eisenstein in her 70’s had whipped my ass in tennis.

He was a born match maker. When I was single he followed the progress of my romances as closely as any yenta. He gave me continual pep talks and when I finally got engaged sent a long, touching letter of congratulations, and he danced at my wedding as he had at my brother’s.

When my first son, Jamie, was born in 1995, Sidney, by then a grandfather at least 10 times over, replied to the news by saying that that made him a “grand god-papa.” He addressed Jamie in that great big welcoming hand of his “dear newcomer to this crazy world,” and in his enthusiasm for me and my new fatherhood, he outdid even Sam Goldwyn making five words out of one Con-grat-u-lat-ions, triple exclamation point.

I always had a sense that Sidney would rather have been in a studio working quietly and steadily, but that along the way he had learned the big lessons about trust and that he trusted the world well enough to play a role, a huge one, in the communities of his life, the Cape, the Century, Skowhegan, and the Arts Students League Castle Hill.

When my wife, Clara, and I came to see his retrospective at the Provincetown Art Association in the summer of ’95, we spent part of the next morning in Sidney’s studio. Two years earlier, Sidney had written me a letter at the end of which he said that he was getting depressed by his friends’ dying. He had given four eulogies that year and the duty of eulogizing old friends was pressing on him, especially he wrote “when I’m so involved with new work.” The spirit of that phrase struck me. I could almost see his eye lighting on a new piece and sure enough, there in that studio during that summer of his retrospective was a work in progress, a big new thing with a chain and pulley system he had designed and he wanted Clara and me to see it.

Tony Kahn was there, too, taking some photographs for the paper, and I was thinking about fathers and sons and realizing that although I no longer needed to reinvent Sidney as my ideal father, his powers in the studio, which had seemed to me in childhood magical, were as it turned out indestructible.

“No, I’m not a god,” Odysseus tells Telemachus. “Why confuse me with one who never dies?” “No, I am your father.” But god or not, real father, or father in art, Sidney had stayed alive to me all those years by involving me, and now Clara, in a life of creation; a perpetual life, a work in progress, rejuvenating human, the true source of immortality. I can now tell my sons, I know a man who lives in stone, and bronze and clay and wood. He’ll never die. That’s the part of Sidney that’s in me for good; that and the light in his eyes, and the laughter. Because it’s true the fathers we miss the most and who live in us longest are the ones who gave us their light and laughter.

I WANT TO SAY SOMETHING ABOUT SIDNEY being so good looking, because he was the handsomest of men, beautifully put together. We should all remember his chest and his arms, and everyone spoke of his hands, which were the most beautiful hands, even at the end when they had terrific arthritis and those great knobs, they were spectacular hands to look at like a great tool – the best tool. So Sidney was all terrific, grace and lightness and good looks. Even the way he wore his clothes was the most beautiful thing you ever saw. No one could wear clothes like that – jackets like Sidney did. Anyhow, lightness and grace were certainly Sidney’s. And, of course, his wit we knew.

When I was about 40 and he was about 50, and my father-in-law, Jack, was about 60, Sidney said to me in that puzzling, riddling, way he liked to say, “you know why we’re all the same age?” And of course you don’t know what to say and it’s an uncomfortable – he always made you uncomfortable, but he always came out with this terrific stuff, and he said “because we married women the same age.” That always stays with you, that sharp thing of Sidney’s no matter how long. So anyhow, I’ll miss him a great deal.

He was terrifically generous with all sorts of artists and all sorts of people. He said he had “threshold-ese” when I said “why do you have all these people at your house?” He loved every kind of art and every kind of artist as has been said here. We went last night to see his figures at the Worldwide Plaza on 50th Street – this wonderful group of figures with the world on top of them, and we got there at night, and of course the fountain was not running and the lights were not on, and I was thinking of Sidney who had so much bad luck with his professional life, I mean, he’s the only one whose piece was stolen both from the Century Club and from a truck in Provincetown, and he had another piece stolen from the gallery in Provincetown. Things were always falling down and breaking and how did he have this great spirit, this great vigor, this great lightness and joy in front of the way he was received. I don’t know. Maybe it’s that he had so many rewards when he was young, from his parents and all the prizes he won, and maybe it’s from the great testing he had in the war. But, I’ll miss his great lightness, and my whole family will, too.

AS DAD GREW WEAKER THIS PAST SUMMER, our family tried to see him as much as we could. We knew he was dying. I complained to my sister Rachel one day that I was frustrated since my work schedule was so hectic and demanding, I couldn’t get to see him enough. She teased me that I thought Dad’s declining was inconvenient. I felt bad because it was inconvenient. It was especially inconvenient for him.

For Dad, death was a BIG inconvenience. It got in the way of his living, and his playing, which he seemed to have no intention of quitting.

Dad loved play. He was a child at heart. He played poker, he played cribbage, little magic tricks, elaborate practical jokes, after-dinner tricks, the crossword puzzle, and tennis.

He could be funny. It was especially notable when he was in pain. He told me when he was getting divorced from my mother that, ‘if I don’t keep laughing, I’m going to cry.’ On being told that he was dying, he told his doctor, “Shit, that’s the worst news I’ve heard since they sunk the Bismarck.”

Around kids, he was a big kid. He used to sing us slightly risqué songs on long car trips. His favorites went something like “whoopsy doodle, I’ve lost my noodle, my rupture’s gone, my rupture’s gone” another was, “she sat on her hammock and smoked her cigar, she sat on her hammock and smoked her cigar; he sat down beside her, but didn’t get far.” He also composed music, the one we recall is the Simon Christmas Song, which he composed when we were little kids, and he tried to get each of the five of us in that litter to sign together in screeching disharmony, and each of us had a different line which we sang at the same time. One would sing “I want it, I want it” another “it’s mine, it’s mine” another “it’s broken, it’s broken” and on and on. I think four of us sang it to him this summer.

He would go to astonishing lengths to entertain a fussy child at a restaurant. When he first met my wife Penny and my stepdaughter Jessica we all went out to dinner. As the meal was ending and three year old Jess was fidgety, he drew a face on his paper napkin; he poked a hole at the mouth, and then stuck the napkin up underneath his glasses. He started smoking through the napkin. And then he started drinking his coffee through the napkin. He and Jess were delighted! Penny was baffled, and Renee and I wanted to crawl under the table.

I remember another family initiation test – the first time he met Rachel’s husband, Philippe. It was at a Mexican restaurant. Rachel and Philippe had just started seeing each other, and everyone was very nervous. After dinner and two pitchers of margaritas (he loved to drink), Dad asked for the bill. When he read it, he clutched his heart, stood up and then pitched to the floor. As he lay there, Philippe yelled, “Wait, don’t die ‘til you’ve paid the bill!” They were lifelong buddies after that. And Dad lived on to pay many, many , many more dinner bills.

Dad loved people, he was gregarious and good humored, and we can see here that he had many, many, many friends. He loved the Century Club; he was a member here for almost 40 years and this place was like his second home. He was passionate about it—especially when he got to talking about artist members and getting more artist members here, and when he felt they were being ignored. But, he reveled in the friendships he made here. In his earliest years, and most people don’t know this, because it was so long ago, he almost got kicked out. But he didn’t and both the Century and he were the better for it. His camaraderie was infectious wherever he went.

He loved women, as you’ve heard already. You can see it in his drawings of them. Many have told me how gentle and attentive he was. Penny has remarked to me that the attentions he showed women made them feel admired and appreciated. And above all, he adored Renee.

He loved teaching. At Skowhegan, the Art Students League, and elsewhere, he brought along many extraordinary and gifted artists. They pleased him. He would go on about his classroom exploits, and rarely stopped teaching when he got home. At times he saw all the world as his students. Certainly his children know that. I found it poignant in the last weeks of his life to see him preaching to mature fellow artists very sternly. He so wanted to pass on all the tremendous knowledge he had.

Dad loved his work, he loved art. He loved the craft; he loved invention, doing something for the first time. His art never stood still in many ways. He didn’t do the same piece over and over and over again. That didn’t make him very marketable, but he didn’t stop. He made a point of pursuing freshness right up through his last work. He loved to celebrate creation. Dad loved MAKING things. He was a maker, not a destroyer ---even at war, he made art. He loved making art, he loved making doodads—fixing things up around the house; he loved making friends; and he loved making children.

He loved his family, his sister Helen was very important to him – his big family. As for us kids, though he could be cranky, or impatient or bossy with all of us (seven kids can be inconvenient, and besides, we children could never, ever do ANYTHING right in the studio), I can remember him admiring every one of the family at one point or another. He wasn’t always tactful, he was never mean, and he was proud of all of us. For example, he told me many times what impressed him about Renee, how smart she was and how patient. He was proud to have two artist daughters – Teru and Nora; proud of Rachel, her lamps, and her business; proud of Juno, her gutsiness and her work with families; proud of Nick’s graduating from college, and his extraordinary memory; proud of handsome Tony and his music.

And his grandchildren! He loved them; one year Renee made him a tee shirt with “Patriarch” on it; he posed and posed and posed in it with his grandchildren having us take pictures of him. I remember him displaying grandchildren’s drawings, or walking hand in hand with 3 year old Tom. He was proud of us, and he loved us, inconvenient or not.

That gets me back to inconvenience. Life is inconvenient at times, but death is more inconvenient. Dad did not want to die. In a seeming epiphany the week before he died, he was sitting on the deck in Truro he shook his head musing looking around at the landscape and repeated twice, “there’s so much goodness in the world.” He loved life and in that, he has left us wonderful gifts - a gift of art, a gift of humor, a gift of friends and family, and a love of life.

I miss him.


SIDNEY SIMON HAD A WONDERFUL LIFE FILLED with riches of every kind. Skowhegan was only part of it. When we started the School we were young,energetic, and idealistic...innovators in the field of art education. Solid in our beliefs and uncompromising in action, we were always open to experimentation. The proof is self-evident. A living organism can only last so long. Like Black Mountain, it must die with its originators, and, if lucky, be reborn in a different mode. Skowhegan's vitality is testimony to the experience of its very first students, some now famous and others nourished by the spirit of the Founders.


EACH ONE OF THE FOUR FOUNDERS OF THE Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture imprinted some part of his person upon the place, and each one of these personalities has remained as a shaping force--long after his presence was no longer with us. Now, alas, we have lost Sidney Simon, the last of his creative crew. The personality of Sidney, so dear to those of us who knew him,persists as one of the distinguishing qualities of the School. What I remember especially about him was an attitude that he had toward every student or ocher person who came in or out of there. No one was in the least bit more important than anyone else. Sidney was aware of and concerned about the well-being of the (sometimes) mese unsure, most inconspicuous of artists, students or just plain people. Always humorous, always easy in his manner, and above all, a genuinely kind person, he was able to reinforce the self-doubting (and so often talented) young artist--and a good many older artists as well. Sidney's mood of easy informality, alongside that cool assumption of the equal importance of people, whoever they might be, remains the prevailing mood of the Art School at Skowhegan. It is, I'm sure, only a part of Sidney Simon's contribution to chat great place, but it is the part that I remember best.

SIDNEY WAS MY GODFATHER AND I HAVE A PIECE of jewelry that he hand carved for me out of bone. Always a working artist, no matter the scale or material, Sidney's combination of seriousness and sometimes whimsy came through. As a teacher, he had the ability to identify the largeness of an idea and, at the same time, provoke the elements of detail that made the idea. He cared. And he communicated this to others with insight and interest. As art students, we felt supported. As a goddaughter, I felt a generous touch of his warmth.

Throughout his life, Sidney had been creating ways to keep his spirit alive. For the Skowhegan family, his most valuable legacy is the School. In 1946, when he was still in his 20's, Sidney co-founded the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture on the Cummings' farm in Maine. Run exclusively by artists. A unique idea. Singular. Simple. An extraordinary place to teach those other blessed scoundrels who want to make art. Each of these often mad, courageous, visionary souls who passes through Skowhegan and is enlivened by it, carries some of Sidney into this world. We are all beholden to Sidney, I, perhaps more than most, as inheritor of his mantle as Director of the School. In my first few years, Sidney patiently answered hundreds of my questions and generously gave advice on dozens and dozens of issues. He helped sculpt my own great love and understanding of Skowhegan and its artists. Each of us misses Sidney Simon in a deep and personal way. But pause and listen. Do you hear him! He's Lao Tzu's proof. He's singing, bellowing goodwill and his hearty belief in creation. And his song surrounds us.
Thanks, Sidney, for all of it.
OF PROGRAM, 1984 - 1996


Gentle Hands
Twisted and bent
Like the trees of your trade.
Life’s own essence
Your art was wrought
From elements and earth
It gives me joy
And helped me see,
The richness of the universe.
Your smiling soul
Could right a room
And even your ire
Could charm.
And though time and age
Made it harder to bear
The worst
Was a passing storm.
And now
In its wake
In the grays
Of the Cape
In a dark morning
Late summer sky,
Comes the peaceful retreat
As you lay down your tools
And cover your clay
For the night.
And the dreams that you dream
Seem to dance
In the dunes
And the sons that you made
Are young men.
And the work never ends,
But the passages do,
As your gentle life
Comes to an end.
So away on the wind
Take our hearts
As you sail
To the seas Of the seasons
Gone by,
Go well
And with glory
And remember
Our love
As we stand
On the shore
For good-byes.


We're lucky I'm happy as hell to be on the Cape with the Long Point group! When Sidney Simon talks about the artists at Long Point, he often sounds as if he were not part of the group himself. Perhaps this is because he is the only member who is primarily a sculptor.His own speech is so clear and uncluttered, . "Let's talk about that group of overage geniuses at Long Point' he said provocatively. "They are the greatest tastemakers. They can hang a piece of my work and my wife won't recognize it. They make everything seem important. Sometimes it drives me crazy because I think of: the gallery as a tryout place, like summer theater You get the work out of the studio and you try it out. But the hanging committee, Lee, the Frombolutis, and Boghosian, they drive me crazy, Budd crazy. They're good, but they also make the gallery look like a museum, where everything is priceless and nothing is for sale. One time, for a drawing show, I put through a vote that we could hang our own work. I put 25 drawings on the wall, all over each other I wanted them to look as if there was absolutely no sense to the arrangement. They made me take the back wall, out of view, but the funny thing is I sold three or four of them' One summer Simon was in Maine running the art school he helped found at Skowhegan. He received a phone call to attend a very important meeting at Long Point. The group intended to produce another collaborative print, as they had done Mice previously. This time it was to be a silkscreen and they chose to limit themselves to four colors. Each artist came to the meeting with little pieces of colored paper On the back of each they had writ ten the name of the color, such as Windsor and Newton green or Bocour yellow. Four teen artists stood around a big table swarming with little pieces of color. Simon, arriving late in the midst of much discussion, blundered into a bizarre situation which he thought no interior decorator would tolerate. Someone suggested that the first thing they should do is pick a good neutral. Simon said immediately, "What do you mean, pick the neutral! You pick the neutral last. You pick the star first! You get the color you want, then you get the others to go with itl' They all said, "Oh, Sidney, shut up, you're just a sculptor!" They ended up choosing a warm gray, a pale peachy yellow, and mars black, after a long argument over the merits of ivory black. That left-one color to chose. At that point Motherwell reached into his pocket for a cigarette. Simon said, in a voice as penetrating as a loudspeaker, Your not going to suggest that Gauloises blue, are you?" Motherwell dropped his back in his pocket and picked out the red dust red that Simon had ever seen. Placing it with the three other colors, as casually as you would light a match, Motherwell said, "This might go with it..The combination sprang to life; the group was in agreement at last.
Photograph and Article is from Provincetown Arts volume 7 1991


in the group, Sideo Fromboluti and Nora Speyer have built their life around painting. "For years," Sideo said, "we only knew artists in New York. We began to spend summers in Woodstodk because there artists up there. We left because there was no swimming and went to Martha vineyard and left there because there weren't enough artists.We ended up near Provincetown where there are a lot of artists. We ended up near Provincetown where there are a lot of artists. I'd be among people you understand is very important. Otherwise one can become very unimportant, isolated from society, and the individual becomes like a poor Russian artist who hides his paintings under his bed.
Copyright © www.sidneysimon.com