Sensory Experience of Perception

These individuals influenced my artistic and intellectual growth.  

Walter Benjamin - Benjamin’s writing introduced me to Central European criticism and, provided a glimpse of between the wars intellectual life, subjects not readily accessible to undergraduate students  in 1960’s America.

Richard Diebenkorn and his circle were an unavoidable influence on Bay Area art in the 1950’s and 1960’s. Diebenkorn’s work informs and inspires my work.

Clarence Glacken - Geography professor at Berkeley, has his own section below.

Muriel Goodwin - friend, painter.

Ms Goodwin provided encouragement and insightful criticism of my paintings. When she was in my studio it like felt a master class.

She was active in the early 1950’s Bay Area art scene – she recounted many of her experiences, including being at the legendary reading of Howl, to which she had taken her mother.

She knew the painter David Simpson (who was also present at the reading of Howl), and the painter Erle Loran, both of whom were my instructors at Berkeley.

She was a frequent visitor to the studio of the sculptor Peter Volkous, who taught at Berkeley when I was there.

Alfred Leslie - painter, instructor.

I encountered Alfred Leslie when I took his life drawing class at UCLA in the summer of 1964. I bought a big roll of butcher paper on which I made large drawings of the models. He taught us to draw the human form – and he screened his films Pull My Daisy and Last Clean Shirt.

 This was two years before the studio fire that destroyed the greater portion of his large Grisaille paintings that were being prepared for an exhibition at the Whitney. 

I followed Leslie’s work, and I kept in touch with him through occasional notes and emails. 

He worked on several themes, at a grand scale, and in a variety of mediums.   

He offered a personal connection to the Beat Generation, and to the immediate post-war New York art community.

Review of Cedar Bar in New York Art World, by Donald Goddard
 Comparison of Two Paintings 

Art is Really Important

Gurdon Miller







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Cezanne: Pontoise
Cézanne’s version

Erle Loran - art professor at U. C. Berkeley.

The book, Cézanne’s Composition: Analyses of His Form with Diagrams and Photographs of his Motifs, is based upon the research Loran  conducted during the three years he lived in Cézanne’s studio in Aix en Provence, where he photographed subjects of Cézanne’s paintings and analyzed how Cézanne altered the paintings to produce an acceptable composition.

 I've read successive editions of Cézanne’s Composition obtained over the years, many of which I’ve given to friends.

 Mr. Loran was a connection to Abstract Expressionism, and to the Bay Area art and cultural scene that I experienced in the 1960’s. (See Landauer, The San Francisco School of Abstract Expressionism.)

In October, 2018, I visited Cézanne’s studio and the quarry Bibémus, where he also painted.

I observed the subjects of various paintings from the locations where he painted  them. This helped me see Cézanne’s reorganization of the optical reality of the motifs more clearly than I had been able to by looking at prints and photographs. 

Cézanne played a major role in the transition from representational art to non-objective art.

Gottardo Piazzoni - Swiss-born Bay Area painter.

“Lene,” Arlene Washburn - my fourth grade teacher, a family friend, my lifelong friend and mentor.

Lene, whom I had to call Miss Washburn when I was in her class, taught me how to draw, how to paint, and how to learn. She set examples for how to live, and how to die. 

Lene arranged for me to show my work to Madam Chouinard who encouraged me to apply to The Chouinard Art Institute  MFA program. I was not able to do so, but her endorsement reinforced my belief in my talent.

Harold Webb - Chemistry teacher at El Monte High School, sponsored the Mineralogy Club. He also sponsored  the school’s chemistry team. This involved several months of extra-curricular study in preparation for the annual American Chemical Society High School Chemistry Test. I did well on the test.

That experience led me to see science and mathematics as means of understanding the universe based on verifiable evidence and rigorous study. This provided a basis for learning how to think critically, and an enduring compulsion to understand . . . everything.

On Mineralogy Club field trips, in addition to explaining geology and showing us how to collect rocks, Mr. Webb encouraged me to sketch and to paint landscapes, and he spoke well of my efforts.

Paul Wheatley - Geography professor at Berkeley, team-taught Geography 100A and 100B with Mr. Glacken. Wheatley wrote two remarkable books:

Pivot of the Four Quarters is a history of the development of Chinese cities, and, incidentally, a history of the invention of cities throughout the world. Places Where Men Go to Pray is a history of the development, form, and function of medieval Muslim cities.

Pissarro's version
View of the Hermitage at Pontoise
“The two paintings shown here, done from the same motif by Cézanne and Pissaro, demonstrate emphatically the difference between the space organization of a great master and that of a lesser artist.” (p. 55, Cézanne’s Composition. New ed, 2006)
Paintings’ success depend on their composition. This is an example of the difference between paintings that are about the literal rendition of pictures, and paintings that address universal elements of composition, irrespective of the extent to which a painting diverges from the image, or is without recognizable content. 
Recognizing the compositional elements of a painting, whether it is representational or abstract, is one of the bases of modern art.
“The year 1875 can be regarded as the climactic point in the lengthy, if intermittent, working relationship between Pissarro and Cézanne. Two paintings of Pontoise form a so-called pair that clearly indicates they were working in close proximity.
The two artists were working at the same time. . . . Already in 1875, both artists are finding ways that will take them beyond Impressionism.” (p. 145, Cézanne and Pissarro
later: image of Cezanne's workshop

Clarence Glacken - Geography professor at Berkeley.

Mr. Glacken introduced his students to the study of the history of ideas. He team-taught, with Paul Wheatley, Geography 100A and 100B, the two semester upper division class in geographic thought required of all Berkeley Geography majors and those graduate students who came to Berkeley from other colleges and universities.

Had I not encountered these two individuals, from whom I took as many courses as I could, it is unlikely that I would have remained in school. The content of their classes and the intellectual breadth of their lectures and publications kept me in Berkeley and continue to inspire me.

Glacken taught and wrote about the relationship between culture  and the environment. His book, Traces on the Rhodian Shore, is widely recognized as the most important environmental book published in the twentieth century.

jump to Important Books page

I was aware for many years of the existence of a file box containing Mr. Glacken’s unpublished manuscripts, and I wished I could explore its contents. In 2017 the University of Virginia Press published Genealogies of Environmentalism: the Lost Works of Clarence Glacken, based, in part on the contents of this file box. I ordered several copies, and I have given copies to many friends.

jump to Genealogies of Environmentalism: the Lost Works of Clarence Glacken

As I read The Lost Works, I find myself imagining discussions with Mr. Glacken as I discover connections between what he was thinking about in the middle of the last century – cultural geography as the study of landscape as a cultural artifact, environmental perception,  and what I am thinking about and working on now – art as mediated by the sensory experience of perception. 

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