A recent drawing of Joe.
Joseph Solman is a modernist painter who founded “The Ten” in the early nineteen forties. While some in the group like Mark Rothko went on to create his color field paintings, Joseph retained subject matter to his work.
I first came across Joseph Solman’s work in 1996 while attending The Illustration Academy. Gary Kelley was our guest instructor for the week, and after I had shown him my portfolio, he suggested I look at Joe’s work. I went home that summer and the first thing I did was go and order his book.
The years after this experience I referred to this book quite often. Sometimes to get inspiration for color, sometimes to see how he solved a problem of form or shape. I got so much out of constantly looking at Joe’s work, and still do.
I had placed this book on the shelf and not referred to it for a couple of years. One day I took it off the shelf to read, and started to read the timeline in the back of the book. It gave the date of Joe’s birth (1909) and went all the way up to 1995, when the book was published. I went to sleep that night not giving it a second thought.
That night I dreamt that I was at the University of Utah hearing Joe give a lecture. In the dream I had brought my copy of his book for him to sign. He finished his lecture, and a line forms to have books signed. Right as I am about to have him sign my book, a security guard closes the gate and I miss my chance.
At five thirty on a Saturday morning, I sprang out of bed, went into the other room, and got on the computer to look up Joseph’s address and phone number. I found his information online, and I was fully prepared to give him a call that morning. My wife spoke some sense into me and suggested that I write him first, so I did. Ten days later as I was heading out the door for work, I get a call from Joe! He tells me that he would be more than happy to look at my work, and give me what advice he had to offer. I was blown away by the fact that he called!
A couple of months later I went to New York to see my work on display, and had the chance to treat Joe to lunch, and spend the afternoon with him in the east village. He told me over lunch how Mark Rothko had dropped the last part of his last name, and wondered why he was never happy. It was a learning experience I will never forget.
In the following visits to New York, I made it a point to visit Joe. On one such occasion, I got the courage to ask him if I could buy one of his drawings. For once I had some disposable income at my disposal. I also got up the courage to ask him to draw my portrait. He brought out a stack of drawings, and I went through and chose a few finalists to decide on. He looked these over and simply gave them to me. Through my tears I thanked him profusely, and I think I embarrassed him somewhat…
Fast forward to this past summer in Syracuse. I was in the middle of my masters’ degree, and had Gary Kelley again as an instructor. I told Gary how I had met Joseph, and thanked him for introducing his work to me. We got to talking and were able to arrange it so Gary could meet him while he was in New York jurying the SI show. So, I was able to take it full circle and introduce Gary to Joseph Solman! As we met with Joe in his east village apartment, I sat back and took in how I had not only met an artist who has had a huge influence on me, but was able to introduce the man who had turned me to his work! My apologies for being rhetorical, but how often does this happen?
These past two trips I haven’t been able to get in touch with Joe. I hope that all is well with him, he is 98 years old!
If you aren’t familiar with his work check it out by clicking < a href=http://www.mercurygallery.com/JoeSolman.html>Here