Earlier this year the Massachusetts College of Art and Design held its 34th art auction to raise money for scholarships and celebrated “150 years as the nation’s first and only public independent college of art and design.” Back in 1992, the college launched its first spin-off celebrity auction featuring original doodles from famous folks. Contributors that year included Bob Hope, Timothy Leary, Whoppi Goldberg, William F. Buckley, Orville Redenbacher, and John Updike. Here’s what Updike donated:
Ink Spill: New Yorker Cartoonists News, History, and Events posted an October 14, 2023 item about the “Roth Art on Updike’s Desk”:
“When I interviewed Arnold Roth in 2016, we spoke about the cover art he provided for John Updike’s Bech series. Last night I cam across this 1983 Time Magazine ad and was pleased to spot a stack of Arnie’s Bech Is Back art on Updike’s desk.
“On the top of the pile is what looks to be a proof, and just below it, looks very much like original art (Updike had all three Roth Bech cover originals in his collection).”
John Updike and his fictional legacy continue to be a part of American pop culture, the most recent case-in-point being a Washington Post review of a one-person show featuring fashion photographer Richard Avedon.
In “Review: An electrifying exhibit shows Richart Avedon at his most ambitious,” Sebastian Smee wrote, “The first of the ‘murals,’ as he called them, was a group portrait of Andy Warhol and 10 other members of the Factory. Avedon photographed the superstars in his studio over several weeks in the fall of 1969. Clustered together near the center of the image are five naked figures, one of them the transgender actress Candy Darling. The clothes crumpled on the floor at their feet feel oddly eloquent, legible both as statements of liberation and the shadows of their social selves. (I thought of Rabbit Angstrom, in John Updike’s ‘Rabbit, Run,’ enjoying, as he shed his clothes, the way ‘the flying cloth puts him at the center of a gathering nakedness.’) ‘You couldn’t keep the clothes on anybody in those years,’ Avedon later joked. ‘Before you could say “hello,” they were nude and ready to ride.’”
Avedon will be celebrated with “Avedon 100,” May 4-June 24, 2023 at Gagosian, 522 West 21st St., New York—an exhibition commemorating the centenary of Avedon’s birth featuring 150 “celebrated artists, designers, musicians, writers, curators, and fashion world representatives” and their favorite Avedon photographs.
Sculptor Michael Updike loves a good joke, and so, apparently, does Newbury, Mass., where John Updike’s son makes his home. The Newburyport News posted a piece titled “Joppa’s penguins go into hibernation”—about four “beloved and iconic penguins that have shown up at Joppa Flats during the summer months” and “make their way ‘south’ to Updike’s home, for the winter.”
Reporter Ashlyn Giroux asked Updike about the penguins, and got the full story.
“The kids were sort of middle childhood, like 8 and 10, and we were coming back from a soccer game in Lynn or Revere, one of those places, and we stopped at Newbury Comics and somehow, probably as an impulse buy, I thought we’d buy the penguin along with the Yugioh cards, and so we had this penguin and I said ‘Oh, I really should put it on an iceberg and put it out there,’ said Updike. The kids didn’t really respond much, and then I thought, ‘I don’t wanna be that dad who makes a promise or says something and doesn’t follow through.’ So, I went and got three more penguins and built the iceberg out of styrofoam and then put it out there, and the kids sort of looked at it for three seconds and went back to what they were doing.”
After moving to Newbury, Giroux said Updike put the penguins out on the marsh behind his home to the amusement of a few neighbors.
“When I moved down here to Newbury, I brought the penguins and said ‘OK that’s the end of that.’ But, all my former neighbors on Water Street kept saying ‘where are the penguins? We want the penguins back!’ So I just started putting it in in the spring and taking them out every fall, and it’s something that just I do,” he said.
Read the full story.
John Updike’s two Time magazine cover portraits are in the National Portrait Gallery, but he’s also depicted on The Laureates of the Lewd, a 1993 pastel by Edward Sorel that was created as an original illustration for a Gentleman’s Quarterly article.
From the National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution website:
“Sorel’s three roguish satyrs—Gore Vidal, John Updike, and Philip Roth—were gamboling around the literary landscape making mischief and money in the late 1960s. As James Atlas pointed out in his Gentleman’s Quarterly article “The Laureates of the Lewd,” Updike’s 1968 book Couples, followed by Vidal’s Myra Breckinridge and Roth’s Portnoy’s Complaint brought the literary side of the Sexual Revolution to a new level of uncensored candor. American erotic life was out in the open again, in all its complexity and variety. But these books were as much about disillusionment as sex, reflecting the turmoil of generational conflict, a revolution in birth control, a controversial war, protests, assassinations, and race riots. Roth himself noted that if Portnoy’s Complaint had not appeared at the end of a decade ‘marked by blasphemous defiance of authority and loss of faith in the public order, I doubt that a book like mine would have achieved such renown in 1969.'”
New Yorker cartoonist Michael Maslin posted an entry today on Ink Spill: New Yorker Cartoonists News and Events titled “Updike’s Thurber.” In it, readers get a rare glimpse of the cartoon dog that Thurber drew especially for a young ‘tween fan named John Updike (courtesy of Miranda Updike).
“For those of us who treasure Thurber’s art, there is I would suggest, nothing more wonderful than a Thurber drawn dog. In Updike’s Introduction to Lee Lorenz’s The World of William Steig, he tells us that in 1944, when he was 12 years old, he wrote Thurber a fan letter. Thurber responded with the drawing you see at the top of this post”.
In musing about the relationship between Updike and Thurber, Maslin shared his “favorite Updike description of Thurber’s art: ‘…oddly tender…a personal art that captured in ingenous scrawls a modern man’s bitter experience and nervous excess.'”
Writing for Signature: Making well-read sense of the world, Tobias Carroll comes up with a list of “Literary Takes on the Visual: 10 Novelists on Fine Art.”
Of Updike, he writes:
“When John Updike’s name is mentioned, most readers initially think of him as a novelist, and it’s certainly through fiction that he established his reputation as a writer. But Updike also wrote an abundance of art criticism: the posthumous Always Looking is his third such collection of work, following 1989’s Just Looking and 2005’s Still Looking. Delving into this side of Updike’s writing shows an entirely different side to him than you might experience if you’re only familiar with his fiction.”
Below are Amazon links to the three Updike volumes on art, with the posthumously published third volume edited by Christopher Carduff:
Miranda Updike‘s new work can be seen the in group show “Territory,” which opens March 1 and runs through March 31, 2017 at the Paula Estey Gallery, 3 Harris St., Newburyport, Mass. The opening “PEG party” is scheduled for March 10 from 6-8 p.m. Miranda, the youngest daughter of John Updike, is on the board of The John Updike Childhood Home.
In a Reading Eagle article titled “Amity Township artist paints a picture of Berks,” Ron Devlin muses that any list of things that define Berks County, Pa. would have to include “Pennsylvania Dutch delicacies like scrapple, ring bologna, shoofly pie and dippy eggs.”
But the list would also have to include “Luden’s Cough Drops, a 5th Avenue candy bar and Godiva chocolate” along with “Tom Sturgis Pretzels,” he writes.
“John Updike, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Rabbit, Run, and ’80s street artist Keith Haring—both grew up in Berks—are musts on the artistic list,” along with singer Taylor Swift, he says.
Have a look at what Amity Township artist Steve Scheuring thought defined Berks County enough to include in the 3×6′ painting he did as an homage.
“A stickler for detail,” Devlin writes, Scheuring bought every item in the collage and arranged them meticulously “in intricate patterns that tell a story.” He admits “the copy of Updike’s Rabbit, Run near the center of the painting is not an original first edition. It’s a library copy he bought online for $40, a fraction of what an original sells for.”
Scheuring’s Berk’s County “has been named one of the 10 finalists in International Artist Magazine’s Art Challenge 2017. A photo and an article appear in the magazine’s February issue.
Scheuring is a largely self-taught artist who has exhibited at Penn State Berks’ Freyberger Gallery, the GoggleWorks Center for the Arts, and the Allentown Art Museum. The above photo is by Susan Keen of the Reading Eagle. Below is a photo of Scheuring by photographer Ben Hasty from the Eagle article “Steve Scheuring raises ordinary life to the level of art.”