Tony Hepburn in Correspondence
The following three letters were written by Tony Hepburn, from Cranbrook, to Addie Langford, in Madrid, Spain, on her Fulbright Fellowship between 2006 and 2007.
CALLE de TOLEDO 75, 3C
I do not know when I last wrote a letter by hand. – and certainly never in pencil. – (given to me by a guy on a plane who found I was an artist, a rep from Pentel who probably thought I could spread the word.) Now it’s my turn, your letter was delicious. I have read it several times and waded in its density. Thank you.
I am looking at your drawings – they seem so alive in spite of the time you take, you seem to stay on the edge of them – they are certainly not ‘dark.” I was surprised by the perspective in them (ever the architect?) I was obviously thinking that you were working from tapestries & that intricate flatness. Clearly that’s not going to happen, so rock on. (how did you get from Bosch to Canoletto anyway?) I enclose some work from an artist that I worked alongside in a print studio in Minneapolis – thought you might enjoy her “permanence of the soul” statement. She’s around your age.
I loved your “red blob” experience – as I think I probably said several times to you artist it is important for artists to occasionally shock themselves […] When you get your paper (I told you so) how are you going to use it. When you draw what is the situation. I hated using an easel in my “hip replacement” period because I couldn’t get away from it. Drawing on the wall is am much about walking- and god so much about memory, as you well know, every mark you have ever made comes up for grabs (accept if you drop a red dot on it) It almost sounds like THE MOMENT is embraced by you, well done – that time in the studio “when you leave.”
You talk about touch and missing it. Yes of course I miss it[…]. I don’t understand how anyone would not. […] I don’t know who said it but that touch was characteristic in the pre industrial societies and essential to understanding the world, how for the most part we can only touch what we own.
Had a good time in Chicago although my work with the grads (SAIC) was hard because they weren’t very good- they didn’t talk to others – not crits!! – So I called them and Xavier on that – got an email from Shannon [Goff] and Tom [Lauerman] today saying they had formed their own crit club, forever the missionaries.
Everyone here is moving, the intensity is growing (I love it) The New grads – a great bunch – are having the usual December, “I don’t know what I am doing, why am I here” traumas. I would be disappointed if it didn’t happen – sounds sadistic but as you know my “art grows out of anxiety”…… […].
The Scripps show is coming to fruition and I admit to a little anxiety. – look forward to meeting Heather- I will be there for 5 days, lecture then the opening and gigs at U.S.C. and Long Beach and somewhere in between getting into trouble with all those Cranbrookians down there.[…] I have to start drawings for my project in China. (did I tell you?) Anyway, here we go again. They are building a new museum in Xian (where the clay army is_ and they want a gate frame. This time I will make it there. They have a ceramics factory that will do my bidding – so I see lead glazes in my future – can’t see the forms yet, but they have pretty sophisticated extruding equipment which sends things floating around my mind. I have 4 weeks there to do it!! Then I go to Beijing and work in some guy’s studio making small pieces for a show in the town. (and I give you a hard time about looking too far ahead?) – then back to Xian for the opening of the museum. I think [my daughter] Laura will come out for that and we plan to take this new train that runs from Beijing to Lahsa, Tibet. 3 days, soft sleeper, from sea level to 11,000ft. […] What else? – saw an amazing Richard Tuttle show at the Contemporary in Chicago (Am I the only person in the world that likes him) – and the Louisiana Art Museum in Denmark is one of the best I have been to.
P.S. the other item in the envelope is a gift to you of one of my notebooks. You may recognize some images
CALLE de TOLEDO 75, 3C
NEW YEARS LETTER
It’s a dreary, rainy New Years “Eve” day – and, as its Sunday, going through the New York ritual, and not feeling motivated to do anything, I say to myself, “I will draw tomorrow.” Then I am reading a review of a new book by Hilton Kramer, The Triumph of Modernism and he talks about drawing in relation to R.B. Kitaj (my drawing teacher did I tell you that?) – ….
And a “drawing is a form of writing by other means, a medium in which the literary and graphic are in perfect accord” – my lethargy is solved, I must write to Addie and thank he for her letter, “Happy New Year” email and photograph, (shift to hard lead), and tell her about Kramer, (3H pencil taken over) So thanks for your letter & package, the photo, so beautiful. […] As you gather I am going through the process of going through my archives of reviews, catalogs, etc. funny, peculiar experience. This has got something to do with your “Have you gone mad” question. I know it must be difficult for you to understand, and yes they are precious to me but so are people – it must have something to do with age-.
Your observations, about your reflections on you and your culture, on being a woman are not only totally fascinating, they are what Fulbright is about. He thought it was to be all positive but I am sure he would have appreciated the impact on you. I am re-reading your letter and the only page 3 (circled) is numbered. I love it.[…] I cannot get the analogy between drawing on foam core and canvas!!! I did all my “profile” drawings for Korean gate, out of necessity, on foam core and hated it. The large drawings that I did in Italy were all on primed Italian linen and loved it. (Did I ever show you them?)
So tell me more
I fear that our “face to face” may be a long way off. I can not think of anything I would rather do than go with you to Xavier’s show– REVIEWS beckon happen at that time and during our spring break you will be in the U.S. – Worst still you will be returning from your Fulbright just about the time I leave for China! So our letters etc. will have to suffice – not as though they can – they get close to banter but not in our true sense.
Christmas was great Elsa basically never left my side for 4 days, by me, totally unexpected from a 16 year old, we talked non-stop – we even got into Buddhist philosophy, deconstructive theory – as well as boys! Laura looked on like she did not know she knew that about her. I shopped for her in Birmingham at “Anthropology” (seems like your Hoss) I thought I would be returning everything because it was so outrageous, she loved it, again mom looked on in disbelief – “what is my dad thinking about”
Well my dear Addie, thanks again for all your wonderful words, your picture, incidentally, has a “frame” – it sits perfectly into one of your porcelain flowers that you left for me now on the mantle shelf – looking down on me.
One more thing – (nobody knows but next week it will become known.) Starting in September – will be my last year teaching. This was not an easy decision to make as I am sure you understand, and I am a little nervous about the decision. But I think I have one more left in me (and I have had many) and that is to commit solely to making art and writing. What do you think?
– are you going to give me the “have you gone mad” thing again, I wouldn’t blame you.
O.K. Soul mate, my dear Addie, much love to you –
how do they dance in Spain?
CALLE de TOLEDO 75, 3C
Super Bowl Sunday 
It seems my Sunday Times reading ritual has led my writing to you again. This time of review of Vija Clemins. Did we ever talk about her- we should have. “The artist Vija Clemins is nothing if not disciplined. When she decided in the [late] 1960’s that painting no longer provided fertile territory for her explorations, she abandoned it for almost 2 decades.” – to quote her- “in my quest for clarity I decided that I was going to do everything with a pencil.” _ I am preaching to the choir!! She has a retrospective right now at U.C.L.A. – See Web #1 (1998) I thought of you. – and still reading a new mag out of the U.K. Art Review, really good, – in their Feb issue, a piece on Madrid galleries. I know you probably know them all. Anyway get the thing going by a drink at El Chicote – ?? _ Galleries Moriarty, Helga de Alvear, Oliva Avanna, Javier Lopez, Raquel Ponce, Espacio Minimo, Bianca Soto, CREAE, La Reina ——————mean anything? Staying on Spanish track, talked to Xavier yesterday, a Saturday morning ritual, said he had a nice time with you. Still Spanish, but Mexico, Brewster Buckman, my alum in Puerto Vaillarta has built another studio 20 miles south and wants us all to go there in the fall. He will come here and work in my studio. He will come here and work in my studio for a month – then we go down – seems appropriate- my last trip with the group and where all this travelling began – Corning??
So my “Fulbright years” eh?? You are right of course. The residencies I have done have given me a taste but they were never “forever!” and, to be honest the thought that you may conceivably end up there one day gave me a glow. Back to your letter. Real Madrid + its team was the master that guided my football days, so glamorous, – and how Bucham, what is he thinking, a genius, not going to fritter away his days in Hollywood!! – Speaking of which my trip out there was great * – and intense. Too many people talking in my ear 10 hours a day. I was pleased with the show, I think it made the point I was after and just the right number of people had a problem with it. My talk, they say to over 200 people was an odd audience of many alums, southern Cal clay people from Adrian Saxe to John Mason and everything in between, museum people, gallerists, but they were generous. Following the talk we had an opening, 500+ , mariachi band, fun. Next day another talk at U.S.C. and the reality check of undergraduate ceramic students. I didn’t know what to say to them. Then finally an alum party for me at Tom Mueller’s house, wonderful; from many years ago to recent – Oona was there, she goes to ECWC in April. Back to Cranbrook, exhausted in a good way.
Working on my China project (there must be a tiny window where you get back & I leave to see each other?) Anyway it is looming and dates are being set which gives it reality and dealing with the craziness of Beijing wakes me up at night. I have never met my host, but I will work in his studio for a week, strange, before we head off to Xian.
I may be going to London for a couple of days next week- this is strange. The government basically controls education in the U.K. London University, my alma mater, has maybe 20 colleges under its wing and they are thinking of merging departments- all ceramics programs would merge with either design, sculpture, or architecture. So they are holding hearings- they want me to speak. Does that sound a little strange, it does to me. I was just looking at your little drawing of a map of Spain and it triggered a memory, ever told you this? We had to leave our apartment in England for 3 months whilst it was rehabbed. It was during the summer. We had been to Spain several times but for short periods – so I thought let’s take the kids camping in Spain for 3 months, it was a wonderful trip. We drove from London through France into San Sebastian, across through Zaragoza, Barcelona and all the way round the coast. By the time we got back to the U.K. Customs we were all very deeply tanned. U had a pony tail and it was obviously a red flag – they tore my car apart certain to find drugs – none of course. But it’s part of the love affair with Spain.
The studio is hopping – as you can imagine – 2 weeks till reviews. The first years beginning to figure out what’s going on – and why suddenly the 2nd years are not interested in what they are doing – Jin is still 24/7- she has 4 job interviews, amazing. Autumn + Akemi are planning after Cranbrook, a shared studio in D.C. Matt is still wanting on Fulbright, he and Jen went to Iceland during break, Daniella’s splitting time between Ceramics and Architecture, destined I think for Massey world, Melissa you know about, she is great – but panicking “It’s time for me to grow up, Tony,” “No, it isn’t.” John I tapped to write the grad book essay – “How do I follow that” says John, and Julie is ready to join the Cranbrook mafia in L.A. All good, but probably too many babes in the studio – I said this morning, “so who is going to win the game”!! to the group at the table, — “ what game”!!
So my dear Addie, another enjoyable, if somewhat
incomprehensible “talk” with you.