Alyssa Savage-Lewis' account
I look around my home and see how Stanley surrounds me. His print of chilli peppers hangs in my kitchen, giving the room a burst of red and an appreciation of how a humble pepper has so much beauty and intenseness. Sometimes I glance at it whilst making something to eat, and through the picture, I get a sense that Stanley is there, encouraging me to not just 'make' something, but to 'create' something, To put not only my heart and soul into what I am doing, but my feelings. I'm sure that sometimes I hear him say, create with love, and passion; but also upset and disappointment and frustration. You may not be an artist who draws, but you are an artist with your food.' On rare occasions I sometimes hear his voice when looking at the pepper. I hear him say to me, 'Do you love food? Come to Montreal and I will take you to the best Chinese restaurant! And then we'll go for a smoked meat sandwich. Have you ever tried Montreal smoked meat? No? You don't know what you are missing... '
I go into my dining room, and there three more prints of his hang. A pear, a cabbage and an onion. The colours are vibrant, the subjects are so simple, yet so detailed. The many layers of the cabbage, the colour of the pear, 'just so', the onion so green and white and perfectly proportioned. Sometimes I wonder how long he studied each vegetable or fruit before starting his work.
'The Lovers' hangs on my wall in the hallway. It is the first thing you see when entering our home. There is something about it that settles my soul and reminds me of my husband and me. Two people, entwined into one face; separate yet together. Complete. Soulmates. Many times when I look at this picture I wonder, 'who are these people? Is it Stanley and another woman? Is it people he knew? Where did his idea for this come from?'
There are other prints that I have of Stanley's work. Work that was amazingly donated to me from friends, here in Scotland. One piece from a dear friend of mine who saw the film 'Dust, A Sculptor's Journey' that was screened here recently. He felt so drawn to what he saw on the film, he not only wanted me to have another piece of Stanley's, as well as 2 for himself, that he ordered the pieces from Montreal and had them shipped over. Two more pieces were given to me by a woman that I met at this film, who actually knew and indeed dated Stanley way back when. I met her in such a bizarre circumstance...here we both were in Scotland, not 15 minutes away from each other, yet incredibly we found each other. One of these pieces has a bit of red in it, yet the other two are mostly dark, deep, and what I can only describe as depressed and yet inspired at the same time. What was he thinking when he created them?
I have had the opportunity to see other pieces Stanley has done. The pieces that have resonated so deeply with me are those that are religious. There is a print that Stanley did of The Ten Commandments, on a roller blind, and apparently wood was carved instead of his usual marble. It gives me such a sense of awe. It is my understanding that although Stanley was not religious in a sense of going to Synagogue and praying, and certainly not keeping Kosher, his belief and innate spirituality resided within him, and outside of him by seeing, feeling and experiencing the Universe and applying this overall belief onto paper. For me, in looking at these pieces, I hope that one day I experience just a fraction of what I perceive as Stanley's spirituality and belief.
The films and information that Jeanne Pope has so lovingly put together sits in family room. The DVDs played often when I feel like having a chuckle or even a cry. To hear Stanley talking -sometimes with humour, other times with incredible wisdom and on occasion with such determination and being so close-minded, it becomes so apparent to me that he was truly living in his own world. He seemed to live quite happily the way he wanted to, as a true artist, never giving in to the demands of conformity. He seemed to shun the outside world in so many ways -yet was also intrigued by so much of it at the same time.
I look at the mounds and mounds of information Jeannette has lovingly put together with Alvaro Pacheco over such a long period of time. I am always amazed, shocked, delighted to read through the small amount of what Jeannette has passed over to me, informing me that her study is full of boxes and boxes of more information. At times when I am feeling a bit low, I start to read this, and see that no matter what fate handed Stanley, he persevered. He believed in himself, and he kept on going.
Finally, I look in the mirror. Sometimes I see glances of Stanley. His eyes perhaps? His wavy dark hair? Certainly not his nose, (thank goodness!). Do I possess the courage to do my own thing? To be 'me' (whomever that might be, as I am still not sure...but at least have the wherewithal to truly discover myself?).
Yet for all of my close 'relationship' that I have with Stanley. I dream of him, I hear him talk to me sometimes, I never met him. I have spoken with him on the phone once. I have a few letters from him. The artwork I have of his is treasured so deeply and is so close to my heart. For I am a part of him, and he is a part of me. Stanley is my father. And although I have never met him, I know that he is always with me. He may not have guided me during his life, as my mother remarried, and I was adopted. The man my mother married took me on as his own daughter and this person will always be my 'Dad'.
I have no regrets in not having Stanley in my life as a child. I see what a unique and bohemian lifestyle he led. I also see how he was so entrenched in his art that it would be doubtful that he would have been a good father to a young child. I am saddened that as an adult I never had the opportunity to meet him. But our paths never crossed.
Yet, after his death, I was 'found'. Jeannette searched for me high and low, and she found me. Through Jeannette she introduced me to a whole family that was mine, and after 35 years I had no idea existed. A wonderful Auntie and cousins, who welcomed me with open arms. As Stanley would say 'it was b'shert'.
Now that Stanley has passed on, I feel we are finally together. He inspires me. He whispers to me words of encouragement and wisdom. I feel that sometimes only he understands me, when nobody else does.
Every day I see his art in our home. And it is a constant reminder of not only Stanley being all around me, but to never give up. To do what I want to do, no matter what anybody says. To be happy and grateful for all that I do have. To be content. Most importantly, to create and to simply be.
My friend Stanley, by Jeanne Pope
Stanley always told me to take my working tool with me - my camera - and to always create. “Walk with creation in your mind, surround yourself with art, walk forward, and fall in love with your own work.”
And so, years later, as I walk along the beach in China, from the film school where I work, I think of his words, I think of him often. The first film I screened in the auditorium was Dust, A Sculptor’s Journey. We had a two hour discussion afterwards. One of the students later told me, having visited Montreal later that summer, that she hunted out his studio.
I often get random emails from people around the world who happen to stumble on the website. One was from a rabbi in New York who asked me if he could screen Birth of the Smoked Meat in the synagogue. Later he sent me an invite, herrings and vodka served afterwards!
I quote Stanley to my students, I tell them his stories. I walk, my hand spiritually in his, and remember those moments when he taught me what art was, sitting at the Main Deli, over his favourite smoked meat sandwich, drinking his cherry soda.
I sometimes have dreams that he comes by for a chat; a continuation of what we were doing in 2006 - what he wanted, and tried so hard to obtain, a retrospective; The Stanley Lewis Big Bang Show.
There is so much more I can say, and one day will, for now, this website hopefully can give you a taste of who Stanley was, the art inside the man and the man inside art. Thank you for passing by.
Jan Dutkowsky's account
My first job, and this really defines me as a Montrealer, was working the cash at Warshaw. That was where I first met Stanley, as a customer there. Memories of that time make me smile now, I was so idyllic, doing Liberal Arts at Dawson, determined to be an anthropologist (which I am not) and just being excited in the sense that my 'real life' was beginning.
Another cashier introduced me to Stanley, and we would chat as he passed by the cash. Once I learnt he was a 'real artist', I think I was sort of smitten with him. Traveller, wise man, philosopher . . . artist. The whole package, the real thing. We talked, or rather, I listened. He was the first person I met who talked and thought ideas out, things I was reading in my class textbooks taken off paper and applied to today, yesterday, throughout human history. Though I can't remember word for word our conversations, I know I learnt from him that beauty isn't beautiful, that art is communication and that humans need to be more forgiving and accepting of ourselves. Look closer. Think. Feel.
I got to see his studio and he gifted me with two prints, Primal Moment and Departure. They are uncannily representative of me, when I really look at them now I am amazed at Stanley's insight. Departure especially, showing a man leaving the city, ill with pollution and smog which we can see hovering in the background . . . blocking out the view of the stars above.
This very spring I left the city for good, and as I was unpacking, to find Departure mirroring my action back at me as I hung it on the wall . . . wow. I know I told Stanley about my growing up in the countryside, weekends and summers spent on my grandparents' forested land just on the other side of the Ontario border, and yes I wore my love of nature on my sleeve , but the gift of that print has been almost prophetic. It makes me so happy to see Departure in my new home.
"Truly a lady with a beautiful soul" Stanley signed all his gifts to me, and how lucky was I to have had his influence at the right time in my life.
Now when I see a painting and think "A-ha", hear an opera and think "Yes!" and see a sculpture and know I understand - that ability to appreciate art is in part a gift from Stanley too.
The last time I saw Stanley Lewis, it was a summer night and he was standing behind the gates leading to his studio. The street was packed, and I raised my hand to say hi, but he didn't see. He was looking out at the people passing; only I guess he wasn't seeing anyone at all.