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the summer of 2004, I came to live in Blue Hill, Maine. I'm originally from New York
City; born in the Bronx, 60 years ago. I Had 2 years of college at the University of
Michigan, where in addition to journalism, I dabbled in philosophy, anthropology and
history. I also took an interest in fine art. As luck would have it, my
freshman dorm was located across the street from the university's art school. I
began hanging around there and eventually audited some courses, basic level stuff. Mid-way
through my sophomore year, I had left Ann Arbor and hitched a ride back to NYC. Nothing
out of the ordinary, for the times. Dropping out...Altering plans made by others,
beginning to take charge of one's destiny. Heady times, and for most people, the
sort of move that is soon regretted.
Fortunately, through a combination of talent, perseverance, and mostly luck, I was awarded a scholarship to Cooper Union, a prestigious art school in the heart of Manhattan. At the time I was living in streets and into a modern day garret on St. Mark's Place, a "stoned" throw from 2nd Avenue and the Fillmore East Theater. Cooper was a perfect place to sample new ways of thinking and old ways of living: "the counter culture".
However, after 2 years of living in the gritty lower east side of New York, I needed a breath of fresh air. An influential teacher suggested that I was wasting time and that I needed more of a hand's on approach to painting. So I followed a hunch and hitchhiked( once Again) up to Provincetown, an old artist's colony, on Cape Cod. I was lucky enough to find several painters to study with and even found employment as a pastel portrait artist during the summer. This tiny town, nestled amidst the sand dunes at the tip of Cape Cod, helped give me direction and purpose. There were artists of all stripes and plenty of lessons to be learned.
In the subway, sleeping in Times Square movie houses and crash pads in the lower east side. All the while devoting my time to the life of a would -be painter. Eventually I moved off the Come the Fall, I returned to NYC where I bounced around various sublets from Bedford-Stuyvesant to Hell's Kitchen, and came up hard against the realities of a would be artist's urban life. With the spring I hitchhiked, yet again, this time due West for California, spending the summer Telluride, Colorado. Eventually, I made it to San Francisco and Los Angeles and hung a left turn for Mexico. Driving an old VW van through the Sonora desert, I eventually mad it to Puerto Vallarta. I found an abandoned Hippie commune in the jungle and stayed there for two years. I was 23 years old, living a once in a lifetime experience.
By 1975, I was back in the Lower East Side of Manhattan in an $85 a month 5 floor walk up. A cold water flat with the toilet down the hall. A walk westwards towards the developing area of Soho took you through the narrow streets of Chinatown and Little Italy. Heroin was everywhere, the city was bankrupt and the Bowery was beginning to fill with newly minted "punks" in addition to the bums. In the midst of this turmoil, I found work moving furniture and painted most of the time. Images from Mexico poured out of me and I anticipated a rapid ascent to artistic stardom. My Spanish improved and proximity to Chinatown filled me with ideas about Asia. My watercolor technique absorbed these new ideas, as I sought a personal style. However personal styles often take many years to develop. Dreams of immediate success and world travel gave way to coping with the entirety of NYC.
By the end of the 70's I had moved to Union Square and 14th Street. Another cold water walk up w/ toilet in the hall. I created a small illustration studio and began to find work as an illustrator. I began to explore the world of "uptown" galleries and museums, absorbing many styles and techniques. My building was a holdover from another era, with many older painters. I learned a lot from them. My painting was steadily maturing and I began to exhibit in small out of the way galleries. During the winters, I'd paint and exhibit in Mexico. Summers, I was back in Provincetown. I had developed a way of survival at the margins...all the while maturing as a painter.
I closed out the 80's with another abrupt change. I left New York for Japan. My first year in Hokkaido in remote northern Japan and 4 more years in Tokyo. I found work as an illustrator and also exhibited my paintings in galleries around the country and traveled a lot in and outside of Japan. Asia was a revelation and witnessed many ancient sites on the cusp of irrevocable change.
Inevitably, I returned to the USA. I headed to Cape Cod to lessen the shock of re-entry and I renewed my painting/exhibiting in Provincetown. Before moving back to New York, I also took a brief trip to Maine. I had heard a lot of good things about Maine from other painters. It sounded interesting and it was. I made a mental note to return.
By the time of the Millennium I was less concerned about Y2k and more interested in finding a permanent home. I had slowly developed a network of galleries from Key West to Bar Harbor and I started to explore the possibility of finding a little place in the country. Somewhere off the beaten path but with summer visitors to sample my paintings.
Blue Hill is a lovely little town located on Penobscot Bay in Down East Maine. Serendipity...and a summer rain storm led me to stop midway on drive between Bar Harbor and Deer isle. I had galleries in these on these two islands and I was en route delivering paintings when I decided to take a break from the downpour and give the town a closer look. After lunch, I peaked into a real estate agency next door. A fateful event One listing caught my eye. It was just 2 miles from "downtown"; so, I decided to have a look.
It's been 5 years....5 years!! since I bought the place and it's been a lot of work. I'm there from May to December, building a small gallery/studio surrounded by woods, with a spectacular view of the sunset over Penobscot Bay. I travel to Key West in the winter and pass through Provincetown and New York City. It's a circuit that I've traveled for over 40 years. As my career passed from "mid" to "mature", I still feel like the kid who burned his bridges and struck out against all the odds. It was a gamble well worth taking. I'll be back working on my place this summer...maybe I'll call my gallery Moose Lane Studio? Right now, I'm too busy with travel and painting sales to get too far ahead of myself. I'll be open for visitors this summer...by appointment. Looking forward to getting the gallery going.
The artist, George Lee Crosby, tragically died in Blue Hill, Maine, on October 10, 2016, while returning home from a gallery opening. His art and genius touched many and he is missed by all.
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