When you're tracing down the details of an artist's life and work as we are with Milford Zornes, you come across a lot of life's serendipitous connections. The famous Mexican Artist's connection with California Scene Painter, Zornes is one such.
(Left to Right: Raul Anguiano, Milford Zornes and Bill Anderson)
In 1995 artist and gallery owner, Bill Anderson was putting together a cross-cultural exhibit of painters from 5 countries to be held at the National Museum of Watercolor in Mexico City. Officially entitled, "Prima Bienal internacional De Acuarela...Australia, Estados, Unidos, Guatemala, Japon, Mexico," Anderson came about the assignment because his brother-in-law was the famous Mexican artist, Raul Anguiano (1915- 2006.) Even then, Raul was considered the last of the great muralists from Mexico of the 20th century. And because Raul had worked and lived on and off in the US since the 1970's, this exhibition would be about, among other things, the sharing of artistic influences between the two countries.
On an earlier trip to Mexico, Raul had introduced Bill to the director of the Mexican museum. Raul had also invited Bill to work with him in the US on a number of occasions, going back to the 1970's. So, as an American and an artist himself, Anderson was the perfect choice to curate the American side of the exhibition.
As Bill called around searching for the best American painters to invite, he heard the name Milford Zornes. Zornes was an American treasure—honored with election to the National Academy—and famous as one of the groundbreaking California Scene painters of the 1930s and 40s but also, like Anguiano, an artist skilled in murals as well as standard size artwork. Zornes also had a long history of painting watercolor on location internationally—from Europe and the Far East to Mexico and Central America. Anderson talked to Zornes on the phone and picked up a number of Zornes' pieces from Gordon McClelland to put into the international exhibit.
(Photo at left: Raul Anguiano sketches his hew friend, Milford Zornes after being introduced by Bill Anderson. The Sketch is at left)
The exhibition turned out to be a big success on an international scale. Anderson gained kudos throughout the art world and certainly on both sides of the border for his efforts. But even more rewarding for Bill, after the exhibition ran its course, were the friendships established. At a reception for the artists in his home, Anderson finally got to meet Zornes in person, and introduce him to Anguiano.
Milford Zornes, who was a contemporary of Raul Anguiano—born only 7 years earlier than the Mexican muralist—had a number of years on Anderson. But their common love of art and the creative process cut across any age boundaries and they became good friends. Within a few years, Milford and Bill would end up painting together almost once a week. Of course, Milford and Raul had deep respect for each other and instantly recognized their kindred spirits.
Over the next 10 years the three went out painting together on a few occasions and Milford visited Raul at work in the U.S., painting murals for the Bowers Museum in Santa Ana, The Mexican Consulate in Los Angeles and East L.A. College. The mural at E.L.A. College was an epic "History of 20th Century Mexican Art" through the eyes of Raul Anguiano. Raul designed the mural and he and Bill Anderson drew the outline and painted it over 70 days. It stretches 13 ft high and 70 feet in length.
Bill and Raul got to see Milford's mural in the Claremont Post office (c. 1935) and all three visited the famous Jose Clemente Orozco (1883- 1949) mural, "Prometheus," in the dining hall at nearby Pomona College . As a student there in the early 1930's, Milford had watched the Mexican muralist create the massive work, and Raul had actually known his countryman fairly well. Both Milford and Raul being painters, muralists and watercolorists had a common respect for Orozco and his fellow Mexican Mural Renaissance painters, Diego Rivera and David Alfaro Siqueiros.
As the friendship grew, the three were honored with an exhibit at the Art Center in Hanford, CA. Later, Zornes, Anguiano and Anderson, were part of an exhibit they called "420 years of Artistic Experience." It included the three along with two other famous California watercolor artists, Henry Fukuhara, and Howard Hitchcock. The location: Anderson Art Gallery in Sunset Beach. (photo to the left: L-R: Bill Anderson, Howard hitchcock, Raul Anguiano, Henry Fukuhara and Milford Zornes)
To this day, Bill Anderson Gallery in Sunset Beach, California still represents both Anguiano and Zornes paintings for sale. And in 2015, the 100th anniversary of his brother-in-law's birth, Anderson is mounting a major retrospective of Anguiano's work with pieces representing eras from the 1950's to the 2000's. Being a beloved artist in Mexico and having spent so much time working in the US, Anguiano will be the subject of many exhibitions in 2015 —including one at the Museum of Latin American Art in Long Beach.
But none will be as intimate and personal as the one at Anderson Gallery.