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A Bit About Peggy and Sam

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About Peggy Schiffer

How did it start? Where did it start?

I was young enough that my mother was holding my hand and I had to reach up high to reach her hand. What is that age? Maybe two. Standing in front of a painting, not wanting to toddle away from it, at the first, or “ real”, Whitney Museum, which was on Eighth Street, in Greenwich Village, down the street from where I grew up, ( before the museum moved to its second, more spacious location on West 54th Street).

When I lived there, The Village seemed a small and defined place, where I stood and watched mostly older men playing chess at concrete tables, and mostly older women emptying paper bags full of bread crumbs for the pigeons; where people sat on benches and silently read a newspaper called The Village Voice. I did not yet realize that one could read without speaking the words out loud, and I thought they were pretending to read.

I learned to read from being read to from many books, but I clearly remember reading aloud the headlines in The Village Voice, which declared: “Lamumba Killed by Angry Villagers”, and then telling my parents that I did not know who Lamumba was, and had not known that Lamumba lived in The Village. I did not know that there was another village. I did not know how anyone in The Village could become that angry, other than maybe the young people who got in the way sometimes, carrying books, and guitars, sometimes singing, standing around the fountain in my park, Washington Square Park, where I rode my bike, roller skated, and took pictures with my Kodak Brownie camera, (which was given to me by my father, when I was about five years old, who wisely would not let me touch his Leica M3 until I was in my late 20’s).

There was no other park. And there was no other village. And there was no other apartment, than the one I lived in happily, with my sister and my parents, with a view out into a little piece of that world which seems like it was all black and white and grey, called MacDougall Alley, where we could never quite see the sun, and where we waved to the Nuns hanging laundry to dry on a line on the roof of the convent and we watched people coming and going, talking and sometimes laughing, as they entered small houses with huge skylights on their top floors.

Mrs. Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney had been one of those people, going to and from her studio, a decade before I was born; her studio was behind and near the museum where I saw the Stuart Davis painting which caused me to not want to move along, and where my mother, holding my hand and also steadying the carriage which held my sister, allowed me to stand as long as I wanted. That was just the first painting that caught me. That was just the beginning and it was always color that got me; just as it was always the story of Joseph’s Coat of Many Colors, in Bible Stories for Young Children that was my favorite story; and soon enough, in a few years, aside from walking to Bank Street, to go to school, I was going to The Museum of Modern Art on Saturdays, way uptown, to art classes for children.

Then, starting at age nine, in Mrs. Katz’ class every Saturday, at The Art Students League, where there were plaster casts of busts up high on top of cupboards along one wall, and where the youngest students sat in the front, using only charcoal to draw the still life arranged by Mrs. Katz, I felt I was where I should be.

I “graduated” to pastels the next year, and the following year to water color, where we were no longer sitting, but standing at tables around the edge of the room.

Eventually, I graduated again, away from painting still life arrangements, where a lobster once crawled right off the table, to drawing from live models, in an entirely separate room. This was the big league. But still under the eye of Ethel Katz ( who never included my work in the annual show of her students, although she did tell me in my final year, that her husband had urged her to do so, but she said she couldn’t because what I did looked too different from the work of her other students. I didn’t try to make anything that looked different, I wanted my work to look like everyone else’s, but it just didn’t come out that way. I always wanted to meet my champion, Mrs. Katz’s husband, but that never happened).

Eventually, I was too old for Mrs. Katz’ classes, and by then I was doing painting, sculpture, printmaking, and more at my new school, (along with always taking photographs, having progressed to a Yashica Electro 35, from my Kodak Brownie), But I continued to go to The Art Students League for anatomy class with Robert Beverly Hale. This was in a crowded roomful of mostly hushed adults and lots of cigarette smoke. It was hard to see in that room, and in classes for adults, they don’t put the smallest people in the front, but I also had Hale’s book. I loved anatomy.

And then all of a sudden it was 1969, and Henry Geldzahler curated the exhibition entitled “New York Painting and Sculpture 1940-1970”, at The Metropolitan Museum, which I saw a number of times alone and with my high school art history class, and I went to a summer program for high school students at Cranbrook Academy in Michigan, where I first learned how to use the darkroom ( and at age 16, had just graduated to the Nikon Nikkormat which I used for the next 40 years); I then set up my own darkroom at home, now in a different apartment, with my parents and sister, away from my first home. Then all of a sudden, it was 1970, and I was at Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture for the summer, where the faculty included Brice Marden and Jacob Lawrence, and various visiting artists on the weekends.

The next stop was Bennington College,  and painting with Phillip Wofford, and photography with Neil Rappaport, and the Weston Master Meter, and a 4X5 Graflex camera…for a time; but I never stopped using the Nikkormat until I moved to digital Canon equipment. This more or less, brings us to now, without describing the intervening decades, which story is for another time.

About Sam Noland

Sam Noland is the other half of schiffernolandstudio. Sam has been looking, and participating in and around a painting, paper making and sculpture  studio,  since he was born. He is a natural  in the collaborative process.  Too, Sam’s eye is able to measure, and see differences when comparing one thing to another within millimeters: he is that accurate when he looks at things. He is also that accurate when it comes to timing. His background includes, among other things, cueing up material for a television station. No one could time that better than Sam did: the margin for error was only seconds.  Also, his job working with the projectionist at The Cape Cinema, which depended on timing to change reels and anticipate what was coming (and even dealing with the occasional broken section of film or burnt section of film, along side his mentor, who understandably might be in a panic at such moments when film goers might be clapping or hissing). Sam kept his cool then as he does now. He is also an invaluable member of our little team in that he anticipates what sorts of pictures we are working on in a given series, and he is aware and ready to point out a fleeting picture, such as when we are focused on light and transparency, that might otherwise have been missed.  


139 E Quincy Street
North Adams, MA? 01247, USA
(508) 280-2814

In the Heart of the Berkshires Art Community

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