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Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Roy Freeman Remembers Beauford

Roy Freeman is an artist, writer, and caregiver for autistic adults.  The son of artists Don and Lydia Cooley Freeman, he left home at the age of sixteen to "seek his fortune" in the world—he dabbled in painting, music, and dance in San Francisco, lived with the Mazatec Indians in Mexico, and had many additional life experiences prior to settling down in Switzerland to study nature at the age of nineteen. He became a geophysicist, and worked in academia for many years before leaving this field to pursue his current activities.

Both of Roy's parents knew Beauford well, and Roy remembers how frequently they spoke of him. In quickly perusing some of Don Freeman's correspondence, Roy found several mentions of Beauford.  He told me that Don and Lydia visited Beauford in Paris in 1970-1971, but that he has found no written anecdotes about the trip.

Roy had his own encounter with Beauford in Paris at the age of 19, which he describes as follows:

Of course the real meeting with Beauford was when I was in Paris in 1969 with my wife at the time. We called him up at the suggestion of Don and Lydia, and Beauford immediately invited us over. He was living in a small apartment, which functioned also as his artist studio. At the time I had very long hair and we were really surfing hippies. I was nervous at how Beauford would take us in. To my deep relief, Beauford accepted us just as we were. He was an incredibly gentle, open human being. I realized at once that I was in the world of a real artist. I could hardly believe the welcome and being with this wonderful man. He showed us around his apartment and showed the paintings he was doing at the time—very abstract. Before we left, I gave him a copy of a small book I had published privately—Mountains Converse—and he offered us one of his paintings. I could hardly believe his openness and generosity, but it was indeed genuine and real. I will never forget this meeting!
Solliès Toucas
(Beauford's gift to Roy Freeman)
Oil on canvas
Image courtesy of Roy Freeman

Roy graciously shared with me his knowledge of his father's relationship with Beauford in a recent interview.  Below are a number of excerpts from this wonderful exchange.

Les Amis: Your father, Don Freeman, knew Beauford Delaney. Was this because they were both artists and met in conjunction with the WPA (Works Progress Administration) project? Or did they meet under other circumstances?

Roy Freeman: I am not sure how Don and Beauford met. The lived very close to one another in New York and knew each other as artists with the WPA project in the late 1920s and 30s. Don and Lydia befriended people who were real individuals - particularly those perhaps less well understood by others.

Opening image of Beauford in Don Freeman's Newsstand #1
Image courtesy of Roy Freeman

Les Amis: Did your mother, Lydia Cooley Freeman, know Beauford as well?

Roy Freeman: Lydia knew Beauford as well as Don, they were all together in New York art scene in the 1930s and 40s.

Les Amis: Did they socialize with Beauford, or only meet in the context of work?

Roy Freeman: They definitely socialized with Beauford, knew him personally, and visited him often—especially when they lived near each other (see Don's NEWSSTAND articles!)

Les Amis: Why did your parents consider Beauford to be so special?

Roy Freeman: Most of all because of Beauford's gentleness and vulnerability.  He lived genuinely and was true to who he was. This was certainly excruciating for him at times; he had a very difficult life as you know.

First page of Don’s article on Beauford in Newsstand #5
Image courtesy of Roy Freeman

Les Amis: Why do you consider him to be so?

Roy Freeman: For me it was Beauford's authenticity. He remained true to himself, and maintained his kindness of heart, despite all he had been through. His gentleness and his openness were immense and real. Unfortunately, this is a rarity in the world...almost a miracle.

Les Amis: Do you know Beauford’s art?

Roy Freeman: I do not know his earlier work too well. I knew the abstract work he was painting when we saw him in Paris.

Les Amis: Is there a particular style of his that you prefer (figurative versus abstract works, portraits)?

Roy Freeman: I do not know his whole opus well enough. I also have no preference—his figurative work is as amazing as his abstract work. I myself am quite at home in the abstract work. At the time I saw him in Paris, it was really strong. When he offered us a painting of his, I took a purely abstract, yellow-green-orange painting which had no figuration at all. It was radically full of springtime and life!

Second page of Don’s article on Beauford in Newsstand #5
Image courtesy of Roy Freeman

Les Amis: Did your family own any of Beauford’s work? If so, please describe the pieces.

Roy Freeman: In the artwork from my parents that I have, I do not know of anything from Beauford.

Les Amis: Any final thoughts?

Roy Freeman: It was a gift to have known Beauford, even if it was just in these short contacts. Along with the artist spirits of my father and mother, the meeting with Beauford has given me a tolerance and openness to accepting life and people as how they are. I try to give back what these people, with all their problems, have given me: a spirit to live who you are in this world that does not always accept you. And somehow, miraculously, perhaps with the help of an even greater spirit, remaining true to having an open heart to yourself and others.  Thank you, Beauford!

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