Alaska Jobs Support Claremont Art Colony
Men Work in North During Summer, Earn Money to Carry On for Rest of Year
Los Angeles Times, 1961
by Cordell Hicks
Art, like food and shelter, is one of the basic necessities of man.
In the earliest days, when a cave was called home, the walls were decorated with paintings of the hunt, or with themes of mystic significance.
All over the world artists group together by choice.
There is the Left Bank of Paris, Greenwich Village in New York, in Mexico at Puebla there is the "Barrio del Artista."
And then there is the colony of young and talented men and women of Claremont.
Works Bought Up
A short time ago an art auction was held in Claremont on W Football Blvd. At the experimental, concerted effort paintings, drawings, prints, sculpture, pottery, tapestries and mosaic works created by the artists sold to the vanishing point on a rainy day—and with little advance notice.
Because some of the works were from young men who have received international recognition the question arose among art lovers "Why Claremont?"
An informal survey of six of the 35 or 40 who live in the college town and pursue their several art fields there brought answers with many points of similarity.
Four Are Married
Of the six, four are married—three of them have children. All have homes in Claremont and three have separate studios. They range in age from 23 to 32. All have attended either Claremont Men’s College, Claremont College, Harvey Mudd College, Pomona College or Scripps College, or used the art facilities of the five associated schools.
It is the practice of the men to go each summer to Alaska to work as firefighters and surveyors. This furnishes the money that enables them to devote the rest of the year to being artists.
As they receive recognition (and financial rewards) in the arts their place on the annual migration to the 49th state is taken by other—and still struggling—artists.
All Own Dog
They own a large dog as common property. "Prado" made his first trip over the Alcan Highway when a pup. The mastiff is fed first always—and if times are hard the humans eat lightly to assure his meals.
All help each other when there is need but imposition is not allowed.
"We steal each other’s paint but not ideas. We all have plenty of our own," one of them said.
Jack Zajac, 32, has an artist wife, Corda, and a child. He is a tall, forceful ex-steel mill hand, fisherman, café violin player, whose works are now exhibited in Los Angeles, Rome, New York, Honolulu, Chicago, Sao Paulo, Santa Barbara and Pasadena.
Zajac has been written about in magazines and newspapers. Critics invariably term him "a true genius."
His major switch from painting to sculpture began with his Easter Goats in bronze. He is now working on heroic-size figures in his studio.
"I still want to paint," he says, "but sculpture seems the thing because I do not have all the larcenous technical knowledge and am forced to make my images the hard way."
James Strombotne, 26, like Zajac, chooses Claremont "because of circumstances, sentiment and the ‘right’ artistic atmosphere."
His powerful paintings show his inner tension. Tall and lean, he is called one of the most promising of the young figurative artists.
"Some day, in my own mind, I must feel I produced great works of art," he says. "Great art is my only concern."
Proud of Kiln
His works are featured in national news and art magazines.
"I make pots. Call me a potter," said Lindley Mixon, 25.
He is proud of a monumental kiln which he designed and built. Its temperature ranges to more than 2300 degrees.
The studio, with its kiln, is much larger than the apartment which he occupies with his young schoolgirl wife, Joyce.
Mixon’s stoneware, hand-thrown originals, is a high-fired clay with the same structure as California’s granite rocks.
"I learned to live on $80 a month and less at one time. I support myself with my own work—one of the few potters who do."
Studied at Columbia
Alfred Skondovitch, 32, born in England, studied at Columbia’s fine arts school in New York. He usually spends two months each winter in Paris.
Sooner or later he returns to Claremont—and paints. "There is less wear and tear on the nerves. One can survive better and work better here."
His goal: "To become a good painter." His works are in galleries in the East. He will join the artist migration to Alaska to work this month—then he goes back to Paris for more painting and study.