‘Wishing,’ 1997, oil by Anne P. Tuttle. Photo by Ellen Barcel
September 11, 2012 | 02:04 PMBy Ellen Barcel
How does one get to know an artist? The answer might seem obvious: through his or her paintings and sketches. And while that is true to a certain extent, in getting to know the late Three Village artist Anne Palmer Tuttle, a story told by her daughter, Amy Tuttle, gives a tremendous insight into a woman whose life was dedicated to art.
In May of 2009, she left her home in East Setauket just a few days before her birthday to begin a solo cross-country trip in a van, returning in October after five months on the road. During this once-in-a-lifetime trip, she sketched and painted landscapes all across the country, traveling through Canada and Alaska before returning to New York. How many women, of any age, would undertake such an adventure? Yet, Tuttle did at age 87.
Anne P. Tuttle at Art Walk held last spring at the PJVC. Tuttle has one of her etching plants on the table in front of her. Photo by Bob Kelly, from Amy Tuttle
Said Genia Neuschatz, "The best thing about Anne was her laughter. She had a wonderful sense of humor. She always saw the funny side of life ... I'm really going to miss her."
Neuschatz added that she had gotten to know Tuttle 45 years ago. "She was my very first teacher ... she was such a mentor to anyone. She shared all her knowledge — a natural born teacher, an inspiration. She was the one who encouraged me to open the gallery (Studio 703 in Port Jefferson). ... She was very special to me. I would never have had the courage to open my studio if it wasn't for Anne."
"She was just a wonderful person to come into your life," said Pat Scully of Sound Beach. "Kind, generous with her time. Hundreds of people were helped by her," she added.
Of the cross-country trip, Scully said, "She had a glorious time ... she went from Long Island to Seattle in a van stopping in state parks all the way. If she liked a place she'd stay and paint for a few days."
Scully met Tuttle in 1972. "I lived in Setauket and a friend helped me get into the art class she was teaching." A few weeks into the class, Scully looked out her window to see Tuttle walking her dog past Scully's house, only to discover that they lived near each other. This was the beginning of a 40-year friendship.
"She was a wonderful teacher ... I'm so lucky to have had her in my life." Scully added, "She had the most wonderful laugh, an exuberant laugh. It was infectious. She was so disciplined, so organized, yet the big laugh was wonderful." Scully added, "I miss her so much."
‘Tiger Lilies,’ 1979, pastel by Anne P. Tuttle. Photo by Ellen Barcel
Tuttle, who majored in economics as a young woman, was awarded a master's degree from Stony Brook University in fine arts later in life. Noted Amy, "She was a child of the Depression and she felt strongly that she always wanted to have enough set aside so she could focus on her chosen profession, which was as an artist." Tuttle taught at many venues, including the Art Vane in Setauket and the Islip Arts Council School of Cultural Arts in East Islip.
Noted Scully, "One of the things she loved to do was work in the Sayville Marine Museum ... sometimes we'd go to draw there no matter what the weather." Another favorite location to paint was Maine, a place she returned to many times. Tuttle had also spent a summer in France, fulfilling a lifelong dream, noted her daughter, to paint there and had driven to the American southwest to teach there.
Her love of the sea was evident in many of her works. She owned a sailboat, Windward Lass, which according to her daughter, she only gave up when she turned 70 due to her arthritis. She said of sailing, "A gentle swell, mild breezes and the soft sounds of the water create the feelings of peace and tranquility which are so much a part of my work."
Tuttle worked in many media, including oils, watercolor, pastels and gauche as well as etchings and monoprints. Each medium brought with it its own challenges and styles. Many of her etchings have an Oriental feel to them, for example. Her pastels and monoprints have an elegance that shows each subject subtly. "Her work went around the world," noted Scully. "When she did the engravings, they were sold to different countries."
Amy described her mother's oils, watercolors and pastels as American Impressionist, her etchings representational and her monoprints and experimental works as postmodern: "As an artist, she was always learning, and her style evolved over time, which fully embraced the world she lived in."
Said Neuschatz, "She always liked to work from life — never photos — en plein air." Tuttle told her that a camera sees black in a shadow, but the human eye can see colors in that same shadow. Neuschatz added that Tuttle said, "Painting is all about seeing color."
One of three panels, ‘Summer’s End,’ 1990, by Anne P. Tuttle, monoprint triptych. Photo by Ellen Barcel
A lifetime retrospective of Anne Tuttle's work will be on display at the Port Jefferson Village Center through Nov. 13. Said Scully of the exhibit, "It's just beautiful." Noted Neuschatz, "Anne didn't want a formal funeral. All of us who loved her so much felt we never really had closure. So many of us felt we should have a show of her work."
Daughter Amy noted that there will be "a total of 89 (of her paintings) — one for each year of her age," in the exhibit. "Mom was originally scheduled to have her show in fall 2013, but she was concerned she would not live to see it, so the show was moved up to fall 2012. Interestingly, Mom told me twice last summer that this would be a posthumous show." Tuttle passed away, at age 89, last spring.
A reception will be held on Sunday, Sept. 16, from 2 to 5 pm at the PVJC, 101A East Broadway, Port Jefferson. At that time, Amy will have some of her mother's etching plates and will explain the technique. In addition, to help support the Greater Port Jefferson Arts Council, there will be a silent auction of one of her framed etchings.
The PJVC is open seven days a week from 9 am to 9 pm (closed holidays).