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University of Connecticut University Libraries

Art as a Family Affair
Four Spencers
Harold + Editha + Eric + Mark

In San Francisco during World War II, a young US Merchant Marine officer who had studied briefly at the Art Students League in New York met a young woman artist, a recent graduate of the University of California and the art editor of a magazine published by the Navy. Apparently the meeting was reasonably harmonic, since Harold Spencer and Editha Hayes Spencer are in their 54th year of a marriage in which a commitment to the visual arts has been a constant factor.

Harold Spencer served for twenty years as a professor of art history in the University of Connecticut's School of Fine Arts and, as a practicing artist, continued to exhibit his work regularly. Since his retirement in 1988, he has continued his research and curatorial activities as an art historian. Editha Spencer is well known in the region for her linoleum block prints of local subjects and for her paintings in oil and watercolor, which have won many awards.

This exhibition is a kind of "hail and farewell" for Harold and Editha, since they will move, in the Spring of 2002, to their new home in California, near the coast they love so much--a return to beginnings. At the same time, they express their deep appreciation for the friendships and experiences that the years in Connecticut have brought them. Theirs is a farewell sure to be followed by many return visits.

This exhibition is also a family affair. They are joined by two of their sons--Eric, a local illustrator and graphic designer, and Mark, a Californian who works in ceramic sculpture and various two-dimensional media. Indeed, the entire family is involved with the arts in one way or another. Of their two older sons, David is a local builder who enjoys the design aspects of his profession, and Robert teaches in an alternative program of the Los Angeles schools and coaches art and music sections of the Academic Decathlon. Theirs is a close-knit family, even though divided between the two coasts.

 Genesis Series: Intrusion, oil on canvas HAROLD SPENCER, professor emeritus of art history at the University of Connecticut, is the author and editor of several publications on the history of art. He earned BA and MA degrees in art from the University of California at Berkeley and a PhD in art history from Harvard University. The natural world is the primary source for Spencer's works in oil, encaustic, watercolor, and monotype. Since 1941, he has shown his work regularly in exhibitions throughout the United States. Of the tiered compositions and the signature spectrum of color in his recent paintings, Spencer says, "Life seems to me very like the strata of geologic time, with each present retiring into layers of past experiences. As for the spectrum of color, it is for me a metaphor of light, evoking the sun itself, without whose light there would be no life, only darkness in the midst of indifferent stars. Ultimately, my overriding theme is the eternal cycle of life."

Beyond the Summer-House, oil on canvas EDITHA SPENCER Watercolors, oils, and linoleum block prints all express, albeit in different mediums, Editha Spencer's profound connections to the visual world. In her paintings, both oils and watercolors, the sense of interacting spaces, forms, and colors permeates the image as man-made objects merge with the more fluid natural world. She notes, "My joy is to bring about, on paper or canvas, a place emerging from, and yet different from, the actuality--a work that 'lives' on its own." Her block prints, more realistic in approach, are for the most part printed in black and white, and feature many University of Connecticut subjects as well as other local scenes. Editha received her BA in art from the University of California at Berkeley. She has shown her work extensively in juried and invitational exhibitions, and it is included in many private collections. Her block prints and bookplate designs have appeared in several publications.

Star Eyes: Self Portrait, mixed media ERIC SPENCER is an illustrator, graphic designer, art director, and educator. "My personal art work," he notes, "often reflects my affinity for the western landscape as well as early childhood experiences." His most recent personal works are created usin g handcut stencils sponged with printers' ink and acrylic, the final stages employing brush and colored pencil. A graduate of the Rhode Island School of Design, Eric has taught illustration at the University of Connecticut and two-dimensional design and art history at Quinebaug Valley Community College. Eric's client list includes many well-known corporations and institutions. Recently, he and a colleague formed an innovation company that generates new product and marketing concept solutions for major corporations. He lives in Mansfield Center, serves on the board of the Windham Regional Arts Council, and has been a mentor for students in the Mansfield public schools.

Patriarch, raku MARK SPENCER, a high school teacher in Los Angeles, earned his BA at the University of Connecticut, an MA at Stanford University, and studied ceramics at the University of California Craft Center in Los Angeles. Much of his artwork focuses on the human figure,especially the manipulation of gesture and facial expression. Although he has worked in other mediums, most of his works are ceramic, mainly raku, and chiefly masks and heads that often combine human and animal features. Of his masks, Mark says,"I begin by working the clay until an expression suggests itself, often in as little as a fold of clay. This may become the mouth or maw of the mask. As I continue, the fold opens and closes, is slit, is sealed, smiles, ceases to smile, sings--until, if I'm lucky , I succeed in capturing a specific 'moment'-- frequently, a distorted expression in which human and animal elements mix."

Babbidge Library, Gallery on the Plaza & Stevens Gallery
Curators: Roger Crossgrove & David Kapp