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Loren MacIver

By Anne Poor

George Tooker:

I knew Loren MacIver when we both lived in Greenwich Village and the Whitney Museum was on Eighth Street. I used to see her at Whitney openings and often at a little Italian restaurant. She knew I admired her paintings immensely, but we never talked to each other about art. She was a kind and generous friend to a young painter. l miss her, but her wonderful, magical paintings survive.

Loren MacIver died on May 3, 1998. She was 89. My brother sent me her obituary from the New York Times in which she is quoted as saying she was not interested in a “career”; she just loved to paint.

Is this the Loren I knew? The Loren who came up to Skowhegan for the weekend (in 1947) at my insistence and was featured at the Saturday seminar, in the big old crowded barn with art lovers waiting, and who refused to speak. Sitting silently on a chair facing the multitude until I, feeling responsible for the honoured guest, peeped up and begged a word. How did she like the country? The Maine light? A thoughtful pause. Well, yes. She liked those yellow day lilies against the barn red of the painting sheds.

Among other notables present that afternoon, Yasuo Kuniyoshi was standing in the back of the place muttering sweet insults in a fit of annoyance.

Loren was always aloof and lived the pleasant life of a chic expatriate in Paris with her husband and soul mate, Lloyd Frankenburg. I envied her exhibitions at the Pierre Matisse Gallery; her charming little flowers exhibited in a glass case shining like jewels in their pristine ambiance, and the discreet, well-cut raspberry plush velvet suit she wore at all her openings. I paid the obeisance of an ardent admirer. I begged for some sign of affection, was coolly dismissed and put in my place when she took up my cherished position with Terry Dintenfass and was welcomed to her stable while I was advised to get my stuffout of there and find another hole to hide in. Helter Skelter, my career and life may be a shambles, but now that it is all over or almost, my feelings are muted and sad. Loren was the darling of the Museum of Modern Art, the protégée of John Dewey and Evelyn, his daughter. She had it all. Evelyn Dewey had been my mothers loyal friend and helping support when she first came to New York, from St. Louis. 

The last time I saw Loren was at her recent retrospective in February, 1998, at the Tibor de Nagy Gallery. After the showing of a movie about her life and work, I went up to pay my respects. Sitting in a wheel chair, attended by a friend, she stared at me, her eyes glazed, sunk in their sockets like those of a wounded bird. And there was nothing to say

I was always enamored of her work, her poetic sense expressed in the delicate way in which she transformed her “flowers.They were an inspiration that guided me in the flowers I was to paint. 

We are here today to celebrate Loren MacIvers unique gifts and achievements, our comrade in the business of expressing the world we live in. 

Tell us, where are those days of yore, that velvet suit, and the wonder and thrill of youth. Passions gone. But not forgotten. Life is short. Take pity. Thank you very much.

Read by George Tooker at the Academy Dinner Meeting on November 10, 1999.

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