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H.C. Westermann (1922–1981)

H.C. Westermann had a genius for making his art look like craft. The harmony that he established with his homey materials was capable of transforming the obvious and the sentimental into the sublime. The eloquent economy of his imagery suggested transcendent folk art, but the compact poetry of his vision lifted it much higher. Westermann was an unequivocally American artist who translated the cynical Duchampian monologue into a rueful Appalachian ballad.

William Copley’s remembrance of Westermann is a bear hug of a painting. There is no “awful rowing toward God” in this memento mori, but rather jubilant testimony to an enduring friendship. Copley’s sardonic, endearingly rude painting offers a loving evocation of Westermann’s wry, egalitarian impulse, and provides a wonderful model for the symbiosis of heart and eye. Go Westermann. Beat Yale!

Richard Flood

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