Bowden Sale to Benefit Brooks-Park Site

The sale was organized by Helen Harrison, director of the Pollock-Krasner House and Study Center
Priscilla Bowden’s “Architectural Laundry” is part of a sale of her work that will benefit the Brooks-Park Heritage Project.

A benefit sale of art at Ashawagh Hall in Springs this weekend not only brings together past and present members of the East Hampton artists community but supports an enduring legacy for two of its longtime members.

Beginning tomorrow, the exhibition space will feature a sale of paintings and drawings from the late Priscilla Bowden’s estate. Although mostly her work, it will include pieces by Robert Dash, Jack Youngerman, Jane Freilicher, and Tony Stubbing.

The sale was organized by Helen Harrison, director of the Pollock-Krasner House and Study Center, and the proceeds will go to the Brooks-Park Heritage Project. The project is responsible for the restoration of the house and studios of James Brooks and Charlotte Park, a couple who lived on Neck Path in Springs for decades after moving there in the 1950s. Mr. Brooks died in 1992; Ms. Park in 2010. The Town of East Hampton acquired the property using the community preservation fund.

Ms. Bowden, who died last year, was known for her landscape paintings. With a focus on bay and pond settings, she captured the area’s waterways as well as those farther afield. She was married to Jeffrey Potter, a neighbor of Jackson Pollock who compiled the oral history “To a Violent Grave” about the later years of the artist’s life. A few paintings from Ms. Bowden’s estate were donated to the Pollock-Krasner House and Study Center.

As Ms. Harrison said in a short film by Max Scott to be shown at the exhibition, abstract art is about thoughts and feelings. The environment a work was created in can offer clues to what the artist was thinking and provide a sense of who the person was. “It humanizes it. In the museum [the art] is detached. You don’t know who it came from or where it came from.” 

The East End is fortunate to have so many exhibition spaces and institutions devoted to art, but its true legacy lies in the area’s role in inspiring so much of the exalted art produced in the mid-to-late 20th century. The Brooks-Park property is one of the few residences and studios from that period that still exists mostly as it did during their lifetimes.

Peconic Historic Preservation, a non-profit organization, is now administering the restoration and the site’s transformation into a community space. The grounds have ample space for recreational activities, and parking. Fund-raising efforts have yielded about $40,000 so far, according to Ms. Harrison.

The site includes a former residence, which was moved from Montauk via barge in 1956, and two studios. The studio once used by Brooks is of modern construction, a two-story-high barn-like structure with a loft-like interior and high windows to let in tons of light. Park’s studio was once the Wainscott Post Office.

Although Park’s studio has been practically untouched since the day she died and will be preserved that way, Ms. Harrison, who is helping with the project, said the place should not become a shrine. 

“I always encourage people who come to the Pollock-Krasner House to come and get inspired to do something they wouldn’t have done if they hadn’t been there.” Artists have slept in the studio there and made paint by grinding stones they found on the property, among other interpretations of their experience. She envisions the Brooks-Park property as a similar site and is encouraging those who are spearheading the restoration to think along the same lines. The buildings could be used for exhibitions, film screenings, lectures, performances, and related activities.

Those who would like to help have been encouraged to donate or purchase one or more of Ms. Park’s works, which are mostly priced at $600 or less. They include paintings, watercolors, and even some charming compositions she drew and painted on old checks. 

The show will be on view tomorrow through Sunday with a reception Saturday from 5 to 7 p.m.

An untitled watercolor by Priscilla Bowden captures one of her signature water views.