Mary Altaffer, File, Associated Press
EAST HAMPTON, N.Y. — Out behind a small farmhouse on a Long Island country road sits an old gray barn where a tormented artist dripped paint off brushes, sticks — even turkey basters — onto canvasses spread out on a wooden floor. Besides making quite a mess of things, leaving splash marks everywhere, Jackson Pollock also created some of the 20th century's greatest masterpieces.
Pollock, who would have turned 100 this year, is being remembered at a New York City fundraiser later this month honoring a charity that aids struggling artists, along with the Academy Award-nominated actor and filmmaker Ed Harris who spent nearly a decade making the 2000 film "Pollock."
There also are exhibitions in Washington, D.C., and at the home Pollock shared with his wife, artist Lee Krasner, in the Springs community of East Hampton — now a museum and study center. And shoe manufacturer Crocs is releasing a Pollock-inspired shoe this June, fashioned after the paint-splashed floor that visitors can still see in the artist's barn.
"I think Pollock's art is incredible," Harris told The Associated Press in a recent telephone interview. "I think it was revolutionary at the time and I think it kind of holds up that way and it is really exquisite."
The fundraiser honoring Harris, and the Pollock-Krasner Foundation, which has given $56.3 million in grants to artists in 72 countries since 1985, is intended to help finance and expand the work of a separate Stony Brook University-based organization that runs the Pollock-Krasner home.
"What we try to give people here is insights into who these people were, what it was that stimulated them creatively and where that took them in terms of their art," said Helen Harrison, director of the Pollock-Krasner House and Study Center.
Harris said that before he started filming in 1999 — the exteriors of the Pollock-Krasner home and scenes from a nearby general store were filmed on location in Springs; the interiors re-created on a Brooklyn sound stage — he spent a couple of nights sleeping in Pollock's bedroom.
"I was hoping for a visitation which didn't quite happen," joked Harris, who was nominated for a best actor Oscar for his performance in the film, which also was his directorial debut.
"I can't even express how invaluable it was to me," he said of the home. "I don't think the film would have really have had the richness and authenticity it did if we weren't filming there. Just on an emotional level, or a metaphysical level of some kind, you know you're filming a story about this man and this is where he lived."
Pollock, a lifelong alcoholic who died behind the wheel in a drunken-driving crash at the age of 44, was a controversial artist reviled by some critics and lionized by others. His best-known paintings were created by dripping paint, seemingly haphazardly, across canvasses large and small. Some feature popping bright colors, others are stark black-and-whites.
"I like to describe his work as 'energy made visible,'" said Pepe Karmel, a Pollock expert and assistant professor in the art history department at New York University. "The lines curving through space, changing direction, the colors; it is an amazing image of the world that could represent many things. It's totally opened ended. What they all have in common is the fantastic energy that characterizes modern society."
Pollock was already an artist of some note working in Manhattan's Greenwich Village in the early 1940s, but the move to Long Island in late 1945 was the key to unlocking his genius, many experts say. They also agree Krasner's motive in separating Pollock from his drinking buddies in Manhattan succeeded in focusing his attention on his artwork, albeit temporarily. Marcia Gay Harden won a best supporting actress Oscar for her portrayal of Krasner, who was an artist in her own right, living in the home until her death in 1984 at age 75.
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