It would have been my mother’s 89th birthday last week, on October 18. Audrey Gentieu was a great artist, even as a young girl. I knew that she was prolific at an early age, but it never really hit home until yesterday when I received an email from someone in Florida who sent me a photo of this landscape oil painting that my mother painted when she was only 12 years old. I was pleasantly surprised to see this painting that my mother painted when she was so young, and that it was technically so sophisticated. Isn’t it great how the internet can bring people together, with something so close to our heart.http://artistsoftoledo.com/audrey-gentieu-1922-2009/
He was my painting teacher. Very Jean-Paul Belmondoesque, charismatic and philosophical, he was a legend at the University of Toledo, Toledo Museum of Art School of Design for about 20 years until he moved out west. He was everybody’s guru — very cool and brutally honest. I wasn’t into photography then, but my paintings always involved photos and masking-taped squares. That’s how I painted for three years, until one day Botts came up from behind and said in his low voice, “Yes but how long can you keep doing this?” It was my last painting. Not because of that, but I moved to Ypsilanti soon after and completed my BFA at Eastern Michigan University. That’s where I took photography for the first time, and knew photography was my thing. So I guess Botts did me a favor. I photographed Botts at work in his studio in 1979.
I am very saddened to learn tonight that Wil Clay died. I feel fortunate that I met him last year and photographed him at his studio. I admired him for his accomplishments in the publishing world as well as for his paintings and sculptures. Wil Clay illustrated a children’s book about Rosa Parks — I photographed him with his portrait of her. And I photographed other important works. In addition, one of his favorite teachers was Ernest Spring from Macomber High School, and I photographed him with a painting he owned of his. This painting was in the City Paper this fall — of the Rose’s Sail & Rail Diner. I had looked forward to showing him that but hadn’t quite yet. Wil Clay seemed young and vibrant. It just makes you realize how delicate life is.