Categotry Archives: Artists


Dale Messick

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Categories: Artists, Media, Writers/Editors

Dale Messick, the cartoonist who created the long-running, syndicated comic strip “Brenda Starr, Reporter,” died on April 5. Cause of death was not released. She was 98.
The Indiana native didn’t graduate from high school until she was 21, but found her life’s purpose in writing and drawing. In her 20s, Messick spent her days designing greeting cards for Chicago and New York City publishing companies, and her nights drawing comic strips.
At a time when women rarely worked outside of the home, Messick changed her name from the feminine “Dalia” to the more gender-neutral “Dale,” and launched a career in comics. Her first submission, “Streamline Babies,” was rejected by McNaught Syndicate. In 1940, however, Messick created the feisty reporter, Brenda Starr.
Based on actress Rita Hayworth, the curvy, redheaded cartoon journalist enjoyed thousands of thrilling adventures in her printed soap opera. During World War II, Starr became a foreign correspondent, one who chased down spies and sold war bonds. She traveled the world, searched for an elusive black orchid, fought off numerous wild animals and still managed to turn in her stories on deadline. When she wed her handsome and mysterious boyfriend, Basil St. John, in 1976, President Gerald Ford sent the character a telegram bearing his congratulations.
At its peak in the 1950s, “Brenda Starr, Reporter” appeared in 250 newspapers. The strip and its spunky heroine served as the inspiration for three movies and a TV show; Starr also appeared on a U.S. postage stamp.
Messick drew more than 15,000 strips before retiring in 1985. Today, “Brenda Starr, Reporter” is written by Mary Schmich, drawn by June Brigman and syndicated in newspapers around the country by Tribune Media Services. In 1997, Messick won the National Cartoonist Society’s Milton Caniff Lifetime Achievement Award.
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Zdzislaw Beksinski


Categories: Artists

zbeksinski.jpgZdzislaw Beksinski, a Polish artist who created dark and haunting images, was murdered on Feb. 22. He was 75.

Beksinski’s body, which sustained multiple stab wounds, was found inside his Warsaw flat. Three days later, police charged two teenagers with the slaying. One suspect, the son of Beksinski’s friend and aide, confessed to killing the painter.

Born in Sanok, Poland, Beksinski studied architecture at the Cracow University of Technology. He soon developed a passion for artistic pursuits, such as painting, sculpting, photography and drawing. Working to the strains of classical music, Beksinski created intricately detailed pieces of surreal art.

In the 1970s and 1980s, he became popular in fantasy art circles for his nightmarish paintings of cemeteries, alien creatures and apocalyptic scenes.

Although he was often compared to Ernst Fuchs, the Austrian founder of a fantastic-realism school, and Swiss artist H.R. Giger, Beksinski was a contemporary master in his own right. Exhibitions of his always-untitled work appeared in the United States, Europe and Japan, and collectors paid thousands for a single canvas. His book, “The Fantastic Art of Beksinski,” was published in 1998.
Prior to moving to Warsaw in 1977, Beksinski burned several of his paintings because they failed to meet his exacting standards or were “too personal.” His wife, Zofia, died in 1998. A year later, on Christmas Eve, his son Tomasz committed suicide.

[Update – Nov. 9, 2006: A Warsaw court convicted a man of killing Polish surrealist painter Zdzislaw Beksinski, and sentenced him to 25 years in prison. The defendant, who was identified under Polish privacy laws only as 20-year-old Robert K., was the son of a longtime aide and friend. Robert K.’s teenage cousin, identified as Lukasz K., was convicted of being an accessory to the crime, and sentenced to five years in prison.]


Dan Lee


Categories: Artists, Hollywood

dlee.jpgDan Lee, the Canadian animator who designed several characters for the 2003 blockbuster hit “Finding Nemo,” died on Jan. 15 of cancer. He was 35.
The Montreal native became interested in animation as a teenager. He graduated from the classical animation program at Sheridan College in Oakville, Ontario, and won the Board of Governors Silver Medal for Academic Excellence.
Lee worked on TV cartoons and commercials at Kennedy Cartoons in Toronto and Colossal Pictures in San Francisco. Then in 1996, he joined Pixar Animation Studios as a sketch artist, character designer and animator. Over the next eight years, Lee designed characters for the animated films “A Bug’s Life,” “Toy Story 2,” “Monsters, Inc.” and “Finding Nemo.”
“Dan was a longtime member of our Pixar family. He single-handedly designed Nemo and has been a major influence at Pixar. Dan was a wonderful, irreplaceable, talented human being, and we miss him terribly,” Andrew Stanton, the director of “Finding Nemo,” said.
Although he was a non-smoker who lived a healthy and active lifestyle, Lee was diagnosed with lung cancer in August 2003. While undergoing two types of radiation and chemotherapy, he continued working on future Pixar projects.


Philip Johnson


Categories: Artists, Military, Writers/Editors

pjohnson.jpgPhilip Cortelyou Johnson, the bespectacled architect who dared to change the face of American cities with his post-modernist designs, died on Jan. 25. Cause of death was not released. He was 98.
The Cleveland native developed a passion for architecture when he was 13 years old after viewing an image of Chartres Cathedral in Chartres, France. Johnson earned a degree in philosophy from Harvard University in 1927 and toured Europe to study building design and craftsmanship. Five years later, he returned to the United States to chair the department of architecture at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. His first major exhibit, “The International Style: Architecture 1922-1932,” inspired countless architects to design towering structures of glass and metal.
Johnson went back to school in 1940 to study under Marcel Breuer at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design. He served with the Army Corps of Engineers during World War II, then created the sculpture garden and west wing of the Museum of Modern Art. From 1967 to 1987, Johnson and his long-time business partner, John Burgee, designed numerous retail and office buildings in American cities. When their partnership ended in the mid-1980s, he went into business for himself.
Some of Johnson’s most memorable projects include the Crystal Cathedral in Garden Grove, Calif., the Transco Tower (now the Williams Tower) and RepublicBank Tower (now NCNB Center) in Houston, the United Bank Center Tower in Denver, Tisch Hall at New York University, a Nieman-Marcus store in San Francisco, the Cleveland Playhouse, a Water Garden in Fort Worth, Texas, the Dade County Cultural Center in Miami and the National Center for Performing Arts in Bombay, India. His design of the Chippendale-topped AT&T Building (now the Sony Building) in New York City landed Johnson on the cover of Time magazine.
Johnson was best known for designing his boxy New Canaan, Conn., home. The Glass House won the Silver Medal from the Architectural League of New York in 1950. He also received the Gold Medal of the American Institute of Architects in 1978, and was the first recipient of the prestigious Pritzker Architecture Prize.
Privately, Johnson was an author, philanthropist and art collector. He admitted to supporting a Hitler-style of fascism in his youth, but later expressed embarrassment for such beliefs. “I have no excuse (for) such utter, unbelievable stupidity. I don’t know how you expiate guilt,” he once said. To atone for his brief involvement in right-wing politics, Johnson designed a synagogue in Port Chester, N.Y., at no charge.
After years of stressing over how his sexual identify would affect his professional prospects, Johnson came out of the closet in a 1993 interview with Vogue magazine. He is survived by David Whitney, his companion of 45 years.
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Ernie Pepion

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Categories: Artists, Military

An automobile accident in 1971 cost Ernie Pepion the use of his arms and legs. While recuperating in a veterans’ hospital, however, he learned the skills he needed to rebuild his life and launch a successful career as an artist.
The doctors and nurses at the hospital showed Pepion how to feed himself, how to maneuver in and out of his wheelchair and how to rehabilitate his body. A fellow patient taught him how to paint with oils. Using a motorized easel and a brace for his hand and forearm, Pepion covered canvases with colorful depictions of American Indians and people with disabilities.
“Painting allows me to be a person beyond the limitations of racial prejudice and disability,” Pepion once said.
Pepion was a member of the Blackfeet Nation, a Native-American tribe in the northwestern part of Montana. Prior to his accident, he worked as a rancher and rodeo rider, and served with the military during the Vietnam War. After years of rehabilitation, Pepion attended Montana State University, where he earned a bachelor’s degree and a master of fine arts degree.
The Native Voices Public Television Workshop profiled Pepion in the half-hour documentary, “Ernie Pepion: The Art of Healing.” In 2003, his show “The Red Man Series” was featured at the Yellowstone Art Museum. He also won the 2005 Montana Governor’s Award for the Arts.
Pepion died on Jan. 12 of natural causes. He was 61.

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