Pamela Harris

The other evening we were coming home from our after dinner walk and as we neared our block we passed two elderly men in suits. They were Claes Oldenburg and Ellsworth Kelly. I leaned to Joe and said, 'Holy shit' and turned around for a second look. Claes Oldenburg lives next door and I see him often, but to see them together was thrilling. It felt like what old New York must have felt like, two art icons casually walking and talking, maybe heading to dinner given their lack of rush yet sense of purpose. CO must be in his 80's and EK is at least 90, and what stood out was their complete lack of self-consciousness.

Oftentimes, when I see a celebrity on the street, no matter how un-self conscious they appear you can sense their antennae looking for a camera. Claes Oldenburg and Ellsworth Kelly were oblivious. Granted, paparazzi may not stalk them, but it was like seeing Mickey Mantle walk by. Oldenburg's and Kelly's art changed art. They may slip around the city anonymously, but their impact is tremendous.

Top image:

Ellsworth Kelly Colors for a Large Wall 1951 Oil on canvas mounted on sixty-four joined panels 240 x 240 cm The Museum of Modern Art, New York, gift of the artist, 1969

Bottom image:

Claes Oldenburg Clothespin, 1976 (Philadelphia)


Great story Paul! Beth, they were both in suits, elegant and timeless. No shuffling for these gents. Art keeps you young, for sure.

pamela | June 19, 2014 at 12:42 pm

WOW!!! Fantastic!! It's so refreshing to see you lomp into another neighborhood. And what a neighborhood, Claes and Ellsworth no less. You are such a beautiful writer, and it's a joy to read anything you write. But Claes and Ellsworth... who would have guessed. And you mentioned Mickey Mantle, which reminds me of a funny story. At least amusing. My undergraduate degree is in Philosophy and Literature from Georgetown, and my very first class was Logic. In walks a rolly-polly Jesuit priest, dressed in black robes, swinging his long rosary wrapped around his waist, carrying a milk carton with a picture of Mickey Mantle holding his bat with the saying, "DRINK GREENWAY MILK". The priest asks, "What's wrong with this picture?" Being a baseball player myself, I raised my hand and said, "Father, he's holding the bat wrong". "No, no no, no no", he replies. A kid from Boston says, "Fatha, he needs to button his shirt." "No, no, no, no, no" he replies. The third student says, " Father, he's wearing his hat wrong." No, no, no, no, no..... Mickey Mantle doesn't know a DAMN thing about milk. Let this be your first lesson in Logic. A Transfer of Authority. He's a great baseball player, but he knows nothing about milk. In the next 4 years, if we can make you realize the difference between what you know, and what you don't know... AND ACT ACCORDINGLY, we will have done our job". Looks like I'm guilty of LOMPING. Thank you.

Paul Murphy | June 18, 2014 at 10:41 pm

So how were they dressed? I have this image of the male version of Iris Apfel….lots of different patterns, colors and big round glasses.

Beth Rooks | June 18, 2014 at 08:17 pm

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