Hervey White, Wilna Hervey and Nan Mason. Out from between the cracks and into our LGBTQI+ history books.

Posted: November 10, 2019 in *Celebration*, For your information, for your reflection, In Remembrance, Our Stories, Queer Thoughts

Before moving to Hartford Ct. I lived in the woods of The Maverick, nine miles outside and over the mountain from Woodstock NY. (1) I lived in what I called an elegant shack the last place going up the mountain. The only modern convenience that I had was electricity. Very rustic living to say the least. It took me one time, one winter morning to understand why the outhouse seat was not attached after what seemed like leaving have the skin on my ass behind on the cold seat. The toilet seat then took up residence behind the woodstove where I cooked, and melted snow to take a bath. Clean water for drinking and cooking was courtesy of the artist I worked for in the summer and in the winter from a woman I did odd jobs for including babysitting her two year old. She was an herbalist and from her I learned about the wild herbs and their healing powers. We collected in the summer, dried the herbs in the old studio at the back of my shack. Screens of Red Clover blossoms, Queen Anne’s Lace seeds, Plantain, tied together in bunches, Yarrow, Tansy, Peppermint, Nettles, Comfrey from the garden. Susan and I would go on nature walks up the mountain and over following old trails. An old farm was our destination long since abandoned where fields of Dandelion awaited us and many of the herbs that Susan used grew in the area. In the fall I picked apples from the abandoned orchard and made applesauce.

During my years on the Maverick I heard many stories about Hervey White and the “good old days” of the artists that gathered there, the festivals, the free love, the feeling of living freely from the powers that tried to tame the creative spirit on the other side of the mountain and in America. Hervey White intrigued me as a revolutionary Socialist, artist, free thinking creative person. Lucille Blanch an artist who came to the Maverick as a young artist and who was still going strong painting daily live in a little white house with a “host of daffodils” growing all along her stonewalls and around her yard. “Just dig up the bulb and throw it, it will come up again,” was her direction in thinning out the plants. I worked for her doing odd jobs and helping out where I could.  But in all my talks with quite a number of folks who lived on the Maverick or who had been living in Woodstock for years no one ever mentioned that Hervey White was a Bisexual man. At the time when he was alive it was a “open secret” or so some say.

Hervey White

Hervey White

“I will do what I like and go where I like without money, paying for my living as I go. Good advice has never driven it out of me.”

So begins our story of a man named Hervey White. A socialist, utopian thinker, Bisexual/Gay man, poet, writer, publisher, builder and philosopher on art and what it could be. White along with  Ralph Radcliffe Whitehead whom he had met at Jane Adams Hull House in Chicago, founded the Brydcliff Art Colony in Woodstock ( 2 ) and after awhile White grew tired of the bourgeois notions of art and life, that was dictated by Whitehead saying of him, “He would only employ people he could dictate to,” White wrote later, “and no self-respecting artist would ever stand for his dictation.”  bought a farm in West Hurley and so began the Maverick art colony. A running joke among some old timers I met in the Maverick was that Hervy White came to this side of the mountain because all the water ran down the other side and he thought that at Byrdcliff people took far too many baths. We read this about Hervey White: In 1905, White purchased a farm just outside Woodstock with Fritz van der Loo and Carl Eric Lindin, intended as a rustic haven for the three friends and their families. It quickly transformed into an intellectual meeting place and was named the Maverick; artists, writers, and musicians took up residence in minimalistic houses, usually little more than shacks, built on the property. White’s short-lived marriage to Byrdcliffe printmaker Vivian Bevans ended in 1908. According to Tom Wolff writing Hervey White”s Maverick Community and Its Artists “we learn White’s homosexual leanings, addressed overtly in his writings, are a possible cause. White would go on to build the Maverick into a thriving community with makeshift studios, a printing press, and a steady output of publications devoted to literature and the visual arts, most notably The Wild Hawk and The Plowshare. Hervey White even while espousing socialism lived as an anarchist, living according to his principles and never sold out to the bankers, the elite, the bourgeoise, to pretense, societies expectations of what a person should be. He expressed his love for men. Leaving us to wonder who these men were, these lovers of his. We look over the photo’s of the men involved with the Maverick community and wonder which ones. I suppose we could guess and our gaydar leads us to some of them. Where they only experimenting with the leader, the catch, the cool, were they true lovers or just a one-sided sexual encounter and then they ran back to their wives?

In The Land of Tomorrow Hervey wrote …”Here I sit on this lofty hill beside a ruin of which all archeologists have read, and I am thinking of Marselino, and how beautiful he is, and how he is going tomorrow and I will never look far back into those deep dark liquid love wells more. How surprised I was yesterday to see the difference in the color of our hands when clasped; his, so dark, almost as dark as a negro’s yet having nothing of the smoky greasy black, but a clear bronze.

Both the ruins and the view from this mountain top are grand, but I am tired now and heartsick. Still I will remember all as long as I live. If I forget the heart sickness no matter…I went to the river with them [the other Mexican hands] and as were riding together, he told me again how often he would think of me, he and Catalina [“his intended”] together, and how he would write, and he would be very angry if I did not send him a photograph for I was his dearest friend and then slowly:

‘I care a great deal for you.’

And when I replied that I liked him better than all the others he said simply: ‘I know.’

I could look at him then, and I saw the lines around the beautiful mouth were quivering and drawing, and his throat was writhing. He turned toward me quickly and his eyes met mine. Ah, the shining of those eyes! He smiled; and I saw in every feature that he was saying, “It is hard to bear, but we are strong.”

He was gay when we parted; but the soft tender light was shining in his eyes. As he pulled his horse about and took off his hat waving a last laughing lingering good bye, he made the most beautiful picture I have ever seen.”

The Land of Tomorrow created a stir for it announced White’s homosexuality.

Hervey White as Pan Maverick Festival

The Maverick Festivals began in 1915 as a means to raise money to dig a well for the Maverick community. The festival was conceived as a bohemian carnival filled with communal spirit to be held during the afternoon and evening of the August full moon. A theatrical spectacle began after dark with performances by artists, musicians and local people followed by a costume ball. Attendance at the festival grew and grew and became more and more difficult to control and by 1929 it was reported that over 6,000 people were in attendance. In 1931 White suspended the festival. While living on the Maverick Lucille Blanch told me of the wonderful parties that were held back “when I was young.” This is a picture of Lucille from a festival in 1922.

Arnold Blanch, Lucille Blanch, Dorothy Wilson, Floyd Wilson, Maverick Festival 1922

Here is one of my favorite photo’s sent to me as a postcard from Woodstock NY many years after settling in Hartford Ct.

Charles Rosen Maverick Festival 1925

1976 Last Cabin up the mountain.

It was here that I lived many years later. Below is a photo of me, mountain man me in front of my elegant shack.  The studio which it was called was built by White and was lived in by artists since day one up to the time that the last person, dimwit that they were, left a pail of hot ash up against the outside wall and burnt the place to the ground.  The building was post and beam ( 3 ) construction covered over with milled wood. On the inside the walls were covered with cardboard and newspaper was stuffed in the cracks between the beams. A large North Window looked out over the mountains of the Catskills. The cabin was one large room with a small sleeping area behind the fireplace and a large studio. The place was heated by a small woodstove and while the stove was heating up the cabin in the winter I would sweep the floor. I hitchhiked down to Kingston one day and found in a junk store an oven that sat on the top of the wood stove. Now I could do some baking and with apples from the old orchard and some cornmeal I made some mighty delicious corn bread. Now I have to tell you this little story. Having gone into Woodstock one day to shop at the grocery store I stopped out back and took a pee near the dumpster. Suddenly a man jumped up and said, “Why hello there.” Jumping a mile I almost peed all over myself. “What in the world are you doing in the dumpster,” I asked. “Diving for some great food,” was his answer. “Here take these and put them with the other things.” He handed me some eggplant, summer squash, several packages of tomatoes, some cans of beans, a bag or two of apples and other items. Told me to take what I wanted and remember that this society is very wasteful and good food can be gotten for free right here. Hervey White would have been proud of us two hippies gathering food that was thrown away and that was in perfectly good condition. I went home and made a vegetable stew. That was my introduction to dumpster diving East Coast style with a man named Out Door Billy, who wanted to move into my house, who fell in love with me but on Susan’s advice I dumped him as quick as I could. Seems he was the type that would overstay his welcome in a very short time due to not being housebroken.

woodstock-house-4Outside of my elegant shack.

The wonderous Maverick Concert Hall

I want to introduce readers to what wonders Hervey White could accomplish with hand tools when he build the magnificent Maverick Concert Hall. The summer concerts are held in an historic concert hall in Hurley, New York, on the outskirts of Woodstock, in Ulster County. The barn-like, rectangular building with its gambrel roof was built in 1916 with a roof of asphalt and wood shingles and a frame of heavy timber, to which the walls—sheaths of wide planks—are nailed directly. The concert hall is of the post and beam construction. (3) The hall was constructed without the services of an architect and with volunteer labor, as part of the the Maverick Colony. The concert hall was a walk through the woods from where I lived and I spend many a Sunday afternoon enjoying the concerts presented there.  One knew when approaching the hall that some extraordinary visionary people had created this structure. A truly remarkable concert hall. Lucille Blanch and Agnes Hart the artist who I worked for told me about the afternoon David Tudor performed John Cage’s piece 4′ 33′.  According to Lucille who I had the pleasure of living up the road and through the woods from people were getting restless, coughing and making all sorts of noise, the birds were chripping outside, there was rain on the roof, and sudenly a man, I forgot his name jumped up made a racket and left the area, revering his car and pealing out. Yes that day in August 1952, the Maverick Concert Hall was the scene of a revolutionary moment in musical history. Here in the woods, the young pianist David Tudor performed the premiere of John Cage’s most famous—and most infamous—work, 4’33” (Four Minutes and Thirty-Three Seconds). (4) Although the work has often been called the “silent” piece, Cage wanted to show that a lack of notes was not the same thing as silence. The pianist read the score, turned pages, and closed the piano lid after each “movement,” but he never touched a single key.  The Sunday concerts began in 1916 and continue to this day.

The Maverick Concert Hall (up in the woods off of the Maverick Road)

Hervey building the concert hall

At work on the Maverick Concert Hall

Hervey White a true Maverick, a visionary, writer, poet, Bisexual, revolutionary out from the cracks of history and into our stories.

Two loving women loving women. A no secret life.

A few years back I came upon this wonderful story of two women Nan Mason and Wilna Hervey two influential Woodstock women who helped sculpt the local art scene in the early 20th Century. Again our people shaping and defining the culture in the forefront pushing the envelope meanwhile maintaining their dignity and not being ashamed of who they were. Wilna was a silent film actress and painter and Nan was a painter who met while Wilna was on production playing The Powerful Katrinka in an episode of the Tooneville Trolley. They were together until Wilna’s death in 1972. Wilna Hervey and Nan Mason, a same-sex couple who met in the early `20s, were responsible for reviving the Maverick Festival and kept alive from 1938 to 1962, paving the way for the Woodstock Festival of 1969. One of my favorite books, is Living Large a biography of Wilna Hervey and Nan Manson. It is wonderful to read about this couple and their pioneering spirit, together in Woodstock NY.

Wilna Hervey and Nan Mason Woodstock NY 1934

Out from the cracks of history, out to ourstories, We celebrate our people in the Maverick arts community.

Notes:

( 1 ) West Hurley NY   Woodstock NY

( 2 ) The Byrdcliffe Arts Colony, also called the Byrdliffe Arts Colony or Byrdcliffe Historic District, was founded in 1902 near Woodstock, New York by Jane Byrd McCall and Ralph Radcliffe Whitehead and colleagues, Bolton Brown (artist) and Hervey White (writer). It is the oldest operating Arts and Crafts Colony in America. The Arts and Crafts Movement arose in the late nineteenth century in reaction to the dehumanizing monotony and standardization of industrial production. Byrdcliffe was created as an experiment in utopian living inspired by the arts and crafts movement.

( 3 ) Post and beam. … Timber framing – Traditional timber framing, often simply called timber framing, is an ancient traditional method of building using wooden joinery held together with pegs, wedges and rarely iron straps.

( 4 ) On August 29, 1952, the young pianist and composer David Tudor premiered at the Maverick a well-known and controversial work by the American exponent of experimental music John Cage, one of the leading post-war avant-garde composers. Arguably Cage’s most famous piece, 4′33″ (which was originally scored for piano) has commonly been referred to as “four minutes and thirty-three seconds of silence.” Cage demonstrated, however, that the absence of notes was not the same thing as silence. The composer’s stated intention was for the audience to listen to the “accidental” sounds around them: the birdsong, the wind in the trees, the rain on the roof, the sounds of the audience members themselves.

Comments
  1. Truly important stories! Thanks Richard

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