Passing of Another Woodstock Legend

March 12, 2011


The recent death of artist Bruce Currie closes yet one more door on Woodstock’s illustrious past as America’s “go-to” art colony. The ending of World War II breathed new life into New York City’s Art Student League as it languished under a dearth of students during the war years. Almost overnight — with the help of a movie made by the League under the auspices of the U.S. Government (starring, incidentally, another Woodstocker and colleague of Currie’s, Robert Angeloch) that urged homecoming soldiers to seek a career in art — both their New York City and Woodstock summer school facilities suddenly burgeoned with budding artists. Already enjoying an international reputation as “the world’s best landscape school” before the devastating war years, the League’s summer sessions once again drew applicants from across the expanse of the United States, among the many who crowded Woodstock’s two main rural thoroughfares being Bruce Currie — a genuine decorated war hero from Iowa who quickly translated his dedication as a soldier to that of a dedicated artist. I profiled Bruce for a local newspaper — one month, in fact, before we founded ART TIMES in August of 1984. A gentle, soft-spoken man, as I sat in his studio on Boggs Hill Road, I quickly learned why he more than held his own in a competitive art colony of would-be ‘famous’ artists — and, make no mistake, Woodstock had many such, attracting back in those days reporters from NYC publications (including the Times) to cover shows at the Woodstock Artists Association on Tinker Street. No longer just a “landscape school”, the mixed bag of artists that had descended on Woodstock from across America and beyond assured the League of a variety of “new” ideas — abstraction, one among many. Currie soon developed his own unique vision, a subtle blend of realism and abstraction that soon made others take notice — including New York City galleries that eagerly sought to represent him. This, in turn, brought him more solo shows, more recognition, more awards, until he was a force in his own right. Currie, along with many of his Woodstock contemporaries, served as exemplars for the main character in my novel The Mountain. I had profiled most of Woodstock’s “second wave” over the past 35 years and almost without exception each contributed to the amalgamation that would become “Jake” in his coming-of-age in my novel on the Woodstock artscene. Bruce, as well as being an artist to know, was also a man to know. I, along with much of Woodstock, will miss his quiet presence.