‘Touch The Earth Lightly’: Brooks-Park House, Studios Sit At Crossroads Of Preservation, Or Demolition
March 25, 2022 - Bryan Boyhan for Southampton Press
James Brooks and his wife, Charlotte Park, once walked to work each day — from the back of their shingled cottage, the screen door of the porch closing behind them, along a 100-yard-long path edged in moss that connected their tiny home in the woods of Springs with a pair of studios where they both painted.
The floor of the 11 acres of scrub oak forest that surrounded them was flecked with bits of grass, dry leaves and more moss, a thick canopy of green overhead in the summer. By winter, the naked limbs of the trees cast abstract shadows on the ground that looked as if they could have leapt off the canvas of one of their paintings.
In the spring and fall, as the seasons changed, Park would have taken note of the evolution of plants and flowers in the landscape, and commented on the birds passing through, nesting or migrating. She made careful and thorough observations of the natural world around her, noted in dozens of journals she kept over the decades she lived in Springs — from walks in the woods, outside her studio, or watching out the windows from the house that had once been a fisherman’s shack, all of it subtly informing her soft and warm canvases.
Meanwhile, on the floor of his self-designed studio — with its jagged roof line and flood of natural light — Brooks worked on his monumental paintings, conjuring lines and forms and pools of color.
Together, he and Park created some of the art that helped define the nascent abstract expressionist movement in America and established Springs as an outpost of creative thought in the wilds of the East End.
But today, those buildings — the house, two studios and another outbuilding used as guest quarters — are boarded up, some with tarps on their roofs to keep out the rain and snow. Parts are in danger of collapsing in on themselves. When the Town of East Hampton acquired the 11 acres as open space back in 2013, the intention was to simply knock down the buildings that stood there. Continue Reading
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