23 February 2013

Remembering Wildcat Hill

I was visiting Carmel in 1976 with Bay Area curator and art teacher Hayward King along with buddies James Krehbiel and Cleve Ellis with whom I’d made the road trip to San Francisco from Montana. Mr. King was our guide to the San Francisco art scene. Part of our tour was driving south to Carmel.

Mr. King took us to Wildcat Hill in Carmel. Wildcat Hill is the home and photography studio of the Weston family which began with the much revered photographer Edward Weston (1886-1958). Hayward had been one of Edward Weston's caretakers in the years preceding Weston's death.

Hayward was also an old friend of photographer Ansel Adams (1902-1984) who lived nearby in Carmel. King knew I admired the work of Weston and Adams. He called Adams from Wildcat Hill to find out if Adams was up to meeting three students from Montana. Adams replied that ordinarily he'd be delighted, but that he had a touch of the flu and didn't want to stray too far from his bed. He asked Hayward to check back in a day or so. By that time, we were on our way back to Montana.

Weston &Adams at Wildcat Hill
by Pirkle Jones
When we dropped off Hayward King in his San Francisco apartment, which seemed like it was located in the shadows of the Bay Bridge, Hayward arranged an extraordinarily generous art trade with me.

He gave me a signed Pirkle Jones (1914-2009) silver print of Adams and Weston on the porch in front of Wildcat Hill. Pirkle Jones was one of Ansel Adams' first photography students at what is now the San Francisco Art Institute.

In return, I was to give Hayward King a gum bichromate print I had made, but could only describe to him. The image I agreed to give to Mr. King was a typical self-absorbed self-portrait that fledgling photography students tend to make by the dozens. This trade was testament to Hayward King's generosity and his love for, and devotion to, building The Community of art.

I carefully transported the Pirkle Jones' Wildcat Hill print back to Montana, framed my gum bichromate self-portrait and sent it to Mr. King.

Ansel Adams would have been 111 last Wednesday. In "Revealing Light" I write about Ansel Adams' affinity for light.

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