PHOTO: Herbert Mitgang



Thursday, December 31, 2009

His presence on my shoulder guides my decisions

My first meeting with David was in 1961 when I was 20 years old and in my last year at the School of Visual arts. Mr. Levine was teaching a drawing class. At that age my grandiose arrogance was a convenient substitute for minor skill. David asked me to challenge the stereotypes I had come to accept, and he did it with kindness, clarity and simple honesty, and with that demeanor he created a model for me for a lifetime. His insightful biting caricatures are no indication of how compassionately he treated and cared for the people in his life. That first meeting began my journey on a road that would be profoundly influenced by David. He made sure I had a scholarship to his class at to the Brooklyn Museum Art School. During that time we became friends and in the summers began a long tradition of going to Coney Island together to paint. The paintings I see of David’s are a special treasure to me and I have my own attempts with the identical view but for two feet one side or the other. He introduced me to the FAR Gallery where I had my first exhibit. David included me socially and invited me along on sketch or museum trips with his group of artist cronies. He and his close friend Aaron Shikler offered to cover my studio rent in New York City if I hosted a sketch class every Wednesday. When I left New York in the mid 70’s the group continued but my visits became harder to sustain. Now when my students ask where I studied I explain how I was transformed “back to the future” in a renaissance atelier. We both lived in Park Slope and David became an ever-increasing part of my life, he was instrumental in me renting an apartment in the home of his friend the sculpture Bruno Luccesi. With ongoing concerns about how to survive as an artist, he recommended me for a job at his friend Arnold Abramson’s scene painting shop. He had so many friends, just about every body he met. When my first son was born, exhausted after spending the night at the hospital, my first stop on the way home was at David’s house. He put me to sleep in the spare bedroom and had a meal prepared when I awoke.

I got a note from Matthew Levine and he speaks of the brotherhood of people that loved and were in some way adopted by David. Defining the relationship I enjoyed with David, there are no words that can even come close to understanding the debt of gratitude I have for this incredible man. His contribution to my life is so very deeply ingrained in the fabric of my being. His presence on my shoulder guides my decisions, and the love I have for him remains forever in my heart.

Bruce A. North

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