Emerson loved color. It was like he could never get enough color on his paintings. So absorbed was he in color, that he would not paint on location, for fear that the actual color of the elements would affect his judgement in the color of his paintings. He did most of his color work in the studio. It was there that he could study, experiment and lay down color to his heart's delight. He was most excited when he discovered new ways to make colors interact with each other. He actually didn't like to use a lot of different oil pigments, but preferred to work with a rather limited pallet, and explore their ranges and effects to the utmost. He would talk to me hours on end about what red looked like next to green, or how a subtle blue would react with a stronger blue, or how the brilliance of the moon could be expressed, with dark colors. His deepest regret always was that I could not see these colors with my own eyes. But I will... someday soon.
He usually traveled to a place or at a time where he could be alone. He avoided tourist areas and crowds like the plague, and trembled at the thought of being at a gallery or show opening. He was offered a show once, but turned it down flat, even if it meant more money for us. If he wanted to work in an area that was popular, he would go at a time when there would be the fewest people... off seasons or during inclement weather. Gradually, he began to receive invitations from one of the few close friends we had, who would offer entrance to private property, either their own or of others who could keep their business to themselves. They would help find more private locations where he could do his work without disturbance. The invitations were amazingly frequent, as people understood his need to work and be alone. Few of those who extended such invitations ever bothered him or asked him questions about his life or work. No one ever asked about his scars. He would give his gracious hosts a drawing or small painting, but not so much for the invitation... more for their understanding and appreciation for his situation.
|On Nighttime and the Moon:|
Over his life, Emerson developed a deep love for the the night. He kept a careful calendar of when the moon would be full or what phase it was in, the times when it would be rising and the position of the setting sun opposite the rising full moon. He carefully planned his work time to coincide with the changing light and how it affected the subject planned for that day. He was a bit of a scientist in that regard. He was always calculating the angles of the light, the filtering affects of the atmosphere and how his subjects took on these effects.
|On Nighttime and the Stars:|
As a natural extention of his love for the moon and sun, Emerson also carefully studied the stars. He wasn't exactly an amateur astronomer, but he could name the constellations, planets and other elements of the night sky. He didn't want to study astronomy, he wanted to study light. The crystal clear nights in the mountains brought him very close to God. Once in Wyoming, Emerson said that he was drawn to the night sky like it was "calling him", to use his own words. It was like he couldn't not go... to refuse to go would be like saying "no" to God... and he didn't want to deny God the opportunity to speak to him. There was always something very intimate between Em and the night... it was like they belonged together, lived together... and God always joined them there.
Emerson always loved to find a new tree on a high isolated ridge in the Rocky Mountains or amongst the rocks on a wind blown rise on the western plains. The spectacular views of the mountains were less appealing to him than the stark struggle of life he found in the west. The trees grow right out of solid rock in the mountains. People often don't believe trees can grow out of rock, but they do. He was always explaining how seeds from the trees could only prosper when protected by the rocks. A seed would fall amongst a group of rocks, which in turn would protect the seed from the wind and elements until it could get established. Once it took root, it would grow and expand, often moving the rocks and, in time, appear to be rooted in solid rock. Of course, it wasn't. The roots always found some source of nurishment under or between the rocks, but the tree would twist and contort until it could emerge in strength. The shapes of the trees near the windy ridges and high plains were always altered by the elements. The struggles of their lives are always expressed in their shapes. The shapes are always intriguing. Em would sometimes take me with him, just so I could feel the trees. I could grasp their strength, feel their contortions and run my hands over decades, if not centuries, of life that had won its victories over circumstances. You can't imagine how they spoke to me and my own struggles with blindness. Em often spoke with me about his own struggles with his scars, and how the trees gave him strength to continue on, whether or not he ever found "success" as an artist. Actually, I think this is a pretty good definition of success.
|On Painting Trees:|
None of his paintings of trees are made up or "generic"... each one of his trees is really there... an actual tree or group of trees that he found in the his travels. He very seldom, if ever, worked from photographs. He would work on location with his drawings, making careful studies of how the trees grew and related to their environments. Then he would make color notes and how he wanted them to interact with each other. He would pack a bit of lunch and water, carry a folding chair with him and go out for hours at a time, morning and evening. He once told me that he never really felt complete without being out amongst the trees and feeling the wind in his face.
|On Life with Emerson Glass:|
We never had very much, but we were always happy and our needs were supplied. I had a monthly stipend from the government that was plenty to live on, with a bit extra, if we were careful. It was never "my money" or "his money"... everything was ours together. We stuck to a regular budget for painting supplies, and Em never complained if he was running short. A couple of times, Birger brought him a small lunch sack full of tubes of paint. Sometimes an invitation from a friend would be accompanied by a gift of tubes of paint. I was usually forwarned, so subtly asked Em if he needed any specific colors... it's amazing how those very colors showed up in small box or bag left in our room.
I loved to travel with Em, as just to have someone close by was enough for me. He wouldn't let me drive (small laugh), so he did all the driving. On the road, we talked quietly and usually held hands. Once we stopped at an overlook, and since I couldn't see the view, we parked and made out. He seemed to like that, so from then on, he was always looking for an overlook. Now that I think of it, it might have been those overlooks that gave him his love for the moon (with these comments, Nina lowered her dark glasses and gave me a wink).
He taught me how to read Braille. He could read, but not very well, so we learned together. By the time we were through, he could go through "The Sacketts" in a week, reading during lunchtime when at home. There was something about those Sackett novels that found a place in his heart, and he ended up being an avid Louis L'Amour fan for life. Next to William Tell Sackett, I think he liked that Bendigo Shafter the best. All the L'Amour heros were comfortable in the mountains alone, and I think that was a real connection for him.
|On Birger Sandzen and other Artists:|
We were on the way to Colorado and stopped in Lindsborg, Kansas for a rest and medicine for me. Emerson had heard of Birger Sandzen, and had seen some prints, but none of his paintings. Asking a few townfolks if they knew him, one indicated a drug store where he was seen. I needed medicine for my eyes anyway, so Em went after it. It was Mr. Sandzen who actually started a conversation, asking why Em was wearing a hooded sweatshirt on a hot summer's day. One thing led to another, and Birger was so gentle with him, that they quickly became friends. We didn't stay in Lindsbog very long, mostly because Em was uncomfortable around people. However, Birger visited us while we were in Estes Park a few times. We always had a good relationship with him, and he was very generous in discussions of his own painting and that of Emerson. I think Birger's influance on Em was more in philosophy than in artistic technique. What rubbed off on Em was a certain bold daring that drove him to experiment even more in his development in color. It was my greatest delight to see Em excited about his work... which always grew by leaps and bounds after his discussions with Mr. Sandzen.
We once met a Mr. Byxby, who did etchings of the same trees in the Rocky Mountains. Neither of us ever grew very close to him, but there was a sort of kinship there. Em admired the drafting skills of Mr. Byxbe and how he presented his work. There was some influance there as well I think. Em always admired good draftsmanship. He didn't care for Mr. Byxbe's paintings though.
Emerson was very much influanced by the European impressionists. Sometimes, when there was a public exhibition, Em would find a way to sneak in during a slow time, wearing his hooded sweatshirt, just to look at those paintings. He adored van Gogh, and would drive for three days just to look at one painting, drooling all the way there and all the way back, like a dog over a bone. He wept once while looking at a van Gogh night scene. But if you want to hear something strange... he also wept once while looking at a Miro painting, which he descibed as being an image of creatures in the night, painted on burlap. Go figure.